The untold truth of The Office

Thanks to an eight-year run on NBC and the perpetual and extreme popularity of its reruns on Netflix and on other platforms, The Office is one of the most universally loved American sitcoms of all time. It's hard then to think back to 2005, when it debuted as a midseason replacement and faced an uphill battle for acceptance. It was a remake of an adored, acclaimed British sitcom also called The Office, co-created by and starring Ricky Gervais as awful boss David Brent. The American Office — and Steve Carell as Dunder Mifflin's Scranton branch manager Michael Scott — had to remain true to the original material while carving out its own identity. It was also one of the first single-camera, no-laugh-track sitcoms, trafficking in "the humor of discomfort," so it was a revolution in TV comedy. Now it's regarded as a classic with a rich mythology and history all its own. Here are some untold truths even the most hardcore, Dundie-winning viewer many not even know about The Office.

The cast of The Office in an alternate dimension

When The Office hit NBC in 2005, its large ensemble cast was populated with many up-and-coming actors of the era, including Steve Carell, fresh off a major role in the 2004 hit comedy Anchorman. He was reportedly the producers' first choice to play Michael Scott, but he'd already booked a role on another NBC sitcom called Come to Papa. In his absence, producers brought in comedy icon Bob Odenkirk, star of HBO's Mr. Show with Bob and David (and future star of Better Call Saul). When Come to Papa was canceled after four episodes, Carell was free to head to The Office, and Odenkirk apparently got the boot. 

Other notable names who almost wound up on The Office include Adam Scott, who auditioned to play Jim Halpert a few years before he scored a role on Parks and Recreation. Seth Rogen, after Freaks and Geeks but before his movie career took off, unsuccessfully auditioned to play Dwight Schrute. Eric Stonestreet, long before he won an Emmy playing Cam on Modern Family, was up for the role of Kevin Malone.

There's only ever been one Phyllis

How did the casting team for The Office find Phyllis Smith, the droll and quietly funny actress who plays the role of paper sales rep Phyllis Lapin (known as Phyllis Vance after she marries Bob Vance of Vance Refrigeration)? Well, Smith was actually working in casting to help find actors for The Office. Producers liked her line readings with auditioning actors so much that they decided to create a role on the show just for her. Smith's work history includes some other notable gigs in the entertainment industry, including a stint as a cheerleader for the NFL's St. Louis Cardinals in the '70s. 

"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," she told Slate. She parlayed that experience, along with a backgrounders in ballet, tap, jazz, and modern dance, into a career as a burlesque dancer. Care for another Phyllis fun fact? She filmed scenes as the mother of Steve Carell's character in The 40-Year-Old Virgin, but they were deleted from the final cut.

Jim and Ryan are much better friends in real life

On The Office, Ryan Howard and Jim Halpert weren't exactly best friends. Off-screen, the actors who played those roles, B.J. Novak and John Krasinski, respectively, got along a bit better. The two actually knew each other as children and were part of the same Little League program in and around Newton, Mass. Krasinski told TV station WUSA-9 that he first knew Novak as the local "Home Run King. They wound up at the same high school together, with Novak pursuing drama and Krasinski doing sports. When Krasinski opted out of a team sport his senior year, Novak recruited him to be in their school's annual satirical play (the kind where they make fun of the teachers). "He asked me to be one of the leads," Krasinski told the Patriot Ledger. "I remember saying that I couldn't act, but B.J. said, 'Just trust me,' and then he said, 'I think you're funny.'" We suppose one could reasonably say that Krasinski owes his career as a big-time actor to his old baseball bro.

Pam and Angela are BFFs

Angela Kinsey and Jenna Fischer played intra-office enemies on The Office — judgmental Angela Martin was always extra and openly hard on mild-mannered Pam Beesly. That dynamic of cruelty and resentment is the opposite of the one shared by these actresses in the real world. These two are literally BFFs, as stated by Kinsey on Instagram in 2017. According to another Insta post, their friendship blossomed when the two women met at The Office — Kinsey calls Fischer "the gal who would become my anchor through life." These two besties appear on one another's Instagrams a lotlike the time they wore matching hoodies with their Office characters last names written on the back, or when they attended the Emmy Awards together. Kinsey even took the friendship to the next level when, according to Parade, she asked Fischer to serve as godmother to her daughter, Isabel.

How Oscar became Oscar

Dunder Mifflin accountant Oscar Martinez is openly gay, a dimension added in Season 3. "I was just playing a character then in the middle of the first season or the second season they made him gay," actor Oscar Nuñez told StarPulse (via The hisPANIC). "[Office writer] Greg Daniels comes up to me and is like, 'Hey, do you mind if we make your character gay?'"

Oscar's sexuality was revealed in an episode titled "Gay Witch Hunt." The plot: Michael Scott (Steve Carell) teases Oscar and casually uses an anti-gay epithet. Oscar reports the offense, which leads Michael into accidentally "outing" Oscar to the entire Scranton branch. Michael then tries to calm Oscar down and prove to others (or maybe himself) that he isn't homophobic by forcing Oscar into a hug and a kiss on the lips. That last bit wasn't scripted, by the way. According to show writer Paul Lieberstein at a 2007 PaleyFest Office panel (via IGN), Michael was supposed to kiss Oscar on the cheek, but in "one take, Steve just won't let Oscar turn away. He got closer and closer and it just got creepy." During the shooting of that scene, the rest of the actors reportedly couldn't contain their laughter over that classic bit of Michael Scott weirdness.

Creed Bratton talked his way onto the show

Every office archetype is represented on The Office, but is there any real-life workplace weird guy anywhere near as bizarre as Creed Bratton? Here's a guy who once showed up covered in blood and didn't raise an eyebrow because it was Halloween and he "lucked out." Creed shares a name with the guy who plays him, and this actor has lived a unique life, too (but not as sinister). Like his character, the real Bratton was a member of the popular '60s folk rock band the The Grass Roots before becoming an actor, and when that didn't pay the bills, he also worked as a caterer, stand-in, and extra. In 2004, while working as regular background actor on The Bernie Mac Show, he befriended TV director (and Grass Roots fan) Ken Kwapis. When Bratton heard that Kwapis was working on an upcoming American version of Ricky Gervais' The Office, he decided to just go for it asked Kwapis for a role. There weren't any available, so Kwapis hired Bratton for more background work. 

Once on the set, Bratton devised a do-it-yourself plan to work his way into the vast ensemble show. He observed the main cast do its "talking head" confessional bits, and then wrote and taped his own confessional segment in character as an extreme version of himself — an old hippie who never quit his hippie ways. He passed the tape along to The Office producers, who liked it enough to incorporate Creed into the show.

Meanwhile, down on 'The Farm'

With everything from Cheers to The Big Bang Theory getting a spin-off, it's surprising that there was never a continuation of The Office. It wasn't for a lack of trying. Toward the end of the series' ninth and final season, the show's producers and NBC weren't quite ready to move on, and a spin-off pilot was filmed and even broadcast. The premise: Dwight Schrute (Rainn Wilson) inherits his family's storied beet farm, and his long-lost siblings (one played by Thomas Middleditch just before Silicon Valley) move home to help him run it. It was considered such a sure thing to get picked up to series (created by Office writer and Toby Flenderson-portrayer Paul Lieberstein) that Wilson planned to appear on only 13 episodes of The Office that year to get the new show up and running. Surprisingly, when NBC announced its fall 2013 schedule, the Office spin-off didn't make it. Instead, the pilot ran as a late-run Office episode called "The Farm."

Jim and Pam had a love story off-screen (but it depends on who you ask)

Pop culture has long provided lofty #couplegoals — those absolutely perfect, in sync pairs of dewey-eyed lovers destined to be together. We're talking Kermit and Miss Piggy, and Jim Halpert and Pam Beasley (John Krasinski and Jenna Fischer) from The Office. Their sweet, admirable romance slowly developed over the first few seasons of The Office in a realistic way. First they were friends, and then they couldn't deny their mutual attraction.

Perhaps that magic was so palpable because the actors behind Jim and Pam had an off-screen spark, too. "John and I have real chemistry," Fischer said on Watch What Happens Live (via The Huffington Post) in 2016. "There's like a real part of me that is Pam and a real part of him that's Jim and those parts of us were genuinely in love with one another." 

That's really just some introspective actor-speak about bringing one's soul into a performance, but Krasinski still tried to temper his former co-star's remarks. "I'm sure she was trying to say something nice about how genuine the acting relationship was, of bringing a relationship that became that popular onscreen — and I think we both feel it's such an honor to be a part of that relationship," Krasinski — a total buzzkill — told the Daily Beast.

The opening credit sequence came from an unlikely source

Both during and after his time playing Jim Halpert, John Krasinski developed a second career as a director. He's helmed the feature films Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, The Hollars, and A Quiet Place, in addition to three late-run episodes of The Office. But one of the first things he shot after he got his big break will probably be seen by more people and more often than any big movie he may ever direct. 

Before it launches into a rapid-fire montage of clips of each of the show's main actors, the opening credit sequence of The Office features some grainy shots of what appears to be its main setting of Scranton, Pa. According to TV Guide, Krasinski took a fact-finding research trip to the real Scranton when Los Angeles-based production on The Office began. He took a video camera with him and gathered footage of landmarks in and around the real home of a fake paper company. Producers liked it so much that they included it in the series.

