TRANSCRIPT Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Jenna Fischer and Angela Kinsey

Jenna Fischer and Angela Kinsey will be forever linked together – thanks to one show: The Office. Angela and Jenna were strangers when the show started, but soon formed a friendship that has lasted long after the show wrapped. Together they recently released a book. The Office BFFs: Tales of The Office from Two Best Friends Who Were There is both a celebration of the show and a memoir of a friendship. It dives deep into behind the scenes stories from the show. Angela and Jenna join Bullseye to talk about seeing the show through a new lens and becoming geeks for The Office while researching their rewatch podcast: Office Ladies. They’ll reflect on how the show changed their lives, the first time they ever worked together on set and so much more.

Guests: Jenna Fischer Angela Kinsey

Transcript

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Gentle, trilling music with a steady drumbeat plays under the dialogue.

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Speaker: Bullseye with Jesse Thorn is a production of MaximumFun.org and is distributed by NPR. [Music fades out.]

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“Huddle Formation” from the album Thunder, Lightning, Strike by The Go! Team. A fast, upbeat, peppy song. Music plays as Jesse speaks, then fades out.

jesse thorn

It’s Bullseye. I’m Jesse Thorn. Jenna Fischer and Angela Kinsey are my guests this week, two performers who I think it is fair to say will be forever linked thanks to one show: The Office.

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“The Office Theme” from the album The Office Theme by Daniel Tidwell. [Volume decreases and continues under the dialogue then fades out.]

jesse

It started in 2005 as an American reboot of the BBC show of the same name. That show was created by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant. But in its nine seasons, the American Office became something else entirely: one of the most popular sitcoms of all time, and inspiration for dozens of shows that came after it, and a launchpad for some of the great writers and performers in comedy today: Greg Daniels, Larry Wilmore, Mindy Kaling, John Krasinski, Michael Schur. That’s a partial list. And of course, on that list as well, my guests. Jenna Fischer played Pam, the receptionist turned office administrator who eventually falls in love with John Krasinski’s Jim. Angela Kinsey played Angela Martin, the steely, judgmental accountant with a thing for cats. When the show started, Angela and Jenna were strangers, but they became fast friends. And their friendship has lasted long after the show wrapped. In 2019, they started a podcast called Office Ladies. It’s a recap podcast. Each episode corresponds with a different episode of the TV show. It’s also more than that. Angela and Jenna talk about their friendship, their coworkers, their families. It’s like watching the show again with your best friend, only your best friend if they were one of the stars of the show. Now, The Office ladies have a book. Like their podcast, The Office BFFs is a celebration of the show and a memoir of friendship. It dives deep into behind-the-scenes stories from The Office: how the cast narrowly escaped carbon monoxide poisoning while riding a sketchy bus, ’80s Hollywood gossip from James Spader. But Angela and Jenna also talk about their lives during and after the show: how hard it was to work on a TV show as a new and expecting mother, and how—come what may—they’ll always carry The Office’s legacy with them for the rest of their lives. It’s a great book about a great show, and I’m thrilled to welcome Jenna and Angela. Let’s kick things off with a clip from the show. This is the cold open for season eight’s episode “After Hours”. This scene centers on Pam, Angela, and their coworker Oscar. The trio is on a break. They’re having a snack. They’re each venting about their lives. Angela is a new mom. Pam is a new mom to twins. And Oscar has a dog. And since it’s The Office, we’ll hear a little bit of their conversation, then a cut to an interview scene to find out what they’re actually thinking about each other.

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Oscar (The Office): Hey. Are your little dudes crawling yet? Pam: No. Three-month-old humans don’t do that. Angela: My Philip is crawling. [Cut to interviews.] Pam: Angela is such a liar! Oscar: It’s maddening! [Cut to scene.] Oscar: Exactly, that’s just like crate training. All night long, all night long. [They laugh.] Pam: Well, count yourself lucky. Wait until you have two. That’s two sleep schedules, two naps that don’t coincide. I mean, you’ll never sleep again. [Cut to interviews.] Angela: No one said you must have two! Oscar: Like her genes are so important. The world just needs more Pam/Jim DNA. Thank you, no. Angela: No thank you. [Cut to scene.] Speaker: [Cackles.] Check this out. My brother just got a new sailboat. He has NO idea what he just got himself into. There’s nothing harder than taking care of a boat. Am I right? [Cut to interviews.] Pam & Angela: [In unison: Unbelievable! Oscar: Un! Believe! Able!

