15 best tidbits from Brian Baumgartner's 'Office' oral history, 'Welcome to Dunder Mifflin'Get the Full StoryBears? Nah. Beets? Nope. Books?! You bet.Good news, Office fans. Brian Baumgartner aka Kevin Malone and Ben Silverman executive producer of The Office have complied a brand new oral history of The Office that's filled with firsthand accounts of writing, filming, and staring on the show. Fans can't seem to get enough of the beloved NBC workplace comedy that aired from 2005 to 2013, so the show's stars keep sharing new behind-the-scenes stories. If you've already sped through Andy Greene s Office oral history and faithfully listen to Jenna Fischer and Angela Kinsey's Office Ladies podcast, Welcome to Dunder Mifflin: The Ultimate Oral History of The Office is the next step in your superfan journey.The book, which publishes on Nov. 16, 2021, features a forward by showrunner and comedy mastermind Greg Daniels and draws from hundreds of hours of interviews with cast and crew members, writers, directors, and more. You may recognize conversations from Baumgartner's An Oral History of The Office podcast, but something about reading stories about a fictional paper company on paper hits different. Trust me.The oral history will take you back in time to the days when the American version of The Office was just a dream. You'll learn just how hard it was to get the show made, how poorly it tested, and how close it came to getting canceled. You'll hear about everything from the audition process and the writer's room to the on and off-screen relationships built over the years and the show's bittersweet end. Because we care, we compiled a list of 15 tidbits from the oral history that you can read while impatiently waiting for your own copy to arrive. Buckle up and prepare to learn about everything from Greg Daniels' grandparents to Barack Obama fan mail.1. Kristin Wiig auditioned for the role of Pam BeeslyDunder Mifflin wouldn't be the same without its trusty receptionist Pam Beesly, and Pam Beesly wouldn't be the character fans know and love without Jenna Fischer. Baumgartner's oral history gives fans an insightful look back at the show's audition process and highlights everything from personal audition experiences to familiar faces who tried out for the roles. You may have heard that actors like Bob Odenkirk and James Gandolfini almost played Michael, but did you know Kristen Wiig auditioned to play Pam?"We tested other Pams, but I think Jenna was sort of the high bar. Kristen Wiig auditioned for the part and she was terrific. But for some reason I didn't bring her back for Greg," casting director Allison Jones said. "I usually bring back anybody who's good, and I'm embarrassed I didn't bring back Kristen."When Rainn Wilson hosted Saturday Night Live in 2007, Wiig finally got a chance to show her stuff as Beesly opposite Jason Sudeikis as Jim . And you know what? She ruled.
2. Paul Rudd didn't believe in the U.S. Office at firstThere were many people who didn't believe in an American version of The Office in the early days. Among them was People's very own 2021 Sexiest Man Alive, Paul Rudd."I remember, before I auditioned, I was talking to Paul Rudd," Steve Carell said. "I'd never seen the original one and he asked what I was up to. This was right after Anchorman. I told him I was going to audition for the American version of The Office and he said, 'Ugh, don't do it. Bad, bad move. I mean, it's never going to be as good.' Like what everybody was saying."Boy, was Rudd wrong.3. Here's the truth about John Krasinski's famous road trip to ScrantonBy now hardcore Office fans likely know that John Krasinski shot the Scranton footage that appears in the show's intro. But the oral history sheds additional light on why Krasinski took that trip to Scranton in the first place."Pure nerd-dom. It was just me being super nerdy," Krasinski said. "When Greg contacted me to say, 'Congrats, you have the part,' I was so excited that I jumped up on the couch and twisted my ankle because I was right in the crack. I was 23, and at that time in my life, my only experiences were being in college and just sorta letting life happen. So I was excitable like a puppy. I said to Greg, 'I'm going to Scranton to do research. There s actually a paper company there.' And he was like, 'OK, cool.'"Krasinski made the two-hour road trip from New York City with his friend and college roommate Kevin Connors, then shot some footage and interviewed employees of The Pennsylvania Paper and Supply Company, a real business downtown. "I had a tiny little camera, like one of those early digital HD things. Not even HD. It was just like a digital camera. And I shot the Scranton sign out of the sunroof of Kevin's Jeep, with us driving at the full speed limit. I should've stopped but I didn't. I just popped out of the sunroof and was like, 'Wait, wait, wait!' I was filming as we drove by," he explained.Daniels loved Krasinski's amateur footage so much that he bought it for 1,000 and used it in the opening.
