When The Office producers began laying the foundation for Steve Carell’s departure as Michael Scott, they had their work cut out for them. The transition was greatly eased by bringing on Will Ferrell for a few episodes as Dunder Mifflin’s new manager.
While Ferrell is heralded as a comedic genius, the actor confessed that his initial foray into the sitcom was a bit daunting.
‘SNL’ alum volunteered to be on ‘The Office’
Carell and Ferrell had a history together from their work in the Anchorman franchise. The Saturday Night Live alum was a fan of The Office and wanted to be a part of Carell’s final season.
“I just said, ‘Hey, I know it’s Steve’s last year. I’d love to just go on and do a cameo,” Ferrell told Andy Greene, author of The Office: The Untold Story of the Greatest Sitcom of the 2000s. “It just popped into my head.”
Ferrell’s agents got in touch with the sitcom’s producers, who were thrilled with the offer and wanted the actor to take on a whole character rather than just a cameo. The Elf star’s appearance on the show was a welcomed solution to softening the blow of Carell’s exit.
“He really did just volunteer,” writer Danny Chun revealed. “We were so stressed out about what do you do the next day after Michael is gone; that was the most sort of stressful and intimidating episode to think about. And really Will was like, ‘What if I came in for a few episodes? Would that help?’ And we were like, ‘Yep, of course it would help.'”
Will Ferrell was a welcomed addition to ‘The Office’
Cast and crew raved about Ferrell’s kindness and demeanor on set. “Will really came in with positive energy, happy to be there,” editor David Rogers told Greene. “I think everybody was happy to have him there.”
Writer Warren Lieberstein was grateful for Ferrell’s generosity in joining the show at such a critical point.
“It was really such a nice generous gift of Will to give us because it was such a bittersweet time,” Lieberstein said. “Everyone was so sad about Steve leaving that the presence of Will Ferrell there was like a soothing balm to put over the situation of everyone’s sadness.”
And of course, Ferrell brought the laughs. “He couldn’t do anything that wasn’t really funny,” showrunner Greg Daniels commented. “I don’t see how he could have tried.”
Will Ferrell called the cast a ‘well-oiled machine’
The Stepbrothers star was happy to help out the iconic sitcom in its time of need, though he admitted he was a bit nervous starting out.
“It was a little intimidating at first because that cast is like a well-oiled machine and they know each other so well,” Ferrell told Greene.
Ferrell instantly gelled with The Office team, often shooting hoops with the cast and crew between takes. The activity ended up playing a part in Ferrell’s exit from the show, where his character Deangelo Vickers tries to slam-dunk a basketball in the warehouse and lands on his head, leaving the Dunder Mifflin staff without a boss.
Writer Halsted Sullivan felt that Ferrell’s presence on the sitcom showed viewers that The Office was forging ahead. “By bringing in Will Ferrell we wanted to say, ‘Look, the show is still continuing,'” Sullivan told Greene. “It was also a great way to energize that ending and not make it feel maudlin.”