The Office was Jenna Fischer’s big break. She was even about to give up on acting when The Office cast her as Pam. Prior to The Office, Fischer had day jobs working in offices. One of those experiences ended up in the show.
Brian Baumgartner reran Fischer’s appearance on his Off the Beat podcast on March 7. She shared how The Office creator Greg Daniels interpreted one of her receptionist stories for a Michael Scott (Steve Carell) episode.
‘The Office’ let Jenna Fischer influence Pam
Fischer set the scene by reminding Baumgartner, and sharing for his audience, how Daniels and the producers empowered the cast. Many of the writers played characters on the show, and actors like Fischer became de facto writers, at least for Pam herself.
“More than that, Greg truly believed that no one knew our characters more than we did,” Fischer said on Off the Beat. “And he would ask us questions all the time. He cared about our opinions. He wanted to know all the time, ‘What do you think Pam would think of this situation?’ He was always very curious.”
Jenna Fischer’s old boss might recognize this in Michael Scott
Fischer recalls one story she told Daniels that may have influenced a The Office story.
“He also knew that I worked in offices and that I had worked as a receptionist and he used to ask me questions,” Fischer said. “What’s the craziest thing one of your bosses ever made you do?”
Fischer said the episode where Michael procrastinates signing paperwork was eerily similar to a boss she once had.
“There’s that episode where Michael is refusing to sign all of his documents until the end of the day,” Fischer said. “He just keeps putting it off, putting it off, and putting it off. I told Greg that I had this boss once that every month at the end of the month he had to turn in this boilerplate report and he would put it off and put it off. One time he put it off so long that I had to drive to LAx because that was the last Fedex pickup, and I was so pissed. Greg loved those stories. He loved whenever we would tell him stories like that and they would get used.”
Jenna Fischer wasn’t the only ‘The Office’ actor who influenced the show
Fischer also recognized how Baumgartner and his castmates influenced The Office with their characters.
“That was so unusual, the fact that several of our writers were also actors,” Fischer said. “So they were down with us. They were observing us all the time. You, Angela [Kinsey], and Oscar [Nunez] single handedly created that insane dynamic through the three of you I believe through improvisation when you were bored in the background. So then you’ve got Mindy [Kaling], BJ [Novak] and Paul [Lieberstein] watching you guys and then taking that back up to the writers room and fleshing it out. It was genius that Greg did it that way.