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jenna

[They chuckle.] Ooh, that takes me back! [Angela agrees.] We could not get through that “un-believe-able” talking head.

angela

I know. There’s some good bloopers for that one.

jesse

[Laughs.] Well, first of all, I’m happy that you enjoyed that. It was fun to see you enjoy it in real time. And Angela and Jenna, welcome to Bullseye. It’s nice to have you on the show. [They thank Jesse.] Jenna, you probably don’t remember this, but you were one of the first famous people that was ever on this show. The two things that I remember most from that conversation, which was a long time ago—it was when the show was just me. Number one, you saying that the computers onset were actually hooked up so that you could do stuff on them. And you would just goof around on MySpace a lot.

jenna

[Laughs.] Oh, was I expressing like real-time enthusiasm for our computers going live? [Jesse confirms.] It was a big moment! [They all laugh.]

angela

They weren’t live for the first year. You know? And we would like pass notes. So, when we got internet—like, a memo went out. People were really excited.

jesse

And the other thing was you bringing up—I mean, I think unsolicited. Like I don’t think I asked you who were your friends on the show or something like that, but you spontaneously went into like a passionate bit of advocacy for Angela as a human being. [Angela “aw”s and chuckles.] And how she was like your best friend and your favorite person, and she wasn’t like she was on TV, and you loved hanging out with her, and you loved going to work everyday because you would get to hang out with her.

angela

[Emotionally.] Stooop iiiiit.

jenna

Oh my gosh! I love it! It’s on record. It’s not fake, everyone. You can go back in time and see that I mean it. [They chuckle.]

angela

Awww. I love that.

jesse

So, did you two meet the day you walked onset for the first day of work?

jenna

Yeah. We met on the pilot of The Office. We did not become best friends on the pilot of The Office. In fact, I don’t think we exchanged phone numbers. We were friendly, and I loved her, and we ate lunch. But I think we all thought that the pilot was gonna be it. We didn’t think that the show would ever certainly go for as long as it did. We didn’t think we’d get a pickup. And so—

angela

Yeah, it was also sort of that time where you didn’t know what people did after you said goodbye to them. You know? There wasn’t social media. ‘Cause we’re—

jesse

[Laughing.] Oh, okay. I see what you mean.

angela

You know, we’re like 100 years old, I guess. But like—

jesse

Not like before we developed this sense of object permanence. [They laugh.]

angela

Exactly. Exactly. But no, so like when you said goodbye, people went off and did other things! And then you would run into them like weeks or months later and be like, “Oh my god! You did that?!” Whereas now, we know everything. Right? What everyone’s up to. But we all just sort of said goodbye, like collectively. Like, “Well, good luck!”

jesse

Did you not think that the show was going anywhere because nothing—no pilot—I mean, most pilots don’t get picked up. Was it just general fatalism or was it that pilot specific fatalism?

jenna

For me, it was number one just the odds of knowing that most pilots don’t go. And then number two, it felt like we had a lot going against us because we were—our pilot was remake of the British pilot. And that show was so revered. And just nobody even wanted to see our version of it. So, the idea that that would make it on the air and that we would get to make more of them seemed so unlikely, even though I thought our work was excellent.

angela

Yes, that’s true. We felt really good about what we came together as a creative group and did, but like my memory—Jenna, tell me if this is yours, too—that like no one from NBC was there when we di the pilot. Were they? They might have popped in, but you know how like some pilots you do and there’s buzz. There’s a buzz about the pilot, and all the network people are there. [Jenna affirms.] I didn’t feel like—

jenna

I don’t remember a single network executive being there. In fact, Angela and I were going through all of our old photos. I think we’re the only people who took photos of the pilot outside of like some lame like planned photoshoot. But like, they didn’t have a—they didn’t send a set photographer.

angela

There was no set photographer, and—

jenna

No one wanted—didn’t feel like they needed to document this moment.

