Fun Details About Phyllis Smith From The Office

You ask any "The Office" fan, and there is a solid chance they keep the folks from the show in a special place in their heart. That couldn't be more true about Phyllis Smith, the actor who shares a first name with her office counterpart. Of course, she became a household name thanks to her time working for Dunder Mifflin, though we also know Smith as Sadness from Disney/Pixar's "Inside Out," Lynn Davies in "Bad Teacher" and Betty from "The OA." Despite her years in the business and the amount of success she has achieved, Smith seems remarkably humble, particularly when talking about roles that have fallen into her lap.

"When we were doing 'The Office,' there was an area backstage where they worked on hair and makeup, and I was sitting there waiting to get ready to go on, and one of the writers went, 'I want you to audition for "Bad Teacher,”" Smith told Den of Geek. "They had me go read for the casting director, and Cameron [Diaz] came up to me in the table read, and she put her arm around me. I'd never met her before, but she said, 'I saw the tape, and you are this person.' Right off the bat, she told me." This would not be the only time a job came knocking when Smith was not looking. 

These fun details about Phyllis Smith's life show that she not only has had a one-of-a-kind experience in show business, but has personality out the wazoo. 

For nearly 20 years, Phyllis Smith worked in casting

Believe it or not, Phyllis Smith wasn't always seeking auditions. Instead she was working them from the other side of the table. Before she joined Steve Carell and  company in "The Office," Smith worked in casting for almost two decades. As she recalled to Slate, after her dance career came to an end, she happened to connect with a casting director she met on a commercial audition. Before she knew it, she was part of a casting team. (She really does have a knack for more or less stumbling upon new jobs.) "I really thought that the performing part of my life was over," she said, clarifying that she embraced the new chapter.

And while she put in the hours as a casting associate, she picked up some skills that would come in handy down the road. "[O]ver the course of those 19 years, I literally had read with thousands of actors, because it's nothing to have a casting session and have 100-200 people set up within a day or two, back to back," Smith told Slate. "I was honing a craft I didn't know I would ever use or need. But when you think about it, when you're reading with actors on a daily basis, you can see what works and what doesn't, are they telling the truth, do you believe them?" Smith worked in casting for shows like "Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman," "Spin City" and "Curb Your Enthusiasm."

She was supposed to be in The 40-Year-Old Virgin

Every now and again, an actor will crush an audition, land the part, and film a few scenes... only to find out that, for one reason or another, their performance did not make the final product. That is the case for Phyllis Smith. In "The 40-Year-Old Virgin," Smith acted opposite fellow "The Office" star Steve Carell. Per Slate, Smith was cast as Andy's mom in Judd Apatow's hit comedy, but her scenes ultimately did not leave the editing room floor. She was originally in two scenes of the film.

As Smith recalled to Slate, in one of the scenes, she showed up in one of Andy's dreams. "I appeared as Marilyn Monroe, imitating her, and then would break out saying, 'I'm your mother, you pervert,'" she shared. Despite the scenes not making the final version of the film, some still consider the 2005 movie to be Smith's cinematic debut.

Smith and Carell are not the only "The Office" actors who were cast in "The 40-Year-Old Virgin." The movie's roster also includes Mindy Kaling and David Koechner.

She didn't even audition for her Office role

Before she was cast for "The Office," Phyllis Smith worked in casting for "The Office." Early on in the audition stage, Smith was asked to read with some of the actors. As she recalled to Slate, she figured she was simply filling in for an actor who had not yet arrived, so she did not think much of the request. It definitely did not dawn on her that the folks in charge thought she'd be a good fit for the show. As Smith and veteran casting director Allison Jones recounted on an episode of "Off the Beat with Brian Baumgartner," Smith didn't fully realize she was a Dunder Mifflin employee until the wardrobe department reached out to her.

On their podcast "Office Ladies," fellow "The Office" alumni Jenna Fischer and Angela Kinsey remembered reading with Smith during their auditions. Fischer shared that director Ken Kwapis was so charmed by Smith's work in the auditions that he asked Greg Daniels to come up with a character for her for the pilot episode. 

"And after the pilot was over, she went back to being a casting associate," Fischer said. Of course, the show got picked up, and Smith left the casting department for good.

Phyllis Smith was a pro cheerleader

Long before she was sitting at a desk in the Dunder Mifflin office, Phyllis Smith was dancing through life. "Growing up, I always wanted to be a dancer. My mom says I used to dance in my crib," she said in St. Louis Magazine. She started taking classes at an early age, and eventually, she pursued careers where all those years of training came in handy. As she confirmed to Yahoo! Entertainment, she was a professional NFL cheerleader for a short while. The future "The Office" star was a member of the St. Louis Cardinals' cheer squad in the 1970s. "The year I cheered was the second or third year after cheerleaders were first coming into being — the beginning of cheerleading days," Smith told the outlet.

