×
Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Whatever happened to Toby from The Office?

You know him as Toby Flenderson, the beleaguered HR rep at the Scranton branch of Dunder Mifflin and the perpetual bane of Michael Scott's existence. Over nine seasons on The Office, we watched poor Toby tolerate the insults and humiliation inflicted on him by Michael and learned that Toby's private life involved a painful divorce, a bad childhood, and of course that unrequited crush on Pam Beesly.

You may feel sorry for Toby, but don't go confusing him with his real-life counterpart Paul Lieberstein. It turns out that Lieberstein is quite a power player in Hollywood, lending his various talents to television and film — and on both sides of the camera. In fact, you may be surprised to learn just how much influence Lieberstein really had at your favorite paper company's Scranton headquarters.

Read on to discover everything you didn't know about Toby Flenderson from The Office — and whatever happened to the man who played him.

An accidental actor

One of the main reasons you don't recall seeing Paul Lieberstein on the screen that often? Lieberstein never really intended to be an actor. With a resume that included producing and writing television series like The Bernie Mac Show and The Drew Carey Show, Lieberstein joined The Office as a writer after having worked with show creator Greg Daniels, on King of the Hill. Daniels was the one who decided that the series' writers should try writing bit parts for themselves, and what was meant to be a one-episode appearance as HR rep Toby Flenderson became the introduction of a regular character. Lieberstein continued to serve double duty on the series until its finale, and was named showrunner and executive producer in 2011. "As a writer I've never felt so creatively fulfilled, I really feel like I'm writing exactly what I've wanted to write in terms of exploring everyday life," Lieberstein told Deadline. "And it made me an actor, which I never suspected I'd do."

The spinoff that never happened

Part of Paul Lieberstein's deal with NBC when he was named showrunner at The Office included developing new projects for the network. And what better to follow up the mega-success of The Office than a spinoff of the show, featuring one of The Office's most memorable characters?

That intended spinoff, The Farm, was a star vehicle for Rainn Wilson's character, Dwight Schrute. The premise seemed intriguing enough for any diehard fan of The Office: At a Schrute family funeral, complete with cars driven into graves and our introduction to a motley crew of Schrute family members, Dwight learns he's inherited the beloved family beet farm, and must galvanize his fellow Schrutes to keep it running. The series itself never came to be, but if it sounds familiar, it's because the 60-minute pilot was broken down into an episode of The Office in its final season. Lieberstein and Wilson intended to produce the series together, after joking for years about Dwight's life on the farm.

No word on precisely why NBC passed on the series, but Wilson told Larry King in 2013 that though he was sad to see it go, he was okay with hanging up the Dwight Schrute character for good.

All in the family

If Paul Lieberstein felt completely at home while working both behind and in front of the cameras on The Office, it may be because he was actually related to not one, not two, but three of his mates on The Office's cast and crew.

Greg Daniels, the show creator, is married to Lieberstein's sister Susanne, who's had quite the career herself as a president at Lifetime, the WB network, and MTV. Lieberstein now shares Emmy awards with his brother in-law, for both The Office and King of the Hill. The two must really enjoy working together, because they're also both involved with the TBS series People of Earth.

Another of Lieberstein's inter-office relatives? Actress Angela Kinsey, who played stone-faced Angela Martin on The Office, was married to Lieberstein's brother Warren for four of the years that they appeared on the show together. Little brother Warren also served as a producer and writer on the show.

News worthy

When The Farm didn't quite happen on NBC, Paul Lieberstein didn't need to wait too long to insert himself into another much-talked-about show. In 2014, he joined Aaron Sorkin's The Newsroom as an executive producer for the HBO show's third and final season.