jesse

I mean, it was a tough assignment to be cast in the roles of people who were on a perfect television show that already existed.

angela

100%.

jesse

Like, I remember watching the British Office at the time, before the American Office was on, and thinking, “Oh! Well, I guess television has changed forever!” [Laughs.] [They agree.]

jenna

Yeah! Like everyone can stop making TV now, ‘cause they did it. It’s a masterpiece.

jesse

Yeah, and you were assigned the job of performing not just those roles, but those—literally those roles. The American pilot was based directly on the British pilot. Not indirectly.

angela

So much so that some of the phrasing wasn’t even in like an American vernacular. You know? It was like, “Oh, we—what? We don’t phrase things that way.” [Jenna agrees several times.] But we did have new characters. Angela, Oscar, Creed, Phyllis. Oddly, all with our same names. [They chuckle.] Just enough to confuse everybody on set. But it was. It was daunting. I was really intimidated that people were gonna just hate on it. And I was so glad that we got picked up and got a chance to do it with our stamp on it.

jenna

Yeah. Because from—after that, from episode two on, it was all original episodes. Or—you know, written by our writers.

jesse

I mean, the thing that I remember most when your version of the show came on television was that you were making a show very deeply inspired—especially in the first season—by the British version of the show. But [chuckling] because it had started so close to the British version of the show, like snobs were mad about it, but also, it was a show—at the time—being made for snobs. And so, it’s like intenseness [chuckling] and relative darkness maybe was a little intense for non-snobs. And it was really like—it was really canceling everybody out because the—because the—yeah! The snobs were mad that you were copying, and the non-snobs were mad that it was too intense.

jenna

I—you know, you mentioned MySpace before. I feel like that became such a important tool in keeping us on the air, because the cast members, when we were able to get on MySpace, we started doing direct outreach to the fans. And it became like this thing where they did letter writing campaigns. You know? So, this small group of viewers, they were loud. And they really—they really championed the show in a way that I think we owe a lot to them for doing that.

angela

It all felt like it turned a corner for me with the Christmas episode, the first Christmas episode, “Yankee Swap”. You know, we’re all trading gifts. And after it aired, we were the number one downloaded show on iTunes. And we were like, “Whaaat?! What? How did—?! That’s amazing!” And I was like okay, maybe I’ll get—you know, trade my Chevy Blazer in. [Jesse chuckles.] Maybe I’ll get a Honda, which is what I did.

jenna

I was gonna say! That is what you did!

angela

Yeah. I got a Honda.

jenna

I remember your Honda.

angela

But I was like ooh, maybe I don’t have to drive my clunker anymore. Hey, listen, it was a great car for ten years, guys. But it ran out of steam. But that’s the moment we sort of knew like, “Wait, people are watching it!”

jesse

Even more still to get into with Jenna Fischer and Angela Kinsey after the break. We’ll be back in a minute. It’s Bullseye, from MaximumFun.org and NPR.

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Music: Three bouncy beats. Graham Clark: Hi! My name's Graham Clark, and I'm one half of the podcast Stop Podcasting Yourself, a show that we've recorded for many, many years. And, uh, at the moment, instead of being in person, we're recording remotely. And, uh, you wouldn't even notice. You don't even notice the lag. [Long pause.] Dave Shumka: That's right, Graham! And, uh, the great thing about this— Graham: Uh— Dave: Go ahead. Graham: No, you go ahead. Dave: Okay, and— Graham: Okay, go ahead. [Someone stifles laughter.] Dave: And you can listen to us, uh, every week on MaximumFun.org. Graham: Or wherever you get your podcasts. Dave: Your podcasts. Music: Three bouncy beats.

