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

The Office Writer Explains The Surprising Inspiration Behind The Hit Show

Over its nine-season run, "The Office," a workplace comedy about the employees of a Pennsylvania office supply company, transformed the landscape of sitcoms — and television at large. An adaption for American television of a British sitcom by the same title, it popularized the now-commonplace "mockumentary" format, heralding shows like "Parks and Recreation," or the more recent "What We Do in the Shadows." It's hard to find a comedy show these days which doesn't owe some measure of stylistic debt to "The Office."

Greatness, as the saying goes, inspires greatness, and that's true of "The Office" according to one of its stars and writers, B.J. Novak. With a list of credits that spans the gamut from oddball comedy to gritty action dramas, Novak has a unique perspective on the duality of performance. So when he finally dished out on what he considers to be the biggest influence on the office, it's no surprise that his choice is not what you'd expect.

The Office was influenced by The Sopranos

During a just-aired interview with Andy Cohen on "Watch What Happens Live," B.J. Novak — who worked on "The Office" not just as a star, but also a writer — referred to "The Sopranos" as being "the biggest influence on 'The Office.'" 

He went on to explain that "the comedy and drama and character were all indistinguishable" on the acclaimed mob drama, and that formula worked on a workplace comedy, too. Novak noted, "The way Michael Scott will say something very serious but mispronounce a word I feel is a direct descendant of the Tony Soprano sense of humor."

As it turns out, Novak even wanted James Gandolfini, who plays Tony Soprano, to succeed Steve Carrell's Michael Scott as the boss at Dunder Mifflin, and although the role would ultimately go to Ed Helms, Novak almost got his wish. "I was at the meeting with James Gandolfini where we tried to convince him to join the show, and he was a big comedy fan." Ultimately, the idea fell through because Gandolfini didn't feel he could embody the character correctly. "We suggested a white-collar character for him to play against type," Novak said, recalling that the "Sopranos" alum responded with something unforgettable. "He said, 'I feel, as an actor, whoever comes out at 3 a.m., that's who you should be playing. And at 3 a.m., what comes out of me is a blue-collar guy.'"

"He's my favorite actor of all time, in anything," Novak enthused.