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The One Scene The Office Cast Almost Couldn't Film

The Office is remembered as one of the laugh-out-loud funniest, most endlessly quotable, binge-worthy sitcoms in recent history. Between Steve Carell's portrayal of the bumbling, largely unlucky-in-life, good-hearted regional manager of a paper company Michael Scott and the hilarious hijinks characters like John Krasinski's Jim Halpert and Rainn Wilson's Dwight Schrute engaged in, The Office is the stuff of feel-good TV dreams. But it also proved throughout its nine seasons on NBC that it could pack an emotional wallop just as deftly as it handled all its pitch-perfect comedy. One such moment was so emotional, in fact, it was quite difficult to shoot.  

The one scene that The Office cast almost couldn't film came during season 7, on arguably the most memorable, heartfelt episode of the entire show: "Goodbye Michael," the 22nd episode of the season that marked the official farewell to Carell's Michael Scott. To bid their boss adieu, the employees of the Scranton branch of Dunder Mifflin sing a personalized version of the song "Seasons of Love" from Rent, the stage-musical-turned-feature-film. One of the standout lyrics from the original song is "525,600 minutes" (the number of minutes in a calendar year), but the Office characters altered it to be "9,986,000 minutes" (the number of minutes Michael Scott had worked at Dunder Mifflin). By the time the song wraps up, everyone is nearly in tears, with Michael's eyes visibly welling up. 

As it happens, those tears weren't just for show. In conversation with The Los Angeles Times around the time of the episode's premiere in April 2011, frequent Office director Paul Feig revealed that the scene was "so emotional" to film, and that the cast was getting incredibly worked up during shooting. 

"I was prepping [for the next episode] and my assistant said, 'You should come down here.' The first time they started singing that song, everyone choked up in real life. It really started to land for people that the end is coming," said Feig, adding that he full-on cried. He also noted that there were masseuses on set to give mini-massages in between takes, and plenty of gifts and edible treats to enjoy during the last couple of weeks of filming with Carell involved.

"Steve was even giving out presents to the cast and the crew. I remember seeing them delivered to people's dressing rooms. But they must've been very personal, because people weren't really sharing what they got," he shared. "It's a very satisfying send-off for Michael, but what I like is that it's not the final episode of the season. That's very much like real life. Whether it's in business or personal relationships or whatever, things end, and then you have to get up the next day and keep dealing with your life. So I think it's poetic to do it this way."

Why Steve Carell left The Office

Michael Scott was the lifeblood of The Office for nearly seven full seasons, and clearly Steve Carell was a beloved member of the cast, as evidenced by the heart-rending experience they had trying to say goodbye to him and his character during filming. So why did the actor leave the series that made him a television icon? The real reason Steve Carell left The Office was because he wanted to pivot back to feature film work, which he had done in the mid-2000s through the early 2010s following his breakout role in Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy

Luckily for Carell, his post-Office professional life has been largely successful. He's proven himself a rom-com natural with flicks like Date Night and Crazy, Stupid, Love; shown off his dramatic chops in pics like Foxcatcher (for which he received a Golden Globe nomination and an Academy Award nomination), The Big Short (which netted Carell another Golden Globe nod), Battle of the Sexes (another Golden Globe nominee), and Vice (an Academy Award nominee as well); and even gotten into family-friendly fare with his voiceover work in the Despicable Me film series. Carell's filmography hasn't been totally spotless since departing from The Office – Welcome to Marwen and Beautiful Boy weren't all that well-received — but it's clear that he made the choice that was right for him when he decided to exit the show after season 7. And even if it hadn't panned out, fans would always have 9,986,000 minutes (okay, maybe not that many) of Michael Scott goodness to look back on.