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Chiming synth with a steady beat.

jesse

It’s Bullseye. I’m Jesse Thorn. If you’re just joining us, my guest are Angela Kinsey and Jenna Fischer. The two starred in all nine seasons of the hit NBC sitcom The Office. Angela played Angela Martin. Jenna played Pam Beesly. Since the show wrapped, the two have launched a podcast, called The Office Ladies, which recaps every episode of The Office. They’re in the middle of season six right now. And they just wrote a book together. The Office BFFs is a memoir that talks about their time working on the show, the bond Jenna and Angela formed over the years, and what it’s like being known for working on one of the biggest television shows ever. Let’s get back into our conversation. I was listening to the most recent episode of your podcast, Office Ladies, and you had B.J. Novak on the show, who was both a writer and performer on the show. And he talked about a meeting at the end of season one, before they had started writing season two, that was a “What are we gonna do differently?” meeting. And the one [chuckling]—the thing that he shared was that three out of four episodes had to end positively. [They laugh and affirm.] Because previously, none episodes had ended positively.

angela

Yeah. And the American audience was like, “This is too sad!” [Jesse agrees.] “We need something to look forward to. A little piece of hope.”

jesse

I think also like the greatest problem that had to be solved by the American version of the show I don’t think was like about a difference between American and British sensibilities or just simply making a show in the image of a show that was so good. I think it’s that like the British show, because it was constructed in the British format—you know, of the short—a small number of episodes, was like really focused on narrative and its overall arc in a way that American sitcom can’t be, because you can’t do that over 23 episodes a year for eight years [laughs] or whatever.

jenna

No, it’s really true. We got a great piece of direction from Ricky Gervais, who was with us during the rehearsal process for the pilot, the American pilot. He and Stephen Merchant both came and sat with us. And Ricky said because of that construct of American television having 24 episodes a year with the goal of hitting that 100-episode mark, he said, “You know, I really think that a great idea for the character of Michael Scott which would be different from Michael Brent is that, yes, he can be a buffoon, but he should be somehow sneakily good at his job. If you could give us some episodes—” And we have a great one with the client when they go out for the baby back ribs and it turns out that Michael knows how to close that deal, not Jan. “If you can give us those moments, we—” He said, “Because otherwise I think the audience will just be frustrated. Why is this guy still manager, you know, 100 episodes later? Wouldn’t he have been fired by now?” So, that was—that was a great note from Ricky, I thought.

jesse

I think there’s also a sense that like if you watch a great American sitcom, Cheers or something like that, what you’re doing is like visiting a place that you want to spend time rather than going through an experience of a narrative. Like, every sitcom episode has a narrative, obviously. And you know, Cheers for example has a metanarrative. You know, there are big arcs—romance arcs and stuff on Cheers. But like mostly what you want is to have a place where you want to be. And it’s incredible to me that the—that your version of The Office managed to solve that when the primary [laughing] comedy insight is, “Wouldn’t it be funny if we watched awful people be awful?” [They laugh.] Like, to connect those two things is a pretty incredible trick.

jenna

Well, that’s Greg Daniels for you right there. He was our showrunner, and just brilliant. And he assembled a writing staff that is just incredible. I mean, the writing staff for our first season was—

angela

Mindy Kaling.

jenna

B.J. Novak, Mike Schur, Paul Lieberstein. Lester Lewis.

angela

And Greg.

jenna

And Larry Wilmore.

angela

And Larry Wilmore. That’s right.

jenna

Was a consulting producer. So, I mean—

angela

Small room! [Jenna agrees.] When you think about big writers’ rooms.

jenna

And just all brilliant writers. And they did it!

jesse

I just imagine Larry Wilmore just wandering by. Like, that’s like the extra guy. He was on this—he was on this show one time, and I was like, “This might be the smartest person I’ve ever talked to.” [Laughs.]

angela

Oh yeah. He’s so smart and then also so kind. But you know what? Stephen Merchant said something to you, Jenna, that I always remember. When you shared it, I was like oh yeah. So, Ricky had the idea for Michael, but then Stephen said, “But you have to remember that Jim and Pam are the heart and that we need the heart.” And you do! I think, you know, I love to watch shows—I always tune into relationship. You know? And I’m rewatching it now. We’re seeing episodes we haven’t seen since we’ve done them, you know, in this rewatch podcast. And I’m there for the relationships. I’m there for these people and how they relate to one another and see the world and experience the world. And I love it. I’ve become a total geek for the show.

jenna

[Chuckling.] Same.

jesse

What was it like for the two of you—let’s start with the very beginning of the show—to watch the episodes where the show was figuring out what it was and watch them 15 years later?