4. Greg Daniels' grandparents have a literal beet farmYes, you read that correctly. The Schrute backstory was partially inspired by Daniels' own grandparents."My grandfather came from Russia and had a beet farm. That always struck me as really weird. It's not very American, you know what I mean? It's not like we would grow corn. Beets just seemed like such a weird thing," Daniels said.5. So that's what inspired the DundiesThough The Office eventually became its own show, the pilot script stayed true to the British version. However, the oral history explains that Daniels' original idea for the pilot was centered around the Dundies, the annual office awards ceremony that Michael throws his employees. Instead, the Dundies episode wound up kicking off Season 2 with a bang, and we have Daniels' dad, Aaron, to thank for the quirky Scranton branch tradition. "He used to do a managers meeting every year at his company where he'd wear a Carnac hat you know, the turban and his name was Aaron, so he'd be 'Aaronac,'" Daniels explained. "If you didn't grow up watching The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, one of his most popular characters was Carnac the Magnificent, in which Johnny wore a turban and cape and predicted the answers to questions that were sealed in an envelope."Daniels made reference to the show in "The Dundies" by writing a Carnac joke for Michael. But when he was on King of the Hill, Daniels actually held an award show for staff called the Swampies, named after Jeff "Swampy" Marsh, one of the show's designers. "He had a big personality, so we called it the Swampies and I got those little plastic salesman trophies that are not too hard to find," Daniels said.And that s what eventually inspired the Dundies.6. The pilot got some serious editsSpeaking of the pilot, according to Kevin Reilly original supporter of the American Office and president of the entertainment division at NBC from 2004 to 2007 it got some serious cuts. Reilly explained that many pilots are screened after just two cuts, but The Office was different, and for good reason."If we had done that, it would've been dead, just dead," Reilly said, referencing the show's unique pacing and long pauses. Reilly thought the edit room did 14 or 16 cuts of The Office pilot, but Daniels confirmed that they did a whopping 23 cuts.7. Jim and Pam's first kiss was really...Remember the great debate over Jim and Pam's first kiss? Some fans argued the couple's first kiss took place in the Season 2 finale, "Casino Night," and others who are correct, including me swore that a drunk Pam planted the first smooch on Jim at Chili's during the Season 2 premiere, "The Dundies." Like the fans, Krasinski and Fischer have gone back and forth on which kiss counts as the Official First Kiss. In the oral history, Krasinski takes some time to really reflect on that Chili's kiss."That's real life. Those are the things you remember. Whereas a regular television show would have a big huge kiss scene, like, 'They finally got together!' I remember reading that script and being like, Man, that is so smart. To have the audience be like, 'Did they just kiss?' And not give them what they thought they wanted," Krasinski said. "'Cause that's how I felt. I felt like, 'Oh my god, I thought we were going to do some huge kiss scene.' And instead she just did it at the Dundies. I guess this is where I'm very much like Jim, because I would've stewed on that for months and been like, 'Was it a real kiss?'... 'Was she just drunk?' That's real life."I've said it before and I ll say it again, the Dundies kiss exists, and thus, is technically Jim and Pam's first kiss. The Casino Night kiss was their first real meaningful kiss, but it wasn't the first. Need more convincing? We've got you covered.
