‘The Office’: Why Actors Were Allowed to Improvise in Scenes

There was a lot of freedom for actors to try new things on the set of The Office. Sometimes their improvised lines made it into the show. Find out why the actors were allowed to improvise by creator Greg Daniels and more.

Multiple actors improvised on ‘The Office’

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There are many improvised moments in the scripted show. Some of the actors talked about which stars liked to go off script.

“I honestly think that Steve [Carell] would drag things out like that to see when he could get all of us to break,” Angela Kinsey said on the Office Ladies podcast. Fischer added, “And we would break.”

A lot of these improvised moments were jokes. But actors like John Krasinski improvised in more emotional scenes. One of them was when Pam (Jenna Fischer) rejected Jim in “Casino Night.” There were multiple actors who wrote for the show.

4 Actors wrote on the show

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The cast of The Office was very talented. B.J. Novak who played Ryan Howard; Mindy Kaling, who played Kelly Kapoor; Paul Lieberstein, who played Toby Flenderson; and Michael Schur who played Mose Schrute doubled as writers.

They turned to different things for inspiration. The writers went to a real paper company in season 1 to help create their fictional workplace. Kaling and Novak’s relationship inspired Ryan and Kelly’s rocky relationship.

Some of the actors pitched their own ideas for episodes to writers. Many of them also improvised in scenes. The actors revealed the reason why this was a big part of the show.

The creator hired actors he could trust

Rainn Wilson as Dwight Schrute, Kate Flannery as Meredith Palmer of 'The Office'
Rainn Wilson as Dwight Schrute, Kate Flannery as Meredith Palmer of ‘The Office’ | Chris Haston/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank

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Rainn Wilson said Daniels would take what was funny even if it wasn’t scripted while editing on Office Ladies. Fischer, Kinsey, and Novak also talked about the freedom they had on the show.

“It was this really nice feeling like you can improvise all you wanted,” Wilson said. “It was probably gonna get cut. But if you improvised and it added something and elevated it. It was probably going to make it. So everyone felt like they were a valuable contributor.”

Kinsey and Fischer revealed that they didn’t get to pitch ideas to writers on the shows they’ve worked on since The Office. Novak said there’s a reason why multiple writers and improvisers played characters on the show.

“He trusted them as improvisers,” Novak said. He said writers learned that actors have instincts on what is or isn’t working since they’re performing the lines. “The more experience I had on the set on the show, the more I knew that. The more I knew to listen to the actors. I think Greg knew that too,” he said.

It’s a good thing the actors were allowed to play. Some of the funniest moments on the show were improvised.