‘The Office’ Star Reveals What He’s ‘Most Proud of’ About the Show: It ‘Made It Harder But Also Made It Better’
The stars of The Office have a lot to be proud of. In the early days, it wasn’t even sure if the show would survive beyond the pilot, but its loyal fanbase grew and the show still holds up all these years later. Brian Baumgartner, who played Kevin Malone, revealed the thing he was most proud of about the series and he admits, while it made the show harder to do, “it also made it better.”
The camera as a character
In addition to the solid performances that all of the actors brought to The Office, there was another character — the camera. Since the Dunder Mifflin Scranton office employees were being filmed by a documentary crew, there were some challenges in filming a non-traditional show. Cameras had to be positioned as a documentary film crew would to give it authenticity, even if that meant peeking through blinds or getting a shot from a distance.
During episode 3 of An Oral History of The Office podcast, Baumgartner explored the idea of a camera as another character. “There was one more character taking shape. They were in every scene but never spoke a single line. The camera,” he noted.
Randall Einhorn, the director of photography, kept the camera crew on task in shooting the show “like a real documentary,” Baumgartner explained.
“The rule that we came up with is if it could have possibly been done by being really skilled verité documentary cameramen, we could do it. If not, we shouldn’t do it,” Einhorn explained.
It wasn’t always an easy task
Einhorn had a reality TV background so he brought that experience to the table. “The reality background totally informed Randall’s style,” Baumgartner shared.
Einhorn explained, “It always feels false to me when I see a camera right next to people who are having a very intimate conversation.” Instead, he felt “the camera should be a very, very long way away so that the viewer is really leaning in, they feel privileged by it. It reads more honest.”
“Those long shots were not easy,” the actor shared. “Because they were shooting in a real office, not on a set and Randall had to get around those real obstacles.”
“The biggest rule was they couldn’t show another camera or even where another camera would be because it was supposed to be this low-budget PBS style documentary,” Baumgartner added.
Einhorn admitted that avoiding that rule “would have been so much easier, but it wouldn’t have been as cool.” Capturing the characters in this way, he revealed, “was really, really fun and it made it feel real and special.”
Baumgartner is especially proud of this
Baumgartner and Einhorn talked more about how the cameras helped tell the story of The Office and connected the characters and how different characters interacted differently with the camera crew.
Director Ken Kwapis shed more light on how “every actor sort of developed his or her own relationship with the camera.” Some acknowledged the camera more than others. John Krasinski’s character, Jim, “kind of makes a friend of the camera.”
“I was the window to the audience,” Krasinski explained. “I was the character who right when you were thinking ‘this was all ridiculous,’” would confirm it with a look or a nod.
Einhorn explained how the camera had a personality, in a sense, that would get the shot. The persistence of the camera “made it feel more delicious and that the camera was nosy and it was not relenting” during a private moment.
“Honestly, more than anything else in this entire show this is what I am the most proud of, that on every single shot we were always thinking about where the camera was, if the characters were aware of it, and how that changed their behavior,” Baumgartner said. “All of these things made it harder, but it also made it better.”