8. John Krasinski's looks to camera were numberedJohn Krasinski, king of staring into the camera, was a master at breaking the fourth wall on The Office. Over the years, Krasinski crafted a series of smirks, glances, and shrugs that became so essential to Jim Halpert's character that the crew actually numbered them for easy access."I had this running joke that we'd throw to John and he'd give us the number four, which was a particular look he'd give us," Matt Sohn, The Office's director of photography, said. "We had it numbered. There were a couple of looks that were John looks, depending on the scene we'd say 'I'm throwing to John right here for a number four.'""I remember Greg and I talked about this," Krasinski said. "I was the window to the audience. I was the character who, right when you were thinking, 'This is getting ridiculous,' I'd look at the camera and go, 'You're right, this is ridiculous.'" Iconic.9. The hardest John Krasinski ever laughed on The Office set was because of thisKrasinski may have looked cool and collected in those final edits, but like so many other cast members on The Office he was famous for breaking character mid-take. Fans of the Office Ladies podcast know that Krasinski and Wilson once made each other laugh so hard that production had to break, but the hardest Krasinski actor ever laughed on set was because of Baumgartner."People always asked me, 'What's the hardest you've ever laughed on set?' Without a doubt, it's when Kevin sat on Michael's lap," Krasinski said, referencing the 13th episode of Season 6, "Secret Santa." "I would laugh so hard that I had to walk off set," he told Baumgartner. "...And I'm a cry-laugher. I have that high-pitched girl laugh I was just the most unprofessional. Steve said something about attaching balloons to you or something. They whipped the camera to me for a reaction, and I was like, 'Dude, don't do it. I'm only going to fail you.' That was one of the only times that I just literally gave up on doing my job."10. Greg Daniels sent checks to crew members during the 2007 WGA strikeMany fans already know that the 2007 Writers Guild of America strike stopped production of a number of network shows, including The Office. The oral history details how Greg Daniels made sure The Office crew wasn't left hanging for the duration of the 100-day work stop."...Every crew member got a check out of Greg Daniels' personal checking account," Laverne Caracuzzi-Milazzo, a makeup artist on The Office, told Baumgartner. "Greg Daniels went into his personal checking account and wrote the crew starts to tear up each an individual check because we were going to be out of work."Kim Ferry, a hairstylist on The Office, explained that Daniels sent each family 1,000, which had a huge impact financially and emotionally on those who'd been out of work because of the strike."I went to the mail that day, and people were sending Christmas cards and stuff. I looked at the cards and I saw this card from Greg Daniels. I'm going, 'Oh, isn't that nice? He thought of us.' I opened it up and I saw this check and I didn't really look at it really clearly at first. I thought it was 100. And then I started counting the zeros and I could not believe it," Debbie Pierce, another hairstylist on the show, said. "I told that story to quite a few of my friends who worked on other shows and they were like, 'Are you kidding me?' That was unheard of."11. Barack Obama sent Steve Carell fan mailSteve Carell admittedly hasn't seen every episode of The Office, and although his daughter learned about an episode in one of her college courses, he said his kids don't watch the show. But Barack Obama is a huge fan, so it's OK. The former president loves The Office so much that he sent Carell a letter from the White House."Steve came in with this letter and he was like, 'You guys might want to read this.' It said something like, 'Dear Steve, I just want you to know that at the White House, The Office Thursday is family night.' It was a letter that the president sent to Steve Carell because the Obamas are fans of the show," Oscar Nunez, who played Oscar Martinez, said."Steve said he showed it to his children, and they were little and they're like, 'Can we touch?' And he's like, 'Nope, just look. Just look,'" Nunez laughed.