jenna

The evolution of the show is very slow, I think, is what I found. [Angela agrees.] And I’ve also found, at least in my experience of the rewatch, that the beginning isn’t as drastically different as the middle. I mean, we’re in sort of now season six, and the other thing that is really striking to me—and I think this is especially true of Rainn Wilson. Rainn Wilson came out of the gate as Dwight. And I recently was like on YouTube doing research for the podcast, and I found his audition video. And I’m like—I—I mean, he’s Dwight! He was Dwight from the first time he spoke those lines! It’s incredible. But everybody, just how keyed in everyone was to their characters is something that stands out to me.

angela

Yeah. I also have found, in rewatching it, that I have a new respect for the patience of the pacing of the show. I love the healthcare episode so much. It’s just a group of people picking a healthcare plan. And—but likewise, I love the episodes—like, we just rewatched “Saber”, and we’re there trying to figure out how to put printers back in a box that Michael has opened like an idiot. He’s ripped the hell out of the box. And now they have to fit it back, because the box was for Gabe and not for Michael. But just these very small scenes that are ensemble work and I just appreciate them, and I appreciate the time. They would let things play out. It wasn’t three jokes a page, let’s move on. So, I think I have a newfound sort of appreciation for the pacing.

jesse

Do you remember what it was like to see the show as it had been put together at the beginning? Like, when it started airing on television, do you remember what it was like to see it? ‘Cause it was not like other television shows. You might have Spin City, you know?

angela

Yeah. I remember just [chuckles] telling my parents, “Guys, give it a chance.” [They chuckle.] “Stick with it.” They were having a little bit of a hard time. [Jesse cackles.] And then they ended up loving it! Although we could never get my grandmother to watch it, ‘cause she thought Michael Scott was vulgar. They got my grandmother to watch it, finally. Right?

jenna

Oh wait, what was the episode, lady?

angela

Oh my gosh!

jenna

It was the one where they say “boner”!

angela

No!

jenna

Which one was it?

angela

But that would’ve done her in, too! It was the one where Phyllis got flashed. [Jenna affirms.] And we said the word—can I—? [Softly.] We said “penis” like 13 times.

jenna

In that episode.

angela

Which I guess was the most you could say it by standards and practices. [Jesse bursts into laughter.] We got it all out in the cold open or something. And my mom and dad were like—they started watching the episode knowing that they had told my grandmother and she promised she would watch it that night. And my dad was like, “Oh no.” [Chuckles.] And then they called her, and they were like, “Well? Did you watch?” And she said, [in a southern drawl] “I turned it off when they said ‘penis’!” And that was like four seconds in. [Jenna laughs.] Never watched it again. Very proud of me! She would say, “Angela, we’re very proud of you. I do not watch the show. I don’t care for it.” So. [Chuckles.]

jesse

When did you feel like you were no longer on a Titanic headed for certain disaster?

jenna

I mean, it was so long. [Jesse laughs.]

angela

It’s the Christmas episode, I think!

jenna

It—but it—but even after that, Phyllis and I would huddle over the rating hotline. There was this hotline you could call in the mornings.

angela

Oh, and there was a guy that always wrote about it. Remember? We’d all go to his website. I forget his name.

jenna

And we knew we had to stay above a certain percentage in order to stay on. And some weeks, we just barely squeaked by. I mean, I don’t think it was until—I don’t know. Maybe when we won the Emmy? I thought, “Well, they don’t cancel you after you win an Emmy, do they?” [Angela chuckles.] But I think they do! [Angela confirms.] Didn’t they cancel the Ben Stiller show?

jesse

Yeah, I was about to say Ben Stiller called to let you know the bad news. [They laugh and agree.]

jenna

Yeah. But I was like, “I don’t know. Maybe that means something.” But I feel it was not for me until season three. We were picked up for a full season. Because before that, it had been—you know, fits and starts. Yeah.

angela

Six, nine. Yeah.

jenna

But they picked us up for a whole season three, and then I was like, “Okay. That’s job security.”

jesse

I feel like if I had been in your position, Jenna, the thing that would’ve scared me the most was that your character is the heart of the show, and so many of the other characters are being awful. And so, there’s just a lot of pressure for people to like you.

