James Spader Wasn't Popular On The Set Of The Office

The Office began as a humble remake of its British predecessor, made by co-creators Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant. It was so quirky it seemed really unlikely that it would survive an American remake, especially since Gervais loved to glorify the mundanity of everyday life. According to New York Daily News, Gervais said: "They say that drama is real life with the boring parts taken out. I was obsessed with the boring bits... I was obsessed with the minutiae of an excruciating social faux pas."

But the unlikely happened. An American talent agent, Ben Silverman, saw the show while in England and understood its humor. In 2005, he sold it to NBC and the show found its footing, with an amazing team of writers, including Mindy Kaling and BJ Novak. The cast was equally as remarkable, with some serious comedic power coming from Steve Carell and Rainn Wilson, tempered by the deliberately bland characters played by Jenna Fischer and John Krasinski.

Sadly, like all amazing things, the glory days of The Office came to an end when Carell decided that the arc of Michael Scott's character had run its course after the seventh season, according to New York Daily News. The gaping hole left by the loss of Carell was quickly filled by James Spader, which seemed like a good idea until it became painfully clear that Robert California did not belong in Scranton.

James Spader had a promising beginning on The Office

Steve Carell playing Michael Scott might have been the greatest actor/character combo ever to have happened on screen. So to be fair, James Spader coming in to essentially fill Carell's shoes was doomed to fail. After Carell left following The Office's seventh season, Spader came on to play Robert California for its eighth season.

A new book by Andy Greene called The Office: The Untold Story of the Greatest Sitcom of the 2000s: An Oral History, shared how appealing Spader seemed as the show searched for Carell's replacement. Greene said: "He played the Robert California character as a suave, cocksure mystery man, almost as if Don Draper from Mad Men had an evil twin. Even critics who felt The Office had jumped the shark by that point were impressed."

According to Greene's book, writer Danny Chun said Spader got cast because he seemed to offer a new kind of energy to the show: "I remember us being really sort of taken by the energy that he brought that was just so different than anyone else's energy on the show. And I think we felt like there's something very interesting about this really really specific, strange character. We were kind of drawn to exploring that a little bit more."

Well, it was precisely Spader's energy that didn't vibe with the rest of the crew on The Office, proving he was the wrong choice.

James Spader wasn't funny enough

As James Spader introduced his character, Robert California, to season eight of The Office, it was obvious to everyone else around that he wasn't the right choice. While Spader is a great actor, the character of California gave off really low energy. He was laconic and unimpressed by everything, so he was good at intimidating other characters but it wasn't funny, according to The Washington Post.

How is Robert California and his serious demeanor supposed to compare with Michael Scott? There was just no way.

Ben Silverman was quoted in Andy Greene's new book saying of the actor: "Spader is a good guy and he's smart, but we needed brilliant comedians and James Spader isn't funny," (via New York Daily News.)

Actor Creed Bratton had similar thoughts about Spader: "He didn't seem comfortable. That wasn't because he's not a great actor, because he is a great actor. But not everyone can play what Steve Carell can do."

Bratton makes the strongest case. Having anyone come in and replace the comedic genius of Steve Carell was never going to work. Unfortunately, Spader just couldn't compete.

James Spader saw it differently

James Spader as Robert California simply didn't fit with the cast of The Office as a replacement for Steve Carell's character, Michael Scott. The humor of the show came from quick, pithy remarks and the banter between characters. This back-and-forth wasn't Spader's style.

In Andy Greene's new book, boom operator Brian Wittle said that he recalled Spader delivering lengthy monologues that inevitably got cut because it didn't match the speed and humor of the show.

However, Spader doesn't remember it this way. He said: "A majority of the stuff that I did on the show was in the show. To be frank, if that's how they were operating, then I would have gone to the writers and said, 'Write less, because I'm not just going to act on the set for it to [...] end up on the cutting room floor.'"

While Spader defended what he brought to the show, it seemed all departments working on The Office didn't see him as a fit. Per Greene's book, costume designer Alysia Raycraft said of him: "He didn't fit and we worked our damndest to make it happen because if anybody can make something funny, that group could."