Steve Carell Never Saw Original ‘Office’
Steve Carell will be a hard act to follow. The funnyman will soon pass the torch to some as yet unnamed actor on NBC’s hit show, The Office, when he retires from his role as Michael Scott, the quirky, oblivious boss of Scranton’s Dunder Mifflin paper company.
For whomever follows Carell, it will be useful to remember that Michael Scott was not always an iconic role. There was a time when the character was considered, especially by certain television purists, a pale shadow of Ricky Gervais‘ David Brent, who led the original cast of the equally-lauded British The Office on BBC before the concept hit the states.
Carell had a strategy about transitioning to the risky role. He preferred to remain in the dark about the previous incarnation of the show. “We all – everyone except for Steve Carell – had seen the original, and we were all fans of the original Office,” David Denman, who played Pam’s fiance Roy, exclusively told Uinterview. “He saw maybe about ten minutes and he said, ‘Turn it off. I can’t do that. The guy’s too good, I’m going to imitate him.'”
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The comedian, who was just beginning to enjoy household-name status after his renowned success from The 40 Year Old Virgin, took a totally different approach to the new role. “It’s not about trying to be better than the original,” he told Playboy. “You want to make something that isn’t just an impersonation or a copy, because if that’s the point, why even do it? The challenge is to take elements of the original and re-explore it in a new context.”
In the beginning, what has now become fondly known as “The American Office,” had underdog status. No one expected it to succeed. “There was almost an animosity for the show because the BBC version was so beloved and Ricky Gervais was so brilliant. So in our minds, we realized there was no way to win that battle. There was nothing we could do as a cast or writers or producers to dispel people’s preconceived notions. We just had to put it out of our mind and do the best job we could.”
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Seven seasons and 24 award wins later, The Office has more than found its footing. Denman credits the liberties the show took for that success. “Once the show got to its second season and they started writing original episodes … we kind of got out of the shadow of the British version and [the show] sort of took on a life of its own, and got its own voice and, you know, it became a lot more broad compared to the original.”
These may be useful thoughts for the new incarnation of “David Brent / Michael Scott,” whomever he might be. –KIMBERLY STEELE
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