35 Surprising Facts About The Office

NBC
NBC

In 2005, a group of Americans tasked themselves with adapting Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant's beloved British series The Office for U.S. audiences. They rose to the high expectations and managed to create a super-successful comedy that debuted on March 24, 2005, ran for nine seasons, and is still being binge-watched today.

Here are 35 things you might not have known about the workplace sitcom.

1. B.J. NOVAK WAS THE FIRST PERSON CAST.

Alberto E. Rodriguez, Getty Images for Disney

The show’s producer, Greg Daniels, was inspired by his time on Saturday Night Live and wanted to hire a writer-performer. Other writer-performers who were later added include Mindy Kaling (Kelly) and Paul Lieberstein (Toby). Michael Schur, who wrote and produced the show, played Dwight’s cousin, Mose.

2. THE CAST COULD HAVE BEEN WAY DIFFERENT.

For instance, Adam Scott auditioned for the part of Jim Halpert. Seth Rogen was in the running to play Dwight Schrute. Eric Stonestreet, who is now on Modern Family, auditioned for Kevin. Before getting cast as Angela, Angela Kinsey auditioned for Pam. Bob Odenkirk was originally cast as Michael Scott but was replaced by Steve Carell when the show he’d been working on, Come to Papa, was canceled. In a late-season episode, Odenkirk played a very Michael Scott-like manager looking to hire Pam.

See Also: 12 Outrageous Fan Theories About The Office

3. JOHN KRASINSKI HAD A ROUGH AUDITION.

One reason Adam Scott could have easily played Jim: John Krasinski’s audition for The Office didn’t go too well. First of all, he was supposed to audition for Dwight, but he convinced the casting directors to let him read for the part of Jim. Secondly, he got into some trouble in the waiting room. A man eating salad in the room asked him if he was nervous. Krasinski answered, “You know, not really. You either get these things or you don't. But what I'm really nervous about is this show. It's just I love the British show so much and Americans have a tendency to just really screw these opportunities up. I just don't know how I'll live with myself if they screw this show up and ruin it for me.” The man responded, “My name's Greg Daniels, I'm the executive producer.” Still, Krasinski managed to get the part.

4. AFTER HE GOT THE PART, JOhn KRASINSKI INTERVIEWED PAPER COMPANy EMPLOYEES for research.

NBCUniversal Media, LLC

Krasinski met with several employees at different paper companies to research his role, and he filmed a visit he took through Scranton, Pennsylvania. The footage of his trip through the city was actually used in the show’s opening credits sequence and, according to Rainn Wilson’s memoir, The Bassoon King: Art, Idiocy, and Other Sordid Tales from the Band Room, would go on to play a role in helping production with set decoration and design details.

5. PHYLLIS SMITH GOT CAST BY CASTING PEOPLE.

Phyllis was a casting agent for the show before she got the part of Phyllis. She was reading the script with some auditioning actors when director Ken Kwapis decided that she was the one who should play the role.

6. EVERYBODY NEEDED TO IMPROVISE.

Even if they weren’t writers, Daniels wanted to make sure his actors had a background in improvisation. He has said, “Improv is a good tool to make it seem more natural."

7. THEY INITIALLY STAYED CLOSE TO THE BRITISH VERSION.

BBC

The pilot was shot with essentially the same script as the pilot from the British show. Many viewers questioned this decision, but it had to be done considering NBC bought an adaptation. Daniels believes that the show really branched out into its own entity in the second season.

8. nO ONE WAS OPTIMISTIC ABOUT THE SHOW.

It was hard for the cast and crew to have faith early on. During the first season, NBC executives would bring a lot of pessimism to the set. According to Krasinski, they would say things like, “This episode is so good—unfortunately, it’s the last one we’re going to do.”

9. THEY OWE THEIR SUCCESS TO APPLE.

One thing that helped save the show was iTunes. Around the second season, when NBC made the show available on the platform, it took up four of the top five slots for downloaded television shows. That’s when the people behind the show learned that their audience skewed young, rather than the white-collar workers they thought would be watching.

