‘The Office’: The Real Reason Toby, Ryan, and Kelly Sat in the Annex

The Office wouldn’t be The Office without Kelly Kapoor (Mindy Kaling), Ryan Howard (B.J. Novak), and Toby Flenderson (Paul Lieberstein).

As fans know, the trio doesn’t sit with the rest of The Office employees. They work in the annex. Kelly is the Scranton branch’s customer service, that’s where Ryan does his temp work, and Toby is human resources.

Rainn Wilson as Dwight Schrute, Creed Bratton as Creed, B.J. Novak as Ryan Howard, Mindy Kaling as Kelly Kapoor in 'The Office'
‘The Office’: Rainn Wilson as Dwight Schrute, Creed Bratton as Creed, B.J. Novak as Ryan Howard, Mindy Kaling as Kelly Kapoor | Trae Patton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank

Why Kelly, Ryan, and Toby sat in the annex on ‘The Office’

At first glance, there’s no real reason why customer service, a temp, and human resources all need to work in the same area, but there was a production reason. Kaling, Novak, and Lieberstein were all both actors and writers on the show. So they sat back in the annex so they didn’t have to be on set as often as the rest of the cast. If they weren’t needed in a group shot, they could be busy writing.

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Why some of ‘The Office’ writers were also actors

On the Office Ladies podcast, Jenna Fischer (Pam Beesly) explained why showrunner Greg Daniels wanted some of the writers to act on the show.

“[Greg Daniels] believed that it would be a great idea for writers to have the experience of acting because it would give them a bigger appreciation of what an actor does,” Fischer said during the first episode of Office Ladies. “They really got to not just understand our jobs but they got to see us being our characters first hand. They got to see our improvisations that they would never see if they were just stuck up in the writers’ rooms.”

“It made us a cohesive show between the two departments, the writers and actors. This creative partnership,” Kinsey added. “And made me feel safe like I could try things.”

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Kaling and Novak had experience acting prior to The Office. Novak was hired to work on the show at 25 after Daniels saw him doing standup.

“Greg Daniels saw [B.J. Novak] doing standup comedy,” said Fischer. “And he thought, ‘This guy, I want this guy.’ So he offered B.J. a role as both a writer and the role of Ryan the temp on the show. And he was also the first example of that synergy of having people who were both performers and writers.”

While both Kaling and Novak weren’t strangers to performing before starring in The Office, Toby was Lieberstein’s first on-screen role. He nailed it, of course, acting as perhaps The Office‘s saddest employee who everybody loves to hate.

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