Steve carell as Michael Scott, Regional Manager of the Dunder Mifflin Scranton Branch, isn’t anything like the mean, obnoxious David Brent, the character played by Ricky Gervais in the British original version of The Office. Even though his role was loosely based on Brent’s, Carell went on to do what he does best – add a human touch to his character, and to the show’s proceedings, thereby endearing to a whole new audience.
As the highly popular show returns to Indian TV, we chat with the lead actor about his last days on the show, and why he still hasn’t watched the UK series.
The Office is being spoken about so much again. It has gained a whole new audience now. Does that feel really exciting?
It’s pretty cool, yeah – what people are finding in it again. Because, the show ended long ago, and I left the series even before that. So it’s pretty neat that people are continuing to watch it.
The Office began with Ricky Gervais in the UK, and your character has been more empathetic about things rather than Ricky. Tell us about that.
He knew that the run would be limited and he could play this guy who is just insufferable and a truly terrible person. In TV, people are inviting characters into their living rooms, and they don’t want complete jerks in their homes. I thought, in order to make it a little more palatable, they need to see a bit more of human.
Have you ever watched the UK series?
I haven’t, actually. Never. I have it and I thought I would watch it after the show ends, but I haven’t. But I remember getting the call to audition, and Paul Rudd telling me, ‘This is awesome! You have to see it.’
One of the things you achieved with The Office, which has been a recurring theme in a lot of your work, is the fantastic ensemble. It was pretty flawless from top to bottom. Was that chemistry instant, or did it sort of build, as the show went on?
It was pretty instant. It was. And, I think we can attribute that to Greg. He just knew the right people to cast with one another. He knew that we would get along – he just had a really good sense of personality.
That’s what I think. Or he just got lucky, but that was a great group of people and we were very, very tight. That was hard to leave. Because that was a family – and it was a really special time.
What did you say to Jenna Fischer in the last scene of your final episode – the long shot in the airplane terminal?
I don’t remember specifically. It was basically just the two of us saying goodbye and crying like, ‘I’m going to miss you.’ ‘It’s going to be okay.’ That sort of thing. I don’t remember the specific words, but it wasn’t small talk. It wasn’t, ‘Is the camera still rolling?’ It was an actual moment between us.
Have you found the time to catch up with The Office cast-mates? Have you seen them lately?
Well, I haven’t seen everybody together. I mean, I see people from time to time, here and there. We are all planning to, and we will probably have to plan it like a year in advance, so everyone can clear their schedule, get together and have a big blow out. That’s definitely in the offing.
Did you watch yourself when The Office was on air?
No. Well, sometimes, a member of the cast would get together, and we would watch it – which is fun, but no, I tend not to.
Have you ever watched any of your movies?
If I’d been in Shawshank Redemption, I’d really watch that because I always watch Shawshank Redemption (laughs). All seasons of The Office air on Star World every Monday to Friday at 7:00 pm