angela

Oh my god! When you say it like that! That’s terrifying! Did you feel that way?!

jenna

No? [They affirm and laugh.] Very glad you were not in my ear at the time. I might’ve never gotten out of bed.

angela

What if no one likes you!? [Laughs.] What if they hate Pam?! [Everyone chuckles.]

jesse

I mean, you came on the show at the time. I don’t think I said that then. I only would say it now. Um.

angela

Yeah, I didn’t have to worry about that, I realize. That was like something—I was just a [censored] every week. So.

jenna

Yeah, no. I, uh—well, I mean, I had a partner. I had an extremely likeable partner, in John Krasinski. So, I mean, he was in some ways the everyman of the show. You know? The one who glanced at the camera the most and kind of was connecting with the audience and all of that. And so, yeah.

jesse

I think he is one of the best—there’s a lot of television comedies with an everyman at the center. And usually, I feel like that everyman is just the one who’s more handsome and less funny. And [chuckling] he—and he is truly exceptionally good at that. [Jenna agrees.]

angela

Yeah. And he’s really funny and he has great timing. And I also just always believe him. You know? ‘Cause I think I see some people and I see them doing their bit, but I don’t see him doing his bit. I just see Jim.

jesse

Yeah. It is really—it’s a beautiful thing. Your hair must have hurt on the show, Angela. [Chuckles.]

angela

It did! Thank you! Thank you for acknowledging that!

jesse

It is a really—[laughs].

angela

By the end—you’ll notice, anyone paying attention to Angela Martin’s hair, about halfway through my hair just started to be down and straight. And every once in a while it would be in a ponytail, because I had had a headache for four years. But if you have a bun with that many bobby pins in or like a severe updo some way and you’re in that hairstyle for 12 hours, you are grumpy! It starts to wear on you.

jesse

I read this article one time about the women’s hairstyle that you often see on TV that is like loosely pulled back but with some loose curls forward. And the article was about how it’s not actually a hairstyle you ever see in real life, because of the amount of maintenance it takes to get into that formation. Like, getting the curls right and so on and so forth. But it’s a style that you see all the time on television, because it can be like put in that shape and kept in that shape, but it doesn’t look like you just like got a helmet hair perm or something like that. [Angela confirms.] And the curl in the front—the job of that is that that’s like really easy to manage for continuity. [Laughs.] And I was—it really blew my mind.

angela

Here’s another layer for you. Look at like gals on TV shows that have their hair in a ponytail and look at the ponytail holder. Because anyone that has blonde hair, their ponytail holder is a light beige like blonde-ish color. And then brunettes have a brown one. Then you have the black ponytail holder. You have a reddish ponytail holder. It's like a thing. And now that I see it, I can’t unsee it. And all of my ponytail holders were that sort of beige color, blondish beige, because they’re trying to make it seem like your hair’s just perfectly pulled back as if nothing’s doing it. But yeah. You’re welcome! Enjoy.

jesse

Another thought I had that was not unlike Angela’s hair looking uncomfortable is that once I imagined everyone sitting in their actual chairs in the set, because you’re shooting documentary-style with multiple cameras—you know, there’s more walls and more actual placeness to the set than a set might otherwise have. [Jenna agrees.] I thought, “Gosh! Well, I guess if Pam’s sitting at that desk, everybody else has like buddies.” And you had to sit over in the other place! You’re like six or eight feet from everybody else!

jenna

Yeah. This is something that Steve Carell and I talked about a lot, because he was off in his office, which was very lonely. He actually said to me, “I get why Michael comes out all the time and is like ‘What’s up?!’.” ‘Cause he’s like, “It’s kind of lonely in there!” [They chuckle.] And I was at this island at reception, and I think this is one of the reasons why Angela and I became so close. She was the closest cast member to me. She was right over on the other side of the partition. And especially in those days before we had computers—

angela

Internet. Yeah.

jenna

Yeah! Working computers. We would pass notes. She—like, old timey like third grade school type stuff. And it was—[chuckles] we’d write little letters to each other and pass them over the partition.

