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After nine seasons, Dunder Mifflin prepares to close its doors for the last time
Over the last nine years, we’ve laughed and cried with our friends at The Office
Saying goodbye to a favourite show after nine years can feel like the end of a long-term relationship. Just ask the cast of The Office, who on Thursday will clock out of Dunder Mifflin for the very last time.
“I think we’re still in a state of nostalgia,” admits Angela Kinsey, who has played type-A accountant Angela Martin since the show premiered in 2005. “It’s like a breakup, but you keep listening to the old songs, so it all keeps coming back. I actually think that when the episodes air, that will really feel final to me because that will be it, and we’ll relive all those goodbyes.”
If the end of an era is stressing out executive producer Greg Daniels, who at the time of this interview is in the middle of putting together the final three episodes, he certainly does not let on.
“It’s been a great year, and I love getting to tell the ends of the stories,” he says. “I think the fact that we knew all year that this was the last season, everybody was really appreciating what we had.”
For the cast of The Office, shooting the final season has been an emotional experience (Image: NBC)
Daniels is hoping he can get permission to run the finale as a 90-minute episode, but at press time, it was scheduled for just one hour. “Normally, if you cut something, you can always say, ‘We can fix that next week.’ But, there are about 17 characters, and they all have a closure in the finale,” he explains.
For a show that mined a lot of comedy out of the minutiae of the average American workplace, there is certainly plenty to tie up. For example, the promos for the documentary that has been in the works for the last nine seasons have completely destroyed Angela’s sham marriage with the Senator (Heroes’ Jack Coleman).
“My character goes through a major public humiliation,” says Kinsey. “Pretty much everything is stripped off from her life and then rebuilt. So I feel like my character goes through more in the last four episodes than I have in years.”
Dwight (Rainn Wilson) is thriving with his new farm girl and the farm that he has inherited. And Erin gets a mystery storyline that has actress Ellie Kemper thrilled.
“I have a wonderful, wonderful conclusion,” says the actress. “I’m very happy about what happens and makes me happy for Erin.”
But the core couple of the show, Jim [John Krasinski] and Pam [Jenna Fischer], find themselves on the rocks and in couples’ therapy.
Daniels wanted to give their relationship real obstacles, even in the final moments of the show. “It was such a fairy-tale romance, but there was always act two lurking, like, what if they ran into some more realistic problems? A lot of the audience who had fallen in love with their story are now at a very different life stage where they’re in relationships, and maybe they’re dealing with some more realistic, nitty-grittys in their own relationship. And I wanted to play them as having some stakes.”
Normally, the pressure of putting together a series finale would give a show-runner hives, but Daniels (who also wrote star Steve Carell’s farewell episode in season seven, when Michael Scott leaves town) thrives on these milestones.
“When big things happen, it makes it so much easier to write because all the characters have things that are at stake for them, and you have all these moves,” he says. “There’s a lot of stuff happening, and it just leads to stronger attitudes on everybody’s part. The hardest thing is to have nothing happen and still be entertaining for half an hour.”
Those expecting Carell to return for the series finale will be disappointed, says Daniels. “But I don’t think you’ll be disappointed in the finale,” he adds. “I think ‘Goodbye Michael’ was a great goodbye for him, and now the point of this finale is a great goodbye for Dwight and Jim and for Pam and Erin and Andy [Ed Helms] and Darryl [Craig Robinson] and for Kevin [Brian Baumgartner].”
It has been a long haul for a show that many critics initially felt should never have been made in the first place. The U.S. remake of the BBC’s Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant gem had press preparing negative reviews before the pilot was even in the can.
“There was a magazine that wanted to follow me around during the making of the pilot. And as I was talking to them about it, it became clear to me that they already knew what the story was they wanted to tell, which was that this was a mistake to try and remake [the original],” recalls Daniels. “And I said, ‘Why would I want you to follow me around if you’ve already decided that the story is a mistake to remake it?’ And the editor said, ‘Oh, you’d come out OK. It would be how stupid NBC is.’ Yeah, no thanks.”
The relationship between Jim [John Krasinski] and Pam [Jenna Fischer] has always been the heart of the show (Image: NBC)
Although Gervais and Merchant were supportive from a distance, neither was greatly involved in the American version. Daniels did, however, seek their advice when it came to Jim and Pam’s storyline.
“I was worried about writing Pam and Jim, and I spoke to Ricky and Stephen. I said, ‘I understand the comedy writing part of it, but there’s this one scene that has totally intimidated me from your show’ — which was this little moment where the English Pam and Jim, Tim [Martin Freeman] and Dawn [Lucy Davis], are flirting.
Dawn is playing with Tim’s hair, and it was so realistic and lightly handled. I was like, ‘I don’t know how you write that.’ They confessed that they hadn’t written it. That was all improvisation between the actors. They had just said, ‘Flirt.’ So I realized that just like the documentary is cameramen covering real life, and then later in the editing room building it, you can create moments of real life and shoot a lot of it and eventually you’ll get wonderful moments that, when you put them together in the editing room, will make you look like such a genius for writing them.”
For Daniels, who for a few years took some time out from the day-to-day of The Office to focus on Parks and Recreation, returning for the show’s final season was a no-brainer.
“Yeah, I definitely wanted to return for the end. It would have been excruciating to let someone else run it,” he admits. “This is the most meaningful work experience I’ve had and I put so much effort and time and blood and sweat into the characters. I always really wanted to be a caretaker of the characters. I wrote Steve’s last episode because I felt really obligated to see him off, and I wrote the wedding episode with Mindy Kaling for Pam and Jim. And I got pretty involved when they had babies. I was on the set the whole time for those episodes. It just felt like if something really significant is happening to them, I wanted to be there. I would have been a really annoying presence over the shoulder of whoever was running the show if I hadn’t run it.”
The final episodes proved to be an emotional experience, both for the characters and the actors that play them.
“You would have these moments where you would be like, ‘Okay. I have to focus because we have a lot of work to get done,’ ” says Kinsey. “But then you would be looking out into the bullpen and seeing the faces of the actors that are now your friends and like family and you would just tear up. There were a lot of emotional moments, sort of tucked into work. And then the last few moments when we did our last scene as a group, when they yelled, ‘Cut’ for the last time, our crew had gathered around. And we were all there together. It was like a series wrap on the cast. We all started crying, just everybody hugging and crying. It was a very special thing to have been a part of.”
It’s that sense of family that Daniels hopes will have people tuning in despite not giving away what’s to come.
“I know the right thing to do is to leave little trails of hints and spoilers, but I just feel like if you don’t like the show, then you’re not going to like our ending. And if you do like the show, then why wouldn’t you come watch the last episodes?
“Come on, man. It’s been on for nine years. We gave you a bunch of entertainment — come watch the last few.”
Originally published in TVW. For daily programming updates and on-screen Entertainment news, subscribe to the free TVW e-newsletters, or purchase a subscription to the weekly magazine.