10. THE CAST PICKED THE OPENING THEME SONG.

When it came to the show’s opening theme music, series creator Greg Daniels gave the cast four versions of the song and let them vote on the winner. The now-iconic song came from a demo by composer Jay Ferguson, which was then re-recorded by musician Bob Thiele Jr. and a group later dubbed The Scrantones, who made an appearance on the episode “The Booze Cruise.”

11. THEY LOST THEIR ORIGINAL THEME SONG TO HEATHER LOCKLEAR.

In 2015, Rainn Wilson revealed that a number of hit songs were given consideration for the show’s opening theme, including “Better Things” by the Kinks and “Float On” by Modest Mouse. But the one the cast really wanted was “Mr. Blue Sky” by the Electric Light Orchestra. Those plans were dashed, though, when production found out that it was already the song for the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Heather Locklear comedy, LAX.

12. tHE OFFICE'S ADDRESS IS AN HOMAGE TO THE BRITISH SHOW.

The Scranton branch of Dunder Mifflin is located at 1725 Slough Avenue. That’s not a real street in the actual Scranton, Pennsylvania, though—it’s a reference to the original version of the show, which takes place in Slough, England.

13. THE COMPUTERS ON SET REALLY WORKED.

NBCUniversal Media

They even had Internet, which helped the cast feel like they were in a real-life office.

14. THEY LITERALLY MADE THE SHOW BRIGHTER FOR SEASON TWO.

In an attempt to boost ratings after the first season, the producers pivoted the show's style away from the British version to make Michael Scott more likable and make the episodes more optimistic. According to Novak's DVD commentary track for "The Dundies," the first episode of the second season, they also made the lights in the office brighter to help complete that tonal shift.

15. THEY ALSO RECREATED THE OFFICE SPACE FROM SCRATCH.

The show's first season was shot in a real-life office in Culver City, California, so when they transitioned to a sound stage for the second season, the crew had to rebuild it and stock it with supplies to make a perfect replica. They did make Michael's office a little bigger to accommodate cameras, and since they were on a sound stage, they could control the weather.

16. THE DOCUMENTARY CREW MAY HAVE HAD A TRAGIC REASON FOR COVERING DUNDER MIFFLIN.

NBC Universal

In the season two episode “Performance Review,” Michael reads papers from his suggestion box, including one from “Tom,” who wrote, “We need better outreach for employees fighting depression.” Then, he’s reminded that Tom killed himself. During a 2007 Office Convention, a group of writers proposed that this suicide was why the documentary crew showed up in Scranton. They wanted to document how the office was dealing with the suicide before turning to simpler storylines.

17. JIM'S FAKE-RAIN-FILLED PROPOSAL WAS EXPENSIVE.

The writers had a clear vision for how Jim’s proposal to Pam would look. They wanted to shoot it at an actual rest stop on the Merritt Parkway, but it would have cost $100,000. Plus, they wouldn’t be allowed to use fake rain, which was important to the scene. So, the crew built a replica of the Parkway and a rest stop. The shot ended up costing $250,000. Daniels described the scene as “the most expensive and elaborate shot we've ever done, but it's also sort of the highlight of five years of storytelling.”

18. YOU COULD ACTUALLY BUY DUNDER MIFFLIN PAPER.

In 2011, the company Quill.com, owned by Staples, announced that they would start selling Dunder Mifflin paper. At the time, their director of innovation explained, “Paper…is a race to the bottom as paper usage is going down. We’re looking for different pop culture phenomena and external brands that we can tie to these mundane product categories to differentiate. That’s really how initially pairing copy paper and Dunder Mifflin came about.”

19. STEVE CARELL IMPROVISED HIS KISS WITH OSCAR.

Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for CinemaCon

In the season three episode, “Gay Witch Hunt,” the script only called for a hug. Nunez recalled, “We were just supposed to hug, and he kept hugging me. And that particular take he came in really close, and I'm like, ‘Where is he going with this?’ Oh, dear, yes here we go.”