angela

It’s one of the reasons I love the scene so much when Angela’s asking Pam if Roy has ever mercy killed an animal for her. Because she found sprinkles in her freezer. And I poked my head over the partition, and that’s exactly how Jenna and I would talk throughout the day. We would sort of meet at our little partition. And when I watch that scene—one, it cracks me up, because we couldn’t get through it. [Jenna confirms.] We started laughing. We were laughing so hard. But also, I was like, “That’s our little spot! That’s where we talk!”

jesse

I’ve read so many interviews with the two of you where the main thing that you describe is messing up the work process of the show by giggling at each other. Like, uncontrollably.

angela

Oh, we were horrible.

jenna

There was a stretch where we had no scenes together. I—I—we haven’t asked, but I feel like there was maybe a mandate in the writers’ room that was like, “Listen, we’re not gonna make our days if we put these two together.” [Laughs.]

jesse

The principal said to separate them?

angela

Yes! And we couldn’t even sit next to each other in the conference room. You’ll see we’re rarely next to each other. I also couldn’t sit next to John. Because when John like breaks, he goes noodle-y, you know? Like his shoulders kind of do this thing. And I could feel him—oh my gosh, I was so southern just then. [Hamming up the accent.] I could feel him going. And I wouldn’t even have to look at him, but I—and then I would lose it. [Jenna agrees.]

jesse

When you realized that this was a real television show that was not about to be canceled, what was it like to know that you had every actor’s dream—which is a real job that you don’t have to get another job right after—but also that you were obliged to be this thing in millions of people’s homes for quite a while thereafter? As long as NBC wanted it.

angela

And more so, now. [Jesse and Jenna agree.] Yeah.

jenna

I can only say with total honesty that it was and is an honor. It was my dream come true to be on an ensemble comedy show getting to play a role like Pam. You mentioned Cheers before. That was my show growing up with my family. [Angela agrees.] We all gathered together, even when I was a teenager that didn’t wanna spend time with them, we watched Cheers. It just—it is so meaningful to me. And it was my pleasure. It wasn’t—it never felt daunting that, you know, oh, this is the only thing I may ever be known for. Who—? Great!

angela

Who cares?! [Jenna echoes her.] Awesome.

jenna

I mean, great. [Angela agrees.] I’ll be Pam forever.

angela

I feel the same way. I love now too that it keeps finding an audience. You know? Streaming has changed everything for the life of this show. And you know, I’ll be at Target and a mom will say, “I love The Office!” And then her kid will be like, [in a high voice] “I love The Office, too!” And it’s like multiple generations and it just makes me so happy. I’m just so thankful for it.

jesse

What did you like rewatching the show that you didn’t expect? What surprised you?

jenna

“Mafia”. [Angela agrees with delight.] There were episodes that, at the time, we all were like, “This is too broad! This is ridiculousness!” And we were somewhat all snooty about it and like, “We are slow-play—”

angela

Comedy snobs.

jenna

Yes. “We are slow-play. You know, we pick healthcare plans. That’s what this show is.”

angela

“We’re not Voodoo Mama Juju.”

jenna

That’s right! And we just rewatched—that was “Murder” or “Mafia”.

angela

Oh! “Mafia”, yeah, sorry.

jenna

But that, you know, has these broader concepts as their storylines. And I thoroughly enjoyed them. So, that has surprised me.

jesse

What were you surprised by negatively? What did you not expect to feel weird about or not like as much?

angela

Well, I mean, I really feel like everything is price of admission. I was happy to show up and happy to be part of it and still happy to be a part of it.

jesse

I mean, you guys do—so far, you’ve seemed like real whiners. I wanna make that clear. [They laugh.]

angela

Well, I will say—here’s the funny thing that is happening, that it’s not a negative. It’s just what—it just is something kind of that happens when you’ve been part of a show that’s been on for as long as it has been on and keeps staying on, is we have both had young folks—maybe teenage age—come up to us and say, “You look like an older version of that lady on The Office.” And then you say, “I am the older version of that lady on The Office!” [Chuckles.] And they’re like, “Woooah! You look a lot older.” And like, “I am a lot older!” [Laughs.] So, that is sort of one the side effects of—but again, I’m so happy that, