‘The Office’: Why the Actors Improvised to Start Their Talking Head Interviews
The actors were free to improvise in scenes of The Office and sometimes it made the final cut. But they were also asked to start their interviews improvising for a specific reason. Angela Kinsey talked about how this helped her learn about her character Angela Martin and more.
‘The Office’ talking head interviews changed for a reason
The talking head interviews showed the characters talking about work more bluntly since they were alone with the documentary crew. The quick lines usually led to a funny joke.
But there was actually a deep meaning behind where they took place. Sometimes a window would be behind the character. Other times you would see the office behind them.
Fischer said she asked creator, Greg Daniels to explain this. “He said Randall [Einhorn’s] intention here was that it didn’t necessarily have to be only Jim (John Kraskinski),” she said on Office Ladies. “But the idea was that any character that had a future outside of Dunder Mifflin or held some sort of internal optimism would sit in front of a window leading out into the world.”
She continued, “But characters who didn’t want to leave Dunder Mifflin, or who maybe were in more of a position of being trapped, would do their talking heads facing into the office.”
The actors were allowed to improvise on set
Some shows go by the script, but The Office gave stars freedom to play. One of them that often took that opportunity was Rainn Wilson.
“It was this really nice feeling like you can improvise all you wanted,” Rainn Wilson said on Office Ladies. “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.”
The actors were also asked to improvise before going into their scripted lines for their talking head scenes. A director explained the reason for this.
Actors would improvise to start their talking heads
Director Ken Kwapis was a guest on the Office Ladies podcast. Jenna Fischer and Kinsey talked about how talking heads were started at the beginning of the run of the show.
“You, Ken, sat in the place of the documentarian,” Fischer said. “So when we started and then with every director that followed you, you sat next to the camera and asked us a question before we delivered our talking head.”
She said these would be general questions like what they did over the weekend. There was then a prompt given for them to start their scripted lines.
“When we sat in the chair we were immediately in character and we didn’t know what Ken was going to ask us,” added Kinsey. “And it really for me helped me discover so much about Angela Martin. It was sort of like this acting exercise, Ken.”
The director explained that the talking heads were short, but he wanted them to feel like they were part of a conversation. He also wanted the characters to have a relationship with the fictional documentary team.