20. THE ACTORS WEREN'T THE ONLY ONES WHO WOULD IMPROVISE.

In season five, Pam closes her dorm door on a camera person, who lets out an audible sigh. That was an impromptu moment from the director of photography, Randall Einhorn.

21. sEVERAL RESTAURANTS FEATURED ON THE SHOW ARE REAL.

Remember when Michael bungled the office’s pizza order by getting pies from Pizza By Alfredo rather than the popular Alfredo’s Pizza Cafe? Well, you can head to Alfredo’s Pizza Café right now if you’d like—it’s a real place, right in Scranton. (Its similarly named competition is purely a product of Hollywood.) To get that authentic Pennsylvania feel, the show’s production incorporated real-world businesses and restaurants from the area when writing scripts. So if you want some calamari, you can go to Cooper’s Seafood, one of Kevin’s favorites. You can also swing by Poor Richard’s for a pint, or head to the Steamtown Mall, where you can see a display featuring the original burgundy “Welcome to Scranton” sign from the show’s opening credits.

22. SADLY, SCHRUTE FARMS ISN'T (BUT ITS REVIEWS ARE).

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On the opposite end of the spectrum, Schrute Farms is a very fictional place with very real reviews on TripAdvisor—more than 1100 of them. Though all the reviews are full of obvious Office-isms, the site still covers its bases with a warning at the top that reads: “This is a fictional place, as seen on NBC's The Office. Please do not try to book a visit here.”

23. STEVE CARELL HAD HIS NUMBER RETIRED.

When Steve Carell left the show after seven seasons, he was still adored by the cast and crew. Up until that point, he had always been number one on the call sheet. So, when he left, they “retired” the number one, and it didn’t appear on the call sheet again.

24. ANDY BECAME OFFICE MANAGER IN THE FINAL TWO SEASONS BECAUSE HE'S A PEOPLE PERSON.

Lieberstein, who was showrunner at the time, said, “The Andy character is very different from Michael, but one of the things they have in common is that they both put people first and relationships first.” The writers also considered promoting Darryl, but decided that he was “too rational and smart to be the manager,” so he couldn’t cause as many disasters.

25. JAMES SPADER WAS ONLY SUPPOSED TO make A CAMEO.

Chris Haston, NBCUniversal, Inc

The writers liked him so much that they asked him to expand the role. "[Spader] has a way of taking on his character so fully, even in rehearsal, that it's changing the mood on the set,"Lieberstein said. "Everyone is discovering who they are with this new energy."

26. SHOWRUNNERS KEPT CARELL'S FINALE APPEARANCE SECRET FROM EVERYONE.

The showrunners didn't even tell network executives that Carell was going to appear in the finale. According to Daniels, “We shot the Steve stuff and we kept it out of the dailies and didn’t tell them about it. At the table reading, we gave the Steve Carell lines to Creed.”

27. WE MISSED OUT ON A DWIGHT SPIN-OFF SHOW.

Tyler Golden, NBCUniversal

After The Office ended, Dwight was supposed to get a spinoff called The Farm on NBC, but the network passed on the show in 2012. According to Rainn Wilson, “The timing was wrong.”

28. bUT THERE WAS AN OFFICE SPIN-OFF, KINDA.

Although The Farm never happened, nor did a proposed Andy Bernard show based on An American Family, you can view Parks and Recreation as a kind of spinoff. It was developed by the same producers and was originally going to be a spinoff before Rashida Jones got cast after playing a separate character on The Office.

29. THE CPR EPISODE HELPED SAVE SOMEONE'S LIFE.

NBCUniversal

In the season 5 episode “Stress Relief,” Michael arranges a CPR training session for his staff that quickly devolves into a very Scranton-y debacle. But even if no one at Dunder Mifflin learned anything, someone at home actually did. On the show, it’s said that the chest compressions should be done to the beat of the popular Bee Gees song, “Stayin’ Alive,” and this tip helped an Office fan from Arizona perform successful CPR on a woman he found slumped over in the seat of her car. She regained consciousness after about a minute of CPR and was brought to the hospital, where she was later discharged.

