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

Rainn Wilson Didn't Enjoy Making The Office Despite Its Critical Acclaim

You might think that starring on a show as popular and beloved as "The Office" would be an incredible opportunity that would be nothing but fun from beginning to end. You get to hang out with extremely funny people all day; the show's writers' room is a murderer's row of talented people like Mindy Kaling, B.J. Novak, and Paul Lieberstein; every single person in the world wants to quote your character back at you. Well, as it turns out, Rainn Wilson actually didn't have a great time making "The Office."

Speaking to Bill Maher on the late-night host's podcast "Club Random," Wilson admitted that he didn't always enjoy playing Dwight Schrute on NBC's classic comedy — and precisely why he couldn't find joy in it all the time. "When I was in 'The Office,' I spent several years really mostly unhappy because it wasn't enough," Wilson said. "This is what I'm looking at now, and I'm realizing now, like, I'm on a hit show, Emmy nominated every year, making lots of money, working with Steve Carell and Jenna [Fischer] and John Krasinski and these amazing writers and incredible directors like Paul Feig. I'm on one of the great TV shows. People love it. And I wasn't enjoying it."

What Rainn Wilson really wanted was a big movie career

So what was the root of Wilson's dissatisfaction? He thought the grass would be greener on the other side — meaning he wanted to make the transition to movies and not stay in TV. "I was thinking about, 'Why am I not a movie star?'" Wilson recalled. "'Why am I not the next Jack Black or the next Will Ferrell? How come I can't have a movie career? Why don't I have this development deal?'"

"When I was on The Office, I was clutching and grasping at, OK, I was making hundreds of thousands," he continued. "I wanted millions, and I was a TV star, but I wanted to be a movie star. It was never enough."

It can be extremely tempting to try and make the leap to movies when you're on a hit TV show, especially when one of your co-stars had a huge hit early in your show's run as Steve Carell did with "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" (which was a critical and commercial success across the board and put Carell on the map). So how does Wilson feel about "The Office" now that he has the benefit of hindsight, and is he happy he got to play such a pivotal, iconic role in the series?

Now, Rainn Wilson is proud of The Office

Thankfully, Wilson is proud of his role as the idiosyncratic, sometimes disturbing, and often strident Dwight Schrute now, and that's thanks in large part to the show's recent resurgence. Especially during the darkest days of the COVID-19 pandemic, "The Office" picked up a new life on streaming, and Wilson now recognizes the show brings so much joy to its fans — and so does he, by extension.

Responding to Maher saying the show could be "therapeutic," Wilson agreed: ""I think the word you use 'therapeutic' is really interesting because I can't tell you how many times a day online and in person I hear from people 'Thank you for The Office, the laughter that it gave me, that it gave my family, healed us during COVID.'" As Wilson says, when he first took the role of Dwight Schrute, he was just trying to figure out how to buy a house and start a family, and "wasn't thinking about giving laughter as a therapeutic remedy and a balm and a salve to a hurting populace."

"What an honor it was to be a part of something like that," Wilson graciously concluded. It's gratifying to hear that he's changed his tune about playing Dwight, as the role has certainly made fans across the world happy for years.

What has Rainn Wilson been doing since The Office?

Wilson's career has remained pretty solid since "The Office," though it has to be said that his movie star career didn't quite take off. That's all right, though, because he's built up a pretty impressive resume throughout his work on television, in movies, and as a voice actor. In that last vein, Wilson has performed in projects like "Justice League Dark: Apokolips War" and "The Death of Superman," voicing Lex Luthor in all of them. He also popped up in a key role as Dr. Demento in 2022's "Weird: The Al Yankovic Story" alongside Weird Al himself and Daniel Radcliffe, who plays the musician.

Wilson also starred in his own short-lived series "Backstrom" in 2015, joined the cast of "Mom" from 2019 to 2021, and narrated the documentary series "We Are the Champions." These days, he hosts "Rainn Wilson and the Geography of Bliss," where the actor travels the world to figure out how people can find real happiness.

If you want to relieve Wilson's days on "The Office," the entire series is streaming on Peacock.