The Office

It’s been over seven years since The Office came to an end, but people have never stopped talking about the show. That’s mostly because it’s been available on Netflix for the longest time (though it will jump to Peacock next year), and reruns always seem to be playing somewhere. This year, there has been even more discussion around The Office thanks to a recently published oral history book, as well as a new oral history podcast hosted by cast member Brian Baumgartner. And we have a new round of The Office anecdotes from those who were there on set making comedy history.

The Office Ladies podcast, hosted by series stars Jenna Fischer and Angela Kinsey, has taken a dive into a pivotal emotional scene for Pam Beesly where she had a major breakdown in the office and only Dwight Schrute was there to console her. Plus, we also have a fun tidbit from the Television Critics Association panel for a new show from comedian Larry Wilmore, who was a writer on The Office who also appeared as the diversity training seminar leader in the early cringeworthy first season episode “Diversity Day.” It turns out there were even wilder scenes shot for that episode that ended up on the cutting room floor.

The Office - Diversity Day

The Office Diversity Day Outtakes Are Pretty Wild

Collider was on-hand for the virtual Television Critics Association panel for Larry Wilmore’s new Peacock comedy series, and discussion eventually came around to the time he spent working on The Office as a writer and a guest star. Specifically he discussed the second episode of the first season where corporate requires Dunder-Mifflin branch to partake in some diversity training, led by Larry Wilmore as Mr. Brown, prompting Michael Scott to have his own politically incorrect diversity day seminar. Wilmore remembered working on the episode:

“There’s no way “Diversity Day” could be produced today and probably rightly so. In fact, I have outtakes from that scene with Steve Carell that I can’t even say what they are, you know, that was so funny. But you never know. Things swing back and forth all the time. And the culture is very malleable in that way. The things that we find — it’s not so much the things that we can make fun of, but the things we find we can laugh at and it’s okay to laugh at. I think I have more things on my list [of that nature] than most people and I acknowledge that. And it’s why I probably get in trouble sometimes. But I honestly think that the more we can laugh about tough things, I just think the better off we are.”

Even the stuff that made it into the “Diversity Day” episode is more cringeworthy today than it was when the episode aired in 2005. There has been a wide variety of social progress since then, and it’s easily one of the harder episodes to get through. Of course, this episode came before the writers started making Michael Scott less of a complete prick and more of a charming but ignorant goober. Perhaps there’s a chance that some of the footage cut from the episode will make it to Peacock where extra footage will be added to the broadcast versions of the episodes? Probably not, but we can dream can’t we?

The Office - Pam

How Jenna Fischer Forced Herself to Bawl in “Back from Vacation”

Meanwhile, on the complete opposite end of the spectrum of what The Office has to offer, we have one of the more touching moments in “Back from Vacation,” the 12th episode of the show’s third season. On The Office Ladies podcast (via Mashable), Jenna Fischer looked back on the scene where she has an emotional meltdown after she helps Jim (John Krasinski) navigate a relationship problem with Karen (Rashida Jones).

In the scene, Pam is off by herself in one of the hallways of the office building and Dwight (Rainn Wilson) stumbles upon her. He surprisingly consoles her as a good friend, but then it becomes clear that he doesn’t really understand why she’s crying and thinks it’s because of PMS.

Despite the joke that wraps up the scene, it’s actually a serious emotional moment for Pam, and Jenna Fischer really gave it everything she’s got. She recalled how scenes like this were treated, where everything is shut down and the there’s a lot of meticulous preparation to pull off the scenes as efficiently as possible for the sake of the actors. Fischer said:

“It was really important to Greg [Daniels, The Office showrunner] that I really be crying. They did not want to put fake tears in my eyes. He wanted me to really go there. This is a really big challenge for an actor. And so what they did was they made everything really quiet and no one talked to me for about a half hour. I put on the saddest music I could find, and it was sad because it was personal to me… It was music that brought up memories of breakups — music that I listened to at different times in my life when I was having a particularly hard time — so it would bring up a lot of emotions.”

That’s certainly do it. I’ve been with theater savvy friends who would sometimes try to make themselves cry just as a challenge, and it’s not as easy as you might think. Thinking of the saddest thing in your life can help, but it still really takes it a toll on you. That’s why Fischer prepared to shoot the scene by listening to this depressing playlist by herself, including a Ben Folds song. Then the assistant director would quickly come and snatch her headphones and shooting would begin immediately with these big, genuine tears.

In fact, Jenna Fischer’s crying felt so real that Rainn Wilson had difficulty stopping himself from crying. Fischer recalled:

“Rainn simply couldn’t do that scene without empathizing with Pam. Every time we did a take, he teared up when I cried harder. It was like Rainn Wilson, the man, was incapable of sitting next to a person in pain without feeling their pain, and this is a thing that we know about Rainn. It’s a thing that we love about Rainn, and when I saw it in the scene it just made me miss Rainn so much, because that’s who Rainn is to me on a personal level.”

If you haven’t been listening to The Office Ladies podcast, these are the kind of wonderful insights you get into certain scenes and episodes, and they bring in special guests from the show all the time too. So make sure you check it out.

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