30. YOU CAN SEARCH THROUGH ALL THE SHOW'S "STARES."

One of The Office’s trademarks is the way the characters would seamlessly break the fourth wall and communicate their feelings to the audience by doing nothing more than looking directly into the camera. These Office “stares” became such a hit that they even became the subject of a fansite that allows you to search through more than 800 different emotions—boredom, sadness, anger, and loneliness, to name a few—and watch a brief YouTube clip of an Office character perfectly embodying it with nothing more than a glance. Lose hours of productivity by experimenting with The Office Stare Machine here.

31. Steve CARELL ISN'T INTERESTED IN JOINING A REBOOT.

Though the show is always the subject of reboot rumors, Steve Carell has said on multiple occasions that bringing back The Office isn’t on his mind, telling Esquire: "Because The Office is on Netflix and replaying, a lot more people have seen it recently. And I think because of that there's been a resurgence in interest in the show, and talk about bringing it back. But apart from the fact that I just don't think that's a good idea, it might be impossible to do that show today and have people accept it the way it was accepted 10 years ago."

32. MICHAEL HAS A DIFFERENT FISH IN EACH EPISODE OF THE "mICHAEL SCOTT PAPER COMPANY" ERA.

NBCUniversal, Inc.

He starts with a goldfish and ends up with a black beta. Maybe he's not good at keeping fish alive? At least it's good practice for falling into a koi pond.

33. SEVERAL OFFICE STARS INTERNED FOR CONAN O'BRIEN.

Obviously cutting your teeth with a comedy legend like Conan O'Brien helps when you're starring in your own show. Mindy Kaling (1999), John Krasinski (2000), and Ellie Kemper (2005) were all interns for the NBC late night host before hitting it big.

34. EVERY EPISODE COULD HAVE BEEN AN HOUR LONG.

According to Nunez, the cast and crew always shot "tons" of footage. A lot of it ended up as DVD extras, but the actor claimed that each episode could have been much longer. "Even the awkward scenes, where nothing is happening, where everyone is just uncomfortable, could go on longer and become even funnier, because the level of discomfort just rises," he said.

35. PAM AND MICHAEL HAD A GENUINE GOODBYE.

Cast members of The Office after winning an Emmy for "Outstanding Comedy Series" in 2006Kevin Winter/Getty Images

For their goodbye scene at the airport in Carell’s last episode, Jenna Fischer was told by production to, “Just say whatever you would want to say to Steve. Just say goodbye and we'll tape it and when you're finished, just give each other a hug and go your separate ways.’” Fischer later revealed in 2018 that, “Those were real tears and a real goodbye.”

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Wa Wa Wee Wa: The Origin of Borat's Favorite Catchphrase

Wa wa wee wa! Sacha Baron Cohen is back in Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (2020).
Wa wa wee wa! Sacha Baron Cohen is back in Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (2020).
Courtesy of Amazon Studios

When Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan was released in 2006, a new audience was exposed to Borat Sagdiyev, a “journalist” portrayed by Sacha Baron Cohen who had made frequent appearances on the comedian’s Da Ali G Show.

Soon, in our country there was problem: People mimicked Borat’s catchphrases, "very nice" and “wa wa wee wa,” incessantly. The latter phrase was used to denote surprise or happiness on Borat’s part. While some may have assumed it was made up, it turns out that it actually means something.

Wa wa wee wa is Hebrew, which Cohen speaks throughout the film and which helped make Borat a hit in Israel. (Cohen is himself Jewish.) It was taken from an Israeli comedy show and is the equivalent of the word wow. Reportedly, the expression was popular among Israelis, and they appreciated Cohen’s use of it.

The original Borat also sees Cohen singing a popular Hebrew folk song, “Koom Bachur Atzel,” or “get up lazy boy,” among other Hebrew mentions. It remains to be seen how much of it he’ll be speaking in the sequel, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. It premieres on Amazon Prime Friday, October 23.

[h/t The Los Angeles Times]