Carl Kozlowski has been bringing the funny to the page and the stage for more than a decade.
When NBC launched the American version of the acclaimed British TV sitcom The Office in spring 2005, no one thought it would last beyond six episodes. After all, its signature mockumentary style—so commonplace today—seemed odd and disjointed back then. And the original British edition only lasted two seasons before its creator and star, Ricky Gervais, pulled the plug, fearing more episodes would dilute the quality of the show.
But a strange thing happened. Not only did the American edition thrive, earning four Emmys and the hyper-prestigious Peabody Award, but it surpassed its British predecessor in wit and heart.
The Office is often described as “quirky,” but the show was at its best when it wasn’t quirky at all but, rather, fearlessly real. Its characters were recognizable. You knew these people. You worked with them. You probably were at least one of them. The show turned an ugly mirror on the American workplace—but the reflection was never so bad that you couldn’t find a spark of charm. Yes, The Office was good at awkward moments and workplace hijinks, but it was great at heart.
Jim, Pam, Dwight, Stanley, Kelly, Michael, Andy and all the rest have cemented their place as some of television’s finest characters. And as the show’s swan song (airing May 16) looms, the cast sat down to share with RELEVANT their memories.
How different is life for you now than it was that first and second year?
JENNA FISCHER (Pam):
In real life, I got married. I had a very small wedding, and my mom was asking me, “So, who are you going to invite?” I said, “It’s just gonna be immediate family and a few friends. There’s gonna be no famous people there.” And my mom said, “Are you inviting your cast?” I said, “Yeah, I’m inviting my cast.” She said, “Those are famous people.”
I think that we still feel about each other and see each other through the eyes of those first‑season relationships because, you know, you drove out of here. You passed by some pretty shady stuff on the way here. I mean, we don’t come to work every day in a glitzy place.
RAINN WILSON (Dwight):
During that first year, John and Jenna and Steve and I all went out to lunch. We were shooting the pilot at that time, and I remember this really intense conversation we had. We were all like, “Could you imagine if the show got picked up—how cool that would be?” And then someone else was like, “What if it went for, like, a season?” It’s so weird now, nine years later, that lunch coming true.
People have asked me, “What are you going to miss most?” Well, it’s really clear to me—this is my other family.
This is where I’ve been coming for past nine years, and I love all of these people. We’ve grown up together. We’ve had children. We’ve gotten married. We’ve gotten divorced. We’ve cried together.
And that’s really what I’m gonna miss the most. We went from some really goofy kids nine years ago to the giant megalomaniac TV stars you see in front of you now.
OSCAR NUÑEZ (Oscar):
Season 1, Rainn came to work on a unicycle. This year, he comes to work on a chopper. He gets choppered in from Malibu.
Are you going to keep any memorabilia, like, from your desk or some other part of Dunder Mifflin?
ED HELMS (Andy)
: I had my entire house remodeled to look like the bullpen. So, I’m taking a lot of the stuff for that. I’ve also hired most of the cast to live there with me. I actually really want Andy’s Cornell diploma for some reason. I really like that.
ANGELA KINSEY (Angela):
I have my eye on a few cat figurines.
PHYLLIS SMITH (Phyllis):
I want my Dundie—my first Dundie.
KATE FLANNERY (Meredith):
I actually saved a pelvis cast, so I would take my pelvis cast.
I want Pam’s watercolor, the one that Michael bought at her art show, which is still on the wall. And the receptionist sign, even though I don’t sit there anymore.
I want Dwight’s car.
CREED BRATTON (Creed):
I want the bags and bags of mung beans that have been piling up in my desk.
We’re going to fight for Creed’s guitar.
We are going to fight over that guitar. Yes, indeed, we are.
GREG DANIELS (Creator)
: It’s worth less than the mung beans.
Greg, from the writer/producer point of view, how did you keep the different storylines going beyond where the British edition of the show left off?
The romance stories that we’ve told have been a great way to keep the show going for other characters. And with Steve’s character, we made him more three‑dimensional after season 1 and then put him into more of a tradition of American character comedy, where you are rooting for him as opposed to judging him.
Several of the actors in the show have become movie stars. It’s very rare for a show to pull off more than one person becoming a big star, much less for them to stay on the show and make it work. What made you decide to stay and make both parts of your career work?
JOHN KRASINSKI (Jim):
It’s really simple. I don’t think I ever felt like it was an opportunity for bigger things. If bigger things came, great. We all fully support it. But to come back was the real treat and the real goal, and I’ve felt more honored to be a part of this show than anything else I’ve done. This is something that you make a priority, period.
Since season 1, it’s been a huge thing for Jim to get out of the office and expand his horizons. How has that continued in this final season?
Well, we had been very respectful of [Jim and Pam’s] marriage and their relationship, and we didn’t want to put pressures on them for a very long time. Part of the appeal of this last episode—last season—was to try and do that, and actually, the specifics of it were John’s idea, in terms of going to Philadelphia and the new company.
The thing I’ve respected most about this show is how real the base level is and how real all the characters are—that no matter how wacky or fun or ridiculous some of the situations can end up being, you’ve experienced something very real with all these characters and especially with all the Jim and Pam stuff.
"I'VE FELT MORE HONORED TO BE A PART OF THIS SHOW THAN ANYTHING ELSE I'VE DONE." - JOHN KRASINSKI
I remember [season 2, episode 11] “Booze Cruise.” I remember being on the top of that boat and shooting that scene and having that impulse to look behind me to see if anybody was going to call “Cut!” or anything. It just seemed like this isn’t how it’s done in television or anything having to do with a camera. This is only in real life that someone would take forever to say “I love you” or be so nervous that no words come out or some of these things that are so real. They were able to delve into that headfirst. It was such an honor to play stuff like that.
In the life of a marriage, the two people don’t stay the same. And for the first time in Jim and Pam’s relationship, something changes in a pretty major way. People get laid off or people get new jobs or somebody has to work out of town or you have a surprise baby. There’s these things that can happen in a marriage—curve balls—and so far, Jim and Pam haven’t really had one. This year, they do.
I mean, even the most perfect marriage can have strenuous days, months, situations, where it’s not necessarily as, you know, TV‑esque as cheating on someone. It’s really just about small things that have been niggling at you forever. They start to become bigger things, and then before you know it, you feel like you’ve explained that to someone and they have no idea what was happening. Just a couple years later, you’re like, “I told you all these ambitions I had, right?” And you don’t realize that those ambitions hadn’t been discussed.
One of the things we really wanted to explore thematically this season was the difference between the fairy-tale romance and reality because the show was always an extremely realistic show and was purporting to be a documentary, but [Jim and Pam’s] relationship is also so romantic and perfect. It seemed like there was a little bit of tension there.
Can each of you pick your favorite episode of the series?
I liked the “Lice” episode [season 9, episode 10], only because we have a special-effects department, and they had a lot of fun with the CGI. There’s a scene where I believe everyone is shampooing Jake’s hair, and they superimposed my arms on his body. It’s seamless. It worked. If you watch it, you can’t tell. It worked.
I’ll never forget when I first came to this lot to chat with Greg about joining the show. I popped down at the set to watch a little bit of filming. Just the prospect of joining the show was so exciting to me. And I sat in the greenroom, and I watched the scene of Steve smooching Oscar in “Gay Witch Hunt” [season 3, episode 1].
I loved the first Christmas episode [season 2, episode 10]. That’s one of my all‑time favorites. When we had Yankee Swap, and there was that weird Angela Martin poster of the babies. It’s so weird. They didn’t let us see the poster until we did the first take, and we all lost it. Steve is so angry with the mitten he got from Phyllis. I love that episode.
I like “The Injury” from season 2 [episode 12]. It’s such a classic in my mind. Dwight getting in a car accident and a concussion and throwing up on his car. Him actually developing a friendship with Pam because his personality has changed from the concussion. I love that one.
I was going to say “The Injury,” as well. I really love the episodes where Pam and Dwight become friends. We just did one, actually, where Pam and Dwight team up for a common goal, and while we’re shooting it, I realize this is probably the last one of those stories we will do because you can only have so many, right?
Is there anything you want to say to that audience that has been following you all this time?