How ‘The Office’ almost didn’t cast Steve Carell as Michael Scott
A new book about ‘The Office’ details how Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti and Bob Odenkirk were all frontrunners before Steve Carell was picked
“The Office” and Steve Carell: A match made in heaven. Yet it almost didn’t happen.
It’s hard to believe now, but casting directors for the beloved NBC sitcom were extremely close to casting someone else as Michael Scott, the bumbling regional manager of Dunder Mifflin’s Scranton Branch.
In Rolling Stone journalist Andy Greene’s new book, “The Office: The Untold Story of the Greatest Sitcom on the 2000s” (Penguin Random House, 464 pages), Greene details how more than 35 actors were considered for the Michael Scott role — including Dan Aykroyd, Eugene Levy and Stephen Colbert — and how the part was first offered to Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Paul Giamatti, who both declined.
Bob Odenkirk, now of “Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul” fame, was for a time the frontrunner, the book states. Odenkirk had honed his comedy chops as a writer on “Saturday Night Live” and a writer/actor on “Mr. Show with Bob and David.”
“He was available,” “The Office” producer Ben Silverman said of Odenkirk in Greene’s book, as reported Tuesday by Uproxx. “He had a great reputation in the comedy world, and he hadn’t yet become famous. He wasn’t really well known.”
“The Office” producers and casting directors wanted to cast someone with a “generic Americana appeal” — the kind emulated by Tim Allen and Jerry Seinfeld — Showbiz Cheat Sheet reported.
“These people were not the most extraordinary looking,” Silverman said in the new book. “They were Americana, and that I think was something we knew we needed in our lead as well.”
“The Office” producers reportedly liked Carell’s work on “Bruce Almighty,” but Carell was under contract with another NBC sitcom, the short-lived “Come to Papa,” and couldn’t get involved with “The Office” until “Come to Papa” was canceled.
Odenkirk wanted the role. His Michael Scott portrayal was “as funny as Steve’s, but it was darker,” according to casting director Allison Jones. Carell reportedly became the frontrunner after Fox Movies chairperson Stacey Snyder insisted Carell was the right choice.
“The Office” has as a pretty remarkable list of casting what-ifs. Seth Rogen and Patton Oswalt auditioned for the role of Dwight Schrute, Adam Scott auditioned for Jim Halpert, and Eric Stonestreet auditioned for Kevin Malone. Videos of those auditions have circulated online for a few years now.