In addition to serving as an EP on six of the last season's episodes, Lieberstein also donned his actor's cap once more, this time as EPA climate scientist Richard Westbrook. The Westbrook character was featured on two episodes, most notably in a fan-favorite scene during which Westbrook calmly delivers the news to anchorman Will McAvoy (played by Jeff Daniels), live on the air, that planet Earth will meet certain climate-induced doom in just a matter of a few years. Mother Jones reported on the science of the episode shortly after it aired, and confirmed that while much of the information relayed in the scene is based on scientific fact, the show's writers may have been "a little heavy-handed on the doom and gloom."

Man of many hats

The Newsroom isn't the only place Paul Lieberstein has been hanging his hat — both in front of and behind the camera.

In 2014, he appeared in one episode of the short-lived Bad Teacher, and in 2016, he filmed an episode of HBO's Togetherness. In 2013, he joined his Office buddy Mindy Kaling on her series The Mindy Project, directing three episodes and appearing in one as a sad-sack dating prospect (which no doubt delighted fans of The Office who tried to wrap their heads around the idea of Toby Flenderson and Kelly Kapoor on an actual date). In 2017, Lieberstein teamed once again with Office creator and brother-in-law Greg Daniels for a role on the TBS series People of Earth, about a support group for people who believe they've been abducted by aliens. The series, which also featured Oscar Nunez of The Office, earned high marks during its first season with Rotten Tomatoes critics.

He's not afraid of no ghosts

Deadline reported in late 2017 that Lieberstein had been named the new showrunner of the Fox comedy Ghosted, replacing Kevin Etten, who shepherded the first ten episodes of season one. With the tagline "Be afraid. Be kind of afraid," the paranormal-themed sitcom was described as a funny version of the X-Files starring Adam Scott alongside Leiberstein's co-star from The Office, Craig Robinson.

The show received modest ratings, and reviews for the first ten episodes were somewhat tepid, with critics pointing out stale humor that relies too heavily on the charms of the charismatic leading men. Deadline suggested that the tone of the show could be changing to a workplace comedy premise, so the addition of Lieberstein as showrunner and executive producer makes a lot of sense. In March 2018, Fox announced that Brooklyn Nine-Nine would be taking Ghosted's Sunday night time slot until Ghosted returned from hiatus later in the year.

A pain in the neck

Perhaps what's been keeping Lieberstein the busiest in recent years is the feature film that he wrote, directed, and starred in: Song of Back and Neck. The project made its debut at the Tribeca Film Festival in March of 2018. Written during Lieberstein's last season on The Office, Song of Back and Neck is a semi-autobiographical romantic comedy about a man who suffers from chronic back pain and extreme loneliness.

The film co-stars Rosemarie DeWitt, who has appeared in a variety of films and television programs like Poltergeist, La La Land and Black Mirror, and Broadway star Brian D'arcy James, from the film Spotlight. Also appearing is Paul Feig, the director of hits like Bridesmaids and the new school Ghostbusters. Producer Jennifer Prediger told Variety, "If Charlie Kaufman and Buster Keaton had a baby with a bad back, it would be Paul Lieberstein's painfully funny first feature."

Clocking in

There's been plenty of buzz in the rumor mill about the possibility of an Office revival. CNN reports that NBC Entertainment Chairman Bob Greenblatt has announced that the network is considering getting the gang from Dunder Mifflin back into the Scranton branch.

But just who would return to their cubicle? Some of the bigger stars of The Office have weighed in with the likelihood of their involvement. John Krasinski, who played Jim Halpert and has since gone on to a successful career as a director, screenwriter, and leading man, has said he'd love a reunion, but doubts a whole series could happen with the same cast. Ed Helms and Steve Carell seem like no-shows, with Carell telling ET that he thinks audiences would be disappointed by a show that tried to recreate a moment in time that can never be recaptured.

The Hollywood Reporter, meanwhile, noted that Angela Kinsey and Creed Bratton have already publicly made it clear that they'd jump at the chance to clock in once again. And while Paul Lieberstein hasn't made an official comment on whether he'd return as Toby Flenderson, THR's report argued it's a "good bet" that he would.