World's Best Boss
Credit: Justin Lubin NBCU Photo Bank
12. No one was really a fan of Robert CaliforniaMichael Scott was irreplaceable, but some characters who succeeded him were undoubtedly more charming than others. For instance, Will Ferrell as Deangelo Vickers? Charming. James Spader as Robert California? Not so much.The cast and crew reflecting on the show post-Michael pretty much all agreed that casting Spader wasn't a great move. Actors touched on how Spader's rehearsing and filming styles differed from The Office norm, and Silverman came right out and said, "I don't think we did anyone a favor by bringing in James Spader neither James nor the show. He's so talented and clearly had The Blacklist one second later, but that feels custom-made for him.""The Robert California experiment was not right. His energy just didn't fit," Rainn Wilson agreed.13. Jim almost cheated on Pam, but John Krasinski put his foot downRemember in the Season 8 episode "After Hours" when things got a little awkward between Jim and Cathy during their business trip to Florida? Well if John Krasinski hadn't stood up for his character, Jim might have really had an affair."That's the only time I remember putting my foot down. 'Cause Greg was saying, 'You're going to actually make out with her in this scene.' I remember saying things that I never thought I'd say before, like, 'I'm not going to shoot it,' I remember Paul Lieberstein was in the room, who I think was very much into it. He was like, 'No, you'll do it.' Not in an aggressive way, but it was like, he saw the benefit of doing it," Krasinski explained. "I remember saying to Greg, 'My feeling is there is a threshold with which you can push our audience. They are so dedicated. We have shown such great respect to them. But there's a moment where if you push them too far, they'll never come back. And I think that if you show Jim cheating, they'll never come back,'" he continued. Good call dude. I, for one, would not have survived a Jim and Cathy make-out scene.
Credit: CHRIS HASTON NBCU PHOTO BANK
14. The series finale is packed with surprise cameosFans of Mashable's Office coverage may know that Jennie Tan, creator of the popular Office fansite OfficeTally.com, had a fun little cameo in the show s series finale. But did you know that the episode is packed with other exciting guest cameos?"I put a lot of people on," Daniels said. "Every writer was on. Writers Brent Forrester, Amelie Gillette, Allison Silverman, Dan Sterling, and Steve Hely all asked questions during the Q&A. My wife was on. Susanne was the Q&A moderator. Part of that is I wanted ordinary people, 'cause it's a documentary, and if they are a little bit uncomfortable in front of the camera, great. The boom's in the shot, the non-actor is looking weird, that all works."Writer and co-showrunner Jen Celotta played 'Jen Celotta Schrute,' a relative of Dwight. Kate Flannery's boyfriend, crew member and photographer Chris Haston, got to dance with her during Dwight and Angela's wedding. Casting director Allison Jones even played a woman at the warehouse party who told Phyllis that the mugs were for PBS executives. A number of other editors, directors, and people associated with the show make appearances throughout the episode, too. Keep your eyes peeled on your next rewatch.15. The Office almost had a different endingAfter nine seasons, the workplace comedy came to an end with a poignant shot of Scranton s finest paper company employees leaving the office together. According to director of photography Randall Einhorn and director Ken Kwapis, however, ending with a callback to Pam's office artwork wasn't always the plan."Greg always talked about in the last episode, whatever it is, it'd end with 'That's a wrap,' and the camera would turn around and it'd be Ricky Gervais sitting there in the director's chair , Einhorn said."I remember a different ending to the finale," Kwapis said. "As I recall, all the characters decide they need to take the plant that's been in the bullpen for nine seasons: Planty. Somebody suggests that Planty needs to be liberated. So everyone marches out of the office with two or three characters carrying Planty, and everyone's chanting 'Planty, Planty!'""The entire ensemble goes outside to the parking lot and they plant Planty. And the original ending, as Greg and I discussed, was everyone wanders away, feeling a little sad but, you know, festive," Kwapis continued. "Greg's original plan was that there'd be a dissolve through to the next morning, and you just see the empty parking lot at dawn with this plant and its new home. I'm not surprised that Greg decided to end with Pam's drawing. But I must say, I loved the idea of a show that ended with a shot of an empty parking lot and a plant."
Welcome to Dunder Mifflin: The Ultimate Oral History of The Office is available now.