Smith sure looks back on her cheer days fondly. In a separate interview with Slate, she quipped, "I was at the height of my glory, because I loved dancing and wearing the boots and the hot pants, the tied up shirts, looking really hot." Although she is no longer a professional cheerleader, Smith told the outlet her love of dance is forever a part of who she is. "I find myself dancing in the grocery store," she said.

Phyllis Smith traveled with a burlesque group

You read that correctly. Yes, our beloved Phyllis Smith, the voice of Sadness, did burlesque. And as fellow "The Office" star Angela Kinsey divulged on the "Office Ladies" podcast, "No one can shimmy like Phyllis. She has a great shimmy." Smith's time as a burlesque performer began after she cheered for the St. Louis Cardinals. 

As Smith told Yahoo! Entertainment, a touring vaudeville act is what sparked her interest in burlesque. She tried out for the show every time the troupe visited her hometown, but she was rejected year after year. However, the one time she did not try out, the man in charge of casting the burlesque group invited her to come aboard. (Yes, once again, Smith nabbed a gig without trying. Like we said, this seems to be a recurring theme.) "Then I was on the road doing that for about seven years," she recalled. And while it was indeed a burlesque show, the production was relatively tame. "[T]here was no stripping. We had strategically placed feathers and G-strings with feathers covering our rumps," she told the outlet. "It was quite sexy, but no stripping or nudity." As per St. Louis Magazine, she had to stop dancing after sustaining a knee injury, but at least she got a chance to live out her childhood dream of being a dancer.

Phyllis Smith was scouted for Inside Out

Like many of the other acting jobs Phyllis Smith has had in her career, playing Sadness in "Inside Out" was another role that pretty much landed in her lap. Evidently, director Pete Docter had Smith in mind for the voice of Sadness in his upcoming Pixar film, so he had his team reach out to "The Office" star directly. She told The Daily Beast the call caught her off guard. "I don't have a voiceover agent," Smith told the outlet. "I was lying on my couch in St. Louis and my phone rang. I don't really even know how the casting director got my number!" And with that, she had her very first major voice acting gig.

Not only did Smith get to play the character of Sadness in the film, but she also wound up doing more work for Disney as the adorable blue lady. From recording voices for dolls to a float for Disney Parks, she told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the experiences just keep coming at her. She even recounted hearing about a teacher who uses the "Inside Out" action figures to teach her students about emotions, per The Daily Beast. "I never even gave something like that a thought," she told the outlet. "To think that a movie could have an impact on a little life like that."

She spent some time on The OA

Once again Phyllis Smith scored an acting job without exactly trying to get an acting job. She told Vulture, "Oddly enough, it came out of the blue for me, because I don't have an agent." After the creators of "The OA," Zal Batmanglij and Brit Marling, sought her out, she was given all of six pages to go over. And those six pages were enough to convince her to take it.

The show focuses on supernatural and spiritual ideas, which intrigued Smith. "Even before 'The OA,' I was a very spiritual person," she said to Vulture. "I believe in angels. I've had an experience that ... I don't know the right label to put to it, if it was an angel or Jesus or what. Nobody knows anything for sure about that, but I know that I had an encounter and I know that things exist beyond this realm, most definitely. I'm grounded in that."

Smith's role as Betty Broderick-Allen, or BBA, resonated with fans and critics alike in a major way. BuzzFeed TV editor Scott Bryan even went so far as to call BBA a highlight of the series. "In a thoroughly confusing and off-beat show, she kept me going," Bryan wrote. And of her performance of the Five Movements routine, Thrillist's Dan Jackson wrote, "She brings an intensity and rigor to each hiss, thrust, and hand gesture." Evidently, her years of dance training served her well on "The OA" set.

Phyllis Smith has loved animals since she was a kid

Phyllis Smith's mother, Glenda Smith, sure seems to be the reason she has such a penchant for animals. The two of them visited Best Friends Animal Sanctuary together for Mother's Day 2009 and, per the organization, Glenda has been a supporter of the sanctuary for a long time. During their visit, "The Office" alum looked back on her childhood and her parents' love of animals. "I remember that my mom couldn't take vacations because she was always caring for an animal in need," she shared. "She wouldn't turn anyone away. She was bottle feeding kittens and she had a room that was first the sewing room then the flower room then it became the cat room." 

That love of animals obviously passed onto Phyllis too. As she shared with Vulture in 2016, she had six pets. She told the outlet that she had four cats: Shy Boy, Little Grey, Sweet Face, and Princess. At the time of the interview, a 65-year-old turtle named Speedy and a 15-year-old turtled named Alvin rounded out her adorable critter menagerie.