It was a tumultuous time for The Office after they said goodbye to Steve Carell’s Michael Scott near the end of season 7. Star Jenna Fischer, who had her concerns about how things would work out in a post-Carell Office recently shared that she was disappointed by the way season 8 played out.
‘The Office’ said goodbye to Steve Carell
It was the end of an era when Carell exited The Office — and there was a lot of uncertainty about what would happen after he left.
During the Sept. 1 episode of An Oral History of The Office podcast, host Brian Baumgartner discussed that uncertainty and from the cast members he asked, there were worries all around.
“My biggest fear was even just, what is the on-set vibe going to be like without Steve?,” Fischer told Baumgartner. “Not to mention what stories are we going to tell? Who are we without this leader?”
When asked if he thought the show could survive after Carell’s departure, John Krasinski, who played Jim, answered, “I knew the show could go forward, I didn’t know what the plan was. I couldn’t see through the trees.”
Rainn Wilson, who played Dwight, said he “had great reservations about the show existing without Steve.”
The show went on without Carell
After Carell left, the ratings suffered and there were decisions to be made. Baumgartner explained the question asked for season 8: “What was The Office without Michael Scott?”
Fischer said the conversation in the writers’ room revolved around “Who should be the boss?” Baumgartner added how there were “two paths,” to either “rely on the existing ensemble or bring in a big star.”
They had a number of celebrity cameos in the season 7 finale “Search Committee” and, since the network wanted star power to fill Carell’s shoes, James Spader joined the cast in season 8 as Robert California.
Fischer and Wilson praised Spader as a dedicated and talented actor, but Wilson admitted the actor had “a very different skill set and his energy just didn’t fit.”
Jenna Fischer was ‘disappointed’ by season 8
With Spader on board as CEO of Sabre, the show’s writers promoted Andy Bernard, played by Ed Helms, to the role of regional manager.
Baumgartner discussed “why season 8 didn’t quite work,” with Fischer during the podcast, as she shared how “fear drove some decisions.”
“I’ll say it here — and this is the only time I’ve ever really publicly said this,” Fischer said. “But it’s always disappointed me that we didn’t trust in our core office group enough to continue the show without bringing in what I think we thought we needed, which were these big guest actors to fill Steve’s shoes.”
“And I always felt like fear drove some decisions. Does that make sense?”
During season 8, Baumgartner explained where that “fear” came in. “We lost Steve, streaming was killing our viewership, the network changed hands, and yet we had to find a path forward through all of it,” he said.