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Steve Carell’s appearance in The Office series finale was small — but for a good reason, the actor revealed. His character, Michael Scott, left in season 7, but the show wanted Michael to come back for the final episode. Carell admitted that he was “reticent” about the appearance, however.

Steve Carell as Michael Scott on 'The Office'
Steve Carell as Michael Scott on ‘The Office’ | Dean Hendler/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank

Fans said goodbye to Michael Scott

Carell’s final episode of The Office provided the perfect sendoff for the well-loved character Michael Scott, though Carell confessed it was “emotional torture.”

The actor was involved in planning Michael’s departure and had a brilliant concept — the character would say goodbye to each co-worker a day before he was supposed to leave town, without telling his office family about his plan. Since everyone thought he was leaving the next day, a big party was planned, but Carell thought it would show Michael’s growth better if he left before the celebration.

During the August 25 episode of An Oral History of The Office podcast, Carell shared how his vision for Michael was thoughtful for the character, but was difficult for the actor to get through filming.

“I just thought that would be the most elegant representation of his growth as a human being,” Carell explained. “That he… because Michael lives to be celebrated, you think that’s all he wants, he wants to be the center of attention. But the fact that he’d walk away from his big tribute, his big sendoff, and be able to, in a very personal way, say goodbye to each character — that to me felt like it would resonate.”

“It was almost more than I bargained for because that’s what happened,” he added. “I had scenes with everyone in the cast and it was emotional torture because imagine saying goodbye for a week.”

Steve Carell returned in the series finale and it was the show’s best kept secret

Though The Office had said goodbye to Michael Scott, showrunner Greg Daniels knew he wanted Carell to return in the show’s series finale.

The only problem was, Daniels didn’t want anyone to know about it — even the cast and the network, NBC. “We lied to everybody about Steve,” editor Dave Rogers explained during the Sept. 8 episode of An Oral History of The Office podcast.

Host Brian Baumgartner shared how Rogers “was one of the chosen few who knew” and how that small circle “lied to everyone else, including most of the cast, crew, and most significantly, the network.”

“The reason they had to lie was because they didn’t trust the network to keep the secret,” Baumgartner explained, as they would have spoiled the surprise by promoting Carell’s return.


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Steve Carell didn’t want to play a big part in the finale

Carell explained during the podcast that he was a bit reserved about the idea of coming back, mostly because he didn’t want to take the focus away from the characters currently on the show. Michael Scott’s story was over, but having him return for Dwight and Angela’s wedding was the perfect way to bring him back for the Office family reunion.

“Greg wanted the finale to be a giant family reunion and any Office reunion wouldn’t be complete without Steve Carell,” Baumgartner explained.

Carell shared why he had some reservations but ultimately he wanted to be a part of the finale. “I had told Greg I just don’t think it’s a good idea because I felt like Michael’s story had definitely ended,” he explained.

Carell continued, “And I was reticent about coming back because you guys had two more really valuable seasons and that was everyone else’s ending. Michael had already had his so I just didn’t want to… but, at the same time, I felt like I should, out of respect for all of you guys and out of my love for everybody, to acknowledge the ending of this thing.”