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Phyllis Smith never auditioned to be Phyllis Vance on The Office. She was working as a casting director for the show when the producers decided they liked the way she read so much that they created a role for her. So Phyllis Vance, the sassy apple of Bob Vance’s eye, was born.

Craig Robinson and Phyllis Smith dancing on 'The Office'
Craig Robinson and Phyllis Smith | Chris Haston/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images

“I’ll tell you, I have been very blessed. I always say this and I mean it: God had a better plan than I ever anticipated for me. All I did was try to be responsible, pay my bills, and do my best at whatever it was I was doing, but I just feel extremely blessed as how it has turned out,” the actress told Yahoo! in a 2012 interview.

Why Phyllis has a picture of her doing burlesque on her desk on ‘The Office’

Some eagle-eyed fans might have noticed a particularly interesting piece of memorabilia on Phyllis Vance’s desk in The Office: a photo of a younger Phyllis as a burlesque dancer. According to the Office Ladies podcast, the actors were told to bring in personal items for their characters’ desks. So Phyllis brought in an actual photo of herself in a full burlesque outfit.

Phyllis Smith’s career as a burlesque dancer

Phyllis Smith has been dancing since she was 7 years old. Before she was on The Office, she was a burlesque dancer.

“I was a dancer, and every year this vaudeville/burlesque show would come through town. They played in St. Louis [where she grew up] and all over the country when dinner theater was at its peak. A gentleman by the name of Will B. Able, who had a long career as a dancer, would hold auditions. Every year, I would audition and he would just praise me and say how wonderful I was, but he never hired me,” Phyllis told Yahoo! of how she got her start in burlesque.


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She continued: “So one of the last years he came through St. Louis, I didn’t bother to audition, but I went to see the show. While we were there, he was talking about how I was so good, and blah, blah, blah. He said, ‘Oh, I’d love to hire you,’ and I said, ‘Well then, why don’t you?’ So he ended up hiring me about eight to 12 months later when a position opened in the show. Then I was on the road doing that for about seven years.”

To be clear, Phyllis says the dancing was “quite sexy” but there was “no stripping or nudity.”

“We had strategically placed feathers and G-strings with feathers covering our rumps,” she laughed.

Read more: The Interesting Reason ‘The Office’ Writers Were Also Actors on the Show