The whole world loves The Office

Created by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, the British version of The Office was successfully exported to the United States because the doldrums of white-collar work is a universal theme. Gervais and Merchant helped develop the NBC take but reportedly allowed producers and writers to localize it to the specific vagaries of an explicitly American workplace. It seems awful bosses and boring office jobs are an international language, and different takes on The Office have aired all over the world

According to BBC News, nearly all of them take place in a sad branch office with a boss who is odious in his own unique way. The Office in India centers on a suburban New Delhi branch of paper company Wilkins Chawla. Le Job aired in French-speaking Canada, and was about the Montreal-area office of Les Papiers Jennings (under a manager named "David Gervais.") Germany's Stromberg was an unofficial remake that was so similar to The Office that the BBC threatened to sue, until the names of Gervais and Merchant appeared in the credits. International Office shows also include: La Ofis in Chile, Le Bureau in France, and HaMisrad in Israel. Even more were reportedly in the works, but official remakes set to air in Russia and China never got off the ground.

Jim proposed to Pam, and it surprisingly cost a fortune

According to The Washington PostJohn Krasinski and Jenna Fischer's big scene where Jim finally proposes to Pam ended up costing a lot more than producers dreamed it would. Executive Producer Greg Daniels wanted the rest stop proposal to go down at an actual rest stop along the Merritt Parkway on the East Coast. The show decided to fly out the cast and crew, but once the team discovered it was going to cost about $100,000 when all was said and done, everybody flew back to Los Angeles. The crew reportedly found a parking lot behind a Best Buy instead and built a remarkably accurate-looking replica of an East Coast rest stop. 

"It was, like, a $250,000 shot or something," Daniels told The Washington Post. "It's the most expensive and elaborate shot we've ever done, but it's also sort of the highlight of five years of storytelling." At least Fischer got to take home a souvenir: She mentioned on The Tonight Show (via The Huffington Post) that she swiped Pam's engagement ring.

The Scranton connection

Dunder Mifflin was a fictional company, but you'd never know it in the real Scranton, Pa. Due to its popularity with The Office fans, the Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce admitted the paper company as a member in 2006. The local Lackawanna County Convention and Visitors Bureau cited a significant uptick in tourism and travel in the area thanks to the show. "If people weren't talking about Scranton before this show aired, they were talking about it afterward," Bureau Executive Director Tracy Barone told the Associated Press (via Skift).

Visitors to Scranton can also find multiple landmarks mentioned (or re-created) from The Office. According to Mental Floss, the after-work drinks spot Poor Richard's Pub is a real Scranton haunt, as is the Steamtown Mall (where Michael takes female employees on the "Women's Appreciation" episode). Seafood place Cooper's is real, as is stellar pizza joint Alfredo's Pizza Café. (Fortunately, "hot circle of garbage" purveyor Pizza by Alfredo's is not an actual thing.)

The Parks and Recreation connection

While that Dwight Schrute Farms-based spin-off never became a show, a previous attempt at a spin-off of The Office did wind up on the air — and for seven critically-acclaimed seasons at that … it just wasn't an Office spin-off by the time it entered production.

In 2008, Reuters reported that Saturday Night Live star Amy Poehler was about to sign on to star in an Office spin-off, alongside stand-up comedian Aziz Ansari. Right around the time that news broke, Deadline reported that NBC and Office developer and new show co-creator Greg Daniels had clashed over what kind of show this new show should be. The network reportedly wanted a direct spin-off, while Daniels wanted to do a show independent of The Office, but in the same mockumentary style and with the same dry tone. There was supposedly even a "meet in the middle" solution. Office writer, producer, and cast member Paul Lieberstein (Toby Flenderson) came up with an idea to technically connect the two shows. According to TV Guide, a copier would break on an episode of The Office, and viewers would see it loaded onto a truck, fixed in a warehouse, then trucked off to Pawnee, Ind., where it come to rest in the city's parks and recreation office. That segue didn't happen, but a show set in the Pawnee parks office sure did: Parks and Recreation.

A reboot is as likely as Michael Scott hugging Toby

Despite wrapping up with full and definitive endings for most of its characters by the time it stopped airing new episodes in 2013, the appetite for a reboot of The Office was going strong by late 2017. In the wake of successful revivals of Twin Peaks and Will & Grace, TV Line reported that NBC had begin the process of bringing back The Office for the 2018-19 season. Just in case it couldn't get the old gang back together, network sources said that the show would focus on a combination of old and new characters (and that actor Steve Carell as Michael Scott would definitely not return). 

That return to Scranton never materialized, and that's fine with Carell. In October 2018, he told Esquire that he thinks the world has changed too much for The Office to work today. "I mean, the whole idea of that character, Michael Scott, so much of it was predicated on inappropriate behavior," Carell said. "A lot of what is depicted on that show is completely wrong-minded. That's the point, you know? But I just don't know how that would fly now. There's a very high awareness of offensive things today."