‘The Office:’ Why The Production Team Said This Season Was ‘Extra Brutal’
Fans of The Office are still hoping for a reboot or reunion of the cast. On the air from 2005 through 2013, the iconic sitcom is thankfully on streaming services so its massive following can get its fix.
During its nine seasons, The Office launched several cast members into superstardom including Steve Carell, John Krasinski, and Jenna Fischer. As the show became more popular, demands on the cast and crew increased to a difficult level.
‘The Office’ stars hit the big screen
With Carell’s success starring in The 40-Year-Old Virgin, he soon had his pick of film roles. After a rocky first season The Office became Must See TV and other cast members began getting movie offers as well.
“Agents and managers were constantly calling me and saying, ‘My client needs out for this job,’” producer Randy Cordray recalled in Andy Greene’s book The Office: The Untold Story of the Greatest Sitcom of the 2000s. “He’s being offered a cameo, or a role, in a feature film during these dates. Can you accommodate?’ So my job was to build the calendar each year taking all of this into account.”
Executive producer Greg Daniels wanted the team to arrange the conflicting shooting schedules so the actors could have time for other projects, though it became quite a challenge.
“Greg felt that it was essential to try and accommodate these actors in these various roles and their scheduling conflicts,” Cordray said. “Now, we had first position on all of these people… They were contractually obligated to The Office, so it was a courtesy to try and spring them from our shooting schedule to go do these other projects.”
Michael Scott finds true love
Amy Ryan joined The Office in season five as Holly Flax, who became the ideal love interest of Carell’s character Michael Scott. Ryan had just received an Oscar nomination for her role in Gone Baby Gone and impressed producers with her work on The Wire.
“They didn’t have me read for the show,” Ryan recalled. “They invited me and I think hoped for the best. It’s flattering, but at the same time, not auditioning is sometimes stressful because you’re hoping nobody makes a mistake, including yourself.”
Thanks to Ryan’s brilliant take on the character, she became the perfect mate for the socially inept Dunder Mifflin manager. “She had the thing that you saw in Michael Scott at his best, which was a big heart, and to some degree she had the same bad taste that Michael has with comedy,” writer Brent Forrester noted. “She was just exactly on his level.”
The actress thoroughly enjoyed her time on the show and loved the connection between Michael and Holly. “I think there’s a lid for every pot,” Ryan told Greene. “She’s not like Michael Scott, but they are definitely cut from the same cloth in ways. … Getting to laugh at work just made me so happy. I’ve been literally crying for my supper all these years in these heavy dramas. It felt so good to go home happy.”
NBC sitcom has to make up for lost episodes
Due to a writer’s strike during season four in 2008, The Office had to produce a grand total of 28 episodes the following year. Add to that a staggered schedule to accommodate Carell’s work on a film and Daniels having to pull double duty due to the launch of Parks and Recreation, season five became somewhat of a grind.
“I joined in the middle of that season,” writer Halsted Sullivan recalled. “It was brutal from the second I got there. And I think for people who had been there from the beginning, it was extra brutal.”
Some writers began feeling a sense of bitterness due to the long hours. “At first you’re like, ‘I would do anything to be hired on this show that I love so much,'” Gene Stupinsky said in Greene’s book. “Then by season five you’re just like, ‘I don’t have a life. I wanna go on a date. I want to see my friends…’ You can’t do anything and you start to resent it.”
Writer Lee Eisenberg also expressed the frustration everyone was experiencing at the time. “It becomes a job. I think that even for all the actors,” Eisenberg said. “The coolest thing about the show was it broke a million actors. It broke a ton of writers. But then at a certain point, you’re not basking in the gratefulness that you were hired five years ago. You’re resenting the fact that somebody wrote a bad script… and you’re like ‘We might have to come in on Saturday?'”
Thankfully, the cast and crew of The Office all persevered and successfully completed season five.