Superstore's Dina Was Inspired By A Classic Danny DeVito Character

It's been barely a year since the automatic doors came to a close on the NBC workplace sitcom "Superstore," but the show's influence continues to be felt today. Created by Justin Spitzer ("Grounded for Life," "The Office," "American Auto"), "Superstore" follows the lives of the workers at Cloud 9, a Wal-Mart-esque big box store in St. Louis. For the most part, the sitcom centered on Amy (America Ferrera), a woman who never imagined she'd be a lifer when she started working there, and Jonah (Ben Feldman), a man who was hired in the pilot episode and saw the job as a way to keep his head above water financially before he could split for better. They're joined by a magical cast of co-workers including gay immigrant Mateo (Nico Santos), the wisecracking wheelchair user Garrett (Colton Dunn), pregnant teenager Cheyenne (Nichole Sakura), the meek yet hysterical Sandra (Kaliko Kauahi), the ultra-religious manager Glenn ("Kids in the Hall" star Mark McKinney), and the tough-as-nails assistant manager Dina (Lauren Ash).

Comparisons to "The Office" were easy, as the two share a gaggle of unlikely characters forced to interact with one another due to their jobs, and because Spitzer wrote and co-executive produced for the show, but the poignant and acclaimed series deserves so much more than to only exist in the shadow of a cultural phenomenon. (The same goes for "Abbott Elementary," another show frequently compared to "The Office.") The characters of "Superstore" are ones we rooted for, despite their quirks, because they were so easily identifiable. The show was unafraid to tackle difficult subjects surrounding the workplace, and Spitzer did his best to ensure the show could stand on its own, knowing the comparisons were inevitable.

Dina is not a female Dwight

"Certainly in terms of the way I write — what I think is good, what I think is important to the story — I learned from Greg Daniels on "The Office," Justin Spitzer told Decider. "In terms of the specific analogues, I'm always trying to push things away from feeling too much like 'The Office.'" Many people compared the Amy/Jonah love story to that of Jim/Pam, even though their stories only share the similarity of being co-workers who fall in love. "I'm trying to do things that feel different but still make a virtue of what people like about our show, about 'The Office,' about 'Cheers,' about 'Friends' — shows that have will-they-won't-they stories — but figuring out how to do it our way."

Another "Office" comparison point: Lauren Ash's Dina was assumed to be a female version of Dwight Schrute, which, again, was not the case. "I certainly see why people think Dina is a lot like Dwight, but I see them as very different characters because I've been so involved in developing both of them," he told Collider.

Spitzer explained that Dina was originally envisioned as Danny DeVito's Emmy and Golden Globe-winning character Louie De Palma on "Taxi," a reference that may have been beyond the scope of a lot of "Superstore" viewers. He continued to Collider:

"I wanted her to be a hardass that you would find likable over a long period of time. Lauren Ash is an amazing actress and Dina became likable a lot faster, but sometimes I still want her to be able to be an antagonist and to be the authority that makes people follow the rules."

Dina was a revolution

"My goal from the beginning for Dina was that I didn't want her to be a sociopath but a three-dimensional character," Lauren Ash told the A.V. Club. "In my consequent pushing for that, it allowed for a lot of cool stories and growth for her over six years."

And grow she did. Dina started out with the positioning of being the go-to antagonist, but she quickly developed one of the strongest arcs of the entire series. She went from being someone who declared, 'If I wanted to avoid doing things with people I hate, I would literally never leave my house" to someone who could compromise with "I respect you as much as I hate you right now!"

Dina was usually seen in her work polo and pants, but when she showed up during the first Halloween episode in a sexy cop outfit (one  she wore year after year as a running gag), it was clear Dina was not only a sexy hardass, but one that presented her sex appeal without any need to explain "why" she was so confident. She's confident because she's the boss, she's in charge, and she's hot as hell. Dina is a beloved character not only because she is a no-nonsense authority figure, but also because she is unapologetically odd (she collects birds) and sexually confident, much like DeVito's character in "The Oh in Ohio." It seems the character behaviors of DeVito extend beyond "Taxi." No shade to Dwight, but if anything, he should strive to be more like a Dina ... or a DeVito.