‘The Office’: Why Filming ‘Dinner Party’ Was Miserably Uncomfortable for the Cast and Crew
“Dinner Party” is one of the most famous episodes of The Office. In the cringe-worthy fan-favorite, we get an intimate look at the painfully toxic dynamics that make up Michael and Jan’s home life. It’s like watching a hilarious, gruesome train-wreck for 22 minutes.
As uncomfortable as certain moments of “Dinner Party” are for viewers, filming the episode was actually pretty physically uncomfortable for the cast and crew.
‘The Office’ ‘Dinner Party’ set was hot and cramped
Most episodes of The Office take place at the Dunder Mifflin Scranton branch. But “Dinner Party” takes place at Michael and Jan’s sad little condo. The episode was actually filmed in a condo, not on a set. And, in real life, it was hot and cramped.
“It was a tiny condominium deep in the Valley, and so it really was uncomfortable,” Melora Hardin (Jan Levinson) told Rolling Stone in 2018. “You really couldn’t get away from anyone. You had your dressing room, but it was, like, a block away, because they couldn’t park it right there. It was perfect for the episode, it really was. I kind of used that a lot and used the heat. It was just scalding hot, I remember. I mean, the place was air-conditioned, but it was hot outside. It was just scorching.”
Michael’s condo was cramped enough with him, Jan, Jim, Pam, Andy, Angela, Dwight, and his lover/former babysitter all over. But the crew was also shoved into the tiny home making the situation even more stifling.
“The condo is pretty cramped just for four couples, but you have to consider all the crew right behind the cameras and the hot lights,” said executive producer Greg Daniels. “I remember the camera operators getting jammed in the tight halls. Plus we often had air-conditioning ducts running in to cool stuff off, but you couldn’t run them during the takes because of sound, and we had long, enormous takes with very little breaks between.”
Though the episode takes place in the evening, most of the shoot occurred during the day. So the condo had to be tented, which director Paul Feig says “just adds an extra layer of insulation.”
The filming conditions only added to the delirious giddiness ‘The Office’ cast felt shooting a hilarious episode they loved
While the “Dinner Party” filming conditions weren’t exactly comfortable, the cast universally loved the script and the opportunity to bring to life something they believed to be of such high quality. If anything, the heat only made them laugh more than usual.
“I don’t remember that there was anything particularly funny, but we just got on a laughing jaunt, and we literally could not stop,” said Hardin. “Every time they turned on the camera, either [Fischer] or me would just be absolutely in fits of laughter. It probably took the longest of any of the other scenes, because we had to literally take a break and walk away to stop laughing. And I don’t even know what we were laughing about. I think we were hot and exhausted.”
When Ed Helms (Andy Bernard) looks back on shooting “Dinner Party,” he doesn’t spend much time thinking about the conditions of the day.
“Certain episodes kind of hum with this vibration where you just feel like it’s working in a way that’s very rare,” he said. “The enduring memory for me of that time is not so much about any discomfort on set, even though it was hot, but just that feeling of giddiness you get when you feel part of something so special that’s working and that’s making you laugh so hard so consistently. I couldn’t wait to get to set every day.”