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What You Probably Didn't Know About The Office

Based on the highly acclaimed British sitcom of the same name, "The Office" has become one of the most popular television shows of the last two decades. In fact, it's been one of the most watched shows on Netflix and has continued to find new audiences since its final season aired in 2013. Created by former "King of the Hill" and "The Simpsons" writer Greg Daniels, the series features an ensemble cast led by Steve Carell, John Krasinski, Jenna Fischer, and Rainn Wilson.

A mockumentary series, "The Office" follows the lives of the workers at the fictional Scranton branch of the Dunder Mifflin Paper Company. Over the course of its run, the story of "The Office" expanded to encompass a huge number of different plot lines and characters. There were even some high-profile departures and arrivals as the show reached new heights.

Despite the fact that "The Office" has plenty of dedicated fans, there's a lot about the series that even the most ardent viewers may not be aware of. Whether it's a behind-the-scenes secret detailing how the show was made or a little-known fact about the cast, most people probably don't know these things about "The Office."

Angela Kinsey's real office job

Throughout the entire run of "The Office," Angela Kinsey played the character of Angela Martin — one of the three accountants at Dunder Mifflin. Stuck-up and judgemental at first glance, Angela eventually begins to show a warmer side of herself to the audience after softening up a little in later seasons.

Before she scored her role on "The Office," though, Kinsey was grinding it out as a working actor in Hollywood. She had a few small prior roles in shows like "King of the Hill," "Run of the House," and "All of Us," but that work wasn't quite enough to pay all the bills. To help support herself while looking for a permanent role, Kinsey worked as a phone operator for the dental telehealth service 1-800-Dentist (per "Larry King Now").

When Kinsey auditioned for "The Office," it wasn't actually for the part of Angela. In an interview with The Today Show, she explained that she initially tried out for Pam, but that the casting team thought her portrayal would be "too feisty." The show's creators later reached out to offer her the part of Angela, which they believed would better suit her.

Bob Odenkirk almost played Michael Scott

Although Bob Odenkirk is probably known best as the sleazy lawyer Saul Goodman from "Breaking Bad" and "Better Call Saul," the actor actually has a strong pedigree in comedy. He worked as part of the writing teams for "Saturday Night Live" and "The Ben Stiller Show" earlier in his career, while also contributing to "Late Night with Conan O'Brien." Later, he had a recurring role on "The Larry Sanders Show" and developed several series with comedy partner David Cross, including "Mr. Show with Bob and David" and "W/ Bob & David."

It should come as little surprise, then, that Odenkirk was in the running for some high-profile comedy roles in the late 1990s and early 2000s. One of these was the part of Michael Scott in "The Office," with Odenkirk making it to the final two candidates alongside Steve Carell. According to the book "Welcome to Dunder Mifflin: The Ultimate Oral History of The Office" (written by Kevin Malone actor Brian Baumgartner), Carell won out because the producers wanted a slightly milder character, and Odenkirk's portrayal felt like it gave Michael too many "hard edges" (per Esquire). The part ultimately went to Scott, with Odenkirk returning to play a different manager in the 2013 episode "Moving On."

Steve Carell kept the set extremely cold

Though Greg Daniels told Entertainment Weekly in 2011 that the cast and crew of "The Office" all loved Steve Carell, his exit from the show might have been celebrated for one bizarre reason. Writing in his memoir "The Bassoon King: My Life in Art, Faith, and Idiocy," co-star Rainn Wilson revealed that the set where filming took place for "The Office" had to be kept at 64 degrees Fahrenheit at all times whenever Carell was present (per Showbiz CheatSheet). That's significantly lower than the ideal temperature for office work, as concluded in a variety of studies collated by the BBC.

This odd decision was due to the actor's excessive sweating. Carell apparently had a tendency to sweat more actively than anyone else on the show, to the point that the sweat would be visible on camera. The lower temperature was a conscious effort by the crew to try to reduce Carell's perspiration as much as possible, as he was one of the main characters and one of the people on camera the most. Of course, this meant that everyone else had to put up with the colder temperatures, which surely didn't make for the most comfortable work environment.

Meredith was originally played by someone else

The cast of "The Office" remained pretty unchanged throughout most of its run, with just a few notable additions and losses to the main cast over the years. In fact, the pilot episode featured many of the same actors who would be present when the first season was officially picked up. This included the likes of Oscar Nunez, Leslie David Baker, Brian Baumgartner, Angela Kinsey, Phyllis Smith, and Creed Bratton. One person from the pilot who did not return, however, is Henriette Mantel.

Mantel was initially meant to play the role of Meredith Palmer. However, fans will know that the character was actually portrayed by Kate Flannery throughout the nine seasons of the show. This change was due to a few reasons. The writers hadn't yet fully developed all of the supporting characters for "The Office," and the pilot episode was filmed about six months before the rest of the first season. Speaking on the Office Ladies podcast, Jenna Fischer and Angela Kinsey revealed that Mantel was busy and unavailable for shooting when the first season started production, so Flannery was cast in her place.

The proposal scene was the most expensive on the show

One of the most famous moments in "The Office" is Jim's proposal to Pam, which takes place during the special two-part Season 5 premiere episode "Weight Loss." With Pam going to art school in New York and Jim still stuck in Scranton, he decides to meet her halfway and propose at a seemingly nondescript gas station.

Speaking on the Office Ladies podcast, Jenna Fischer revealed that the proposal scene was the single most expensive moment in the history of the show. Apparently, rather than film on location, the crew built a full gas station replica and a four-lane racetrack in front of it to simulate traffic. This allowed vehicles of various sizes — manned by professional drivers — to rush past at high speeds during the shoot. Meanwhile, large rain machines were used to create the heavy downpour that Greg Daniels wanted, all to fabricate the illusion that Jim and Pam are on the side of a rainy highway. According to Fischer, the cost of the scene was over $250,000 in total, and it lasts for just 52 seconds of screen time.

The Office was John Krasinski's first on-screen kiss

The "Office" romance between Jim and Pam is one of the best things about the show, but their relationship gets off to a rocky start at first. Pam's engaged to Roy for the first two seasons of the show, and Jim has to hide his true feelings for her. But things come to a head in the Season 2 finale "Casino Night" when Jim and Pam finally kiss for the first time and Jim confesses his love to her.

Obviously, this is a big moment for the show as a whole as well as for the characters of Jim and Pam. And as it happens, it also proved to be a significant moment in John Krasinski's career. Speaking to IMDb in 2016, the actor revealed that the famous "Office" scene was his first-ever on-screen kiss. "It's a pretty big moment to have be your first on-screen kiss," the actor said, "and it's not one that we really wanted to screw up."

Paul Lieberstein didn't really want to play Toby at first

Paul Lieberstein is one of the most influential people who worked on "The Office." Not only was he a writer, producer, and director for the sitcom, but he also served as the showrunner for four seasons and portrayed the character of Toby Flenderson. He knew the show's creator Greg Daniels from his time working on "King of the Hill" and was a natural fit for the writer's room. However, one aspect of his time on "The Office" didn't come naturally to Lieberstein, as he wasn't terribly experienced in acting.

Speaking on an episode of the Office Ladies podcast, Lieberstein explained that he had to learn a lot after being given speaking lines because he didn't really know what he was doing. Despite Lieberstein not being particularly keen to continue in the role, Jenna Fischer revealed in an earlier episode of the podcast that then-head of NBC Kevin Reilley especially loved the interaction between Michael and Toby, which prompted the writers to make Toby a permanent character. He appeared regularly in episodes as an adversary to Michael, always played by Lieberstein.

John Krasinski filmed some of the footage in the opening sequence of the show

The title sequence for "The Office" is pretty iconic — a mix of stock Scranton footage and scenes that showcase the main characters at Dunder Mifflin. What many people may not know, however, is that John Krasinski himself filmed some of the Scranton footage.

Speaking on the Off The Beat with Brian Baumgartner podcast in 2021, the actor explained how his footage ended up in the title sequence. According to Krasinski, when he learned that he'd been cast as Jim, he drove to Scranton with a friend to do a little research. He filmed a few local landmarks and even interviewed employees at a paper company, all because he was so excited to be joining the show.

When Krasinski returned home and spoke to Greg Daniels, the show's creator offered to buy the footage from the actor and paid $1,000 for it. It was then used in the show's intro and has subsequently become recognizable to countless viewers around the world.

Phyllis Smith had a long career before The Office

Phyllis Vance is a major character in "The Office," appearing in almost every episode of the series. As part of the sales team, she sits opposite Stanley Hudson throughout the show's entire run. An old classmate of Michael Scott, she's constantly subjected to his jokes and unflattering comments. The character is portrayed by Phyllis Smith throughout the series — a performer with a particularly long and varied resume.

After leaving university, Smith had a variety of gigs, some of which might come as a surprise to fans of the show. One of the first jobs she had was as a cheerleader for the St. Louis Cardinals before they moved to Arizona. Speaking to Yahoo, Smith revealed that she loved watching football, so being a cheerleader was great because it gave her the best seats in the house. Following her stint in the NFL, she became a burlesque dancer for about seven years. She quit dancing after damaging her knee and later started working as a casting director, eventually joining "The Office" as a cast member herself.

The Office Olympics episode was inspired by King of the Hill

The "Office" Season 2 episode "Office Olympics" is not only one of the most memorable of the series but also an important turning point for the show. It's the moment Michael Scott becomes more than just a mean boss, revealing himself to be someone whose heart is in the right place even when his head isn't. The episode also brings the whole team together and gives audiences plenty of laughs, with the workers competing in a variety of games to win yogurt-top medals.

It turns out that the antics in "Office Olympics" were inspired by some real-world events. Several of the writers who worked on "The Office" also collaborated on the animated series "King of the Hill," where they took part in a similar event organized by Greg Daniels' assistant Tim Croston. This Olympics featured an opening ceremony, a torch, and even a uniform for the different teams to wear.

Speaking on the Office Ladies podcast, Jenna Fischer and Angela Kinsey said that it took the "King of the Hill" team a day and a half to complete the competition. Daniels and Paul Lieberstein enjoyed the experience so much that they brought it over and introduced it as a storyline on "The Office."

Angela Kinsey invented her cat lady persona

Anyone who's seen "The Office" will know that Angela Martin is a little obsessed with cats. While the character has several other key traits, such as her judgemental tone, her sense of properness, and her Christian religion, Angela's intense affection for felines is arguably the most memorable thing about the character. She constantly discusses her pets and even has a livestream set up so she can watch the cats while she's at work. Angela effectively treats her cats as if they're her children and imbues them with human personas.

Over the course of the show, Angela mentions owning more than a dozen cats, including Sprinkles, Princess Lady, and Bandit. And yet, this pet obsession wasn't initially part of the character. In an interview with Bustle, actor Angela Kinsey explained how she invited the Sprinkles character while filming the pilot after being asked to pass out some papers in the background of a shot. The papers she ended up making were invitations to the cat's birthday party, which Jenna Fischer found funny enough to mention in an improvised line. The writers then incorporated the cats into Angela's character, eventually turning them into one of her biggest storylines. Given that Kinsey is a self-proclaimed cat lady in real life, it seems only fitting.

The actors faked a lot of office work for the pilot

According to the BBC, Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant wanted the original UK version of "The Office" to look and feel as close to a real documentary as possible. The two writers even went to extreme lengths to make the action in the background of shots look as mundane as possible. This concept bled through to the US adaptation as well, with Greg Daniels wanting the actors to look like they were really working whenever they weren't directly involved in the on-screen action.

In order to provide enough footage of the cast doing normal office work, the actors were asked to pretend to work for 30 minutes each day while filming the pilot episode. Speaking to Brian Baumgartner on his podcast Off The Beat, Jenna Fischer explained how director Ken Kwapis would walk around the set with a camera and boom operator to capture the action on film. This B-roll footage was then used throughout the series. Fischer also revealed how the cast would communicate on their computers with each other and even use the internet to access sites like MySpace.

John Krasinski wore a wig in season 3

"The Office" was John Krasinski's first major on-screen role, which he landed after spending several years playing minor parts in movies and TV shows. The success of the show and his portrayal of Jim Halpert led to increased attention on the actor, and he quickly began to be cast in more roles. One of these projects was George Clooney's sports comedy film "Leatherheads" in 2008. The only problem was that the film was a period piece that required the actor to have very short hair — quite a different look to that of Jim.

The truth is that Krasinski wore a wig for the season after cutting his hair, despite not getting permission from Greg Daniels at first. In Andy Greene's book "The Office: The Untold Story of the Greatest Sitcom of the 2000s: An Oral History," hairstylist Kim Ferry explained that she and Krasinski made a wig in secret, and then the actor wore it while holding a meeting with Daniels (per Collider). When the show's creator couldn't tell he was wearing a wig, he gave him permission to use it going forward.

Oscar and Michael's kiss was improvised

The "Office" Season 3 episode "Gay Witch Hunt" is arguably one of the most memorable episodes of "The Office." It sees Oscar Martinez file a complaint against Michael Scott when the boss uses a homophobic slur when talking to him. Michael then accidentally outs Oscar as gay in front of the whole office, which leads to Jan confronting Michael. While attempting to reconcile with the accountant, Michael kisses him on the lips in a poor attempt to prove that he's not a homophobe.

As memorable as the moment is, it wasn't actually in the script. According to both Oscar Nunez and Jenna Fischer on the Office Ladies podcast, Steve Carell improvised the kiss. The moment caught the cast by surprise, and several of them can be seen either looking away or putting their hands over their mouths to stop the camera from seeing them laughing.

B.J. Novak was the first person cast

B.J. Novak was an instrumental part of "The Office" throughout his run. Not only did he portray Ryan Howard, but he was also one of the original writers and acted as an executive producer on the show. Previously, he was involved in Ashton Kutcher's "Punk'd" series and wrote for the Bob Saget sitcom "Raising Dad." He also worked as a stand-up comedian at the time, which is how he came to the attention of Greg Daniels.

The screenwriter and television producer instantly found Novak funny, and after hearing the opening joke of his comedy set, he quickly decided that he wanted him for his latest project. Speaking to The Boston Globe, Daniels said, "I immediately knew I wanted to do something with him." He was ultimately the first person cast in "The Office" when Daniels invited him to write for the series and appear as Ryan (per Office Ladies).

Two actors played video games together during breaks

There were lots of great friendships on the set of "The Office." For example, The Boston Globe reported that B.J. Novak and John Krasinski actually attended the same school as kids before they both were famous. When they reunited on the set of the sitcom, they instantly hit it off again and even dreamed of opening up their own Dunkin' Donuts store together. Meanwhile, Jenna Fischer and Angela Kinsey quickly became friends despite their very different characters, going on to run their own podcast about the show, Office Ladies.

One on-set friendship that might surprise viewers is the one shared between John Krasinski and Brian Baumgartner. The pair were close and apparently would often spend their lunch breaks eating together in John's trailer. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Baumgartner explained that they would also play "John Madden football like boys in college," which the actor said he'd miss once the show ended. The pair still enjoy spending time together, though — at least if Krasinski's Instagram account is anything to go by.

Phyllis Smith was a casting director on The Office

It's pretty difficult to imagine the role of Phyllis in "The Office" being played by anyone other than Phyllis Smith, but that might well have been the case. The actor didn't even audition for the role and was instead working for the Allison Jones casting agency when the show began searching for the actors.

As a casting director, it was Smith's job to assist the producers in getting the right actors for the job. To that end, she would sit in on auditions and read lines with those trying out for the parts. According to NBC, the executive producers were impressed with her delivery of lines and her chemistry with the actors and decided that she should have a role in the series. They created the character of Phyllis and offered it to her. If another casting agent had been sent to work on "The Office," fans might never have even seen the character.

Seth Rogen auditioned for Dwight but missed out

As you might expect, the actors who ended up portraying the various characters in "The Office" were far from the only ones in the running. One of the more surprising stars who tried out for the show is Seth Rogen. Per IGN, he was one of the actors who auditioned to play the role of Dwight Shrute. Clips of him reading lines for the part can be seen online, along with other actors who auditioned for the sitcom. His take on the character was very different from the Dwight that fans have come to know and love, suggesting that he probably wasn't the right choice for the character. Instead, Rainn Wilson landed the role, which soon made him instantly recognizable around the world.

Other actors who came close to being cast in "The Office" included Judah Friedlander and Patton Oswalt, both of whom auditioned for Dwight. Adam Scott tried out for the part of Jim, while Eric Stonestreet gave his idea of the accountant Kevin.