The Office
The B.J. Novak Interview

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"It Was Just So Intellectually Stimulating And Inspiring; It Was All I Wanted To Do"
WC: How did you happen to get the job on The Office? BJN: [Executive Producer] Greg Daniels saw me do standup. This is probably over two years ago now, because the pilot was so long ago. And he called me in for a meeting with him; he thought I would be good for this small role that he was considering putting in, of the temp. He also knew that I had been a writer, and was interested in trying out writer/performers for the show, and was willing to read some of my writing samples. We talked for over an hour -- it was the most exciting meeting I had ever had -- about the British Office and his theories of comedy, and he drew me these Venn diagrams explaining his theory of television comedy, and it was so exciting for me. I mean, he's this genius in his little-- not "little"; in his palatial King Of The Hill office. It was just so intellectually stimulating and inspiring; it was all I wanted to do. So I was discovered first, I guess, as an actor, by about fifteen minutes. And I had other things I could have done -- I'd just been on Punk'd as an actor -- and all I wanted to do was this show that everyone thought was such a terrible idea to remake, and [Steve] Carell wasn't involved, and it was not something anyone considered a good bet, but I knew exactly what Greg wanted to do, and I so wanted to work with him; I knew exactly who he was when I got called to meet him. So that's kind of a chock-filled anecdote of an answer. You can make several answers with that question. WC: You really overestimate my ability to massage this into, like, a fancy Vanity Fair type of profile. BJN: I will work harder. WC: No, I will. So there's a whole crew of writer/actors on the show -- you, obviously; Mindy Kaling; and Paul Lieberstein, who plays Toby. How did it happen that there was so much crossover between the two camps? BJN: It started just with me -- that was the concept with me, or the gimmick, or whatever; the fun little experiment. But Greg had smartly built into every writer's contract some sort of acting hold -- I'm not quite sure what, but he did have in the contract that he could call them to act. I guess maybe this is a Saturday Night Live mentality -- I know they have a lot of crossover there, and Greg used to work there -- and he hired, even as extras in the pilot, Angela [Kinsey] and Oscar [Nuñez]; he hired people who he knew were improv people who could bring their own ideas to the role. So we always kind of thought of it as a small, creative group. And that's, obviously, how Ricky Gervais did it; he wrote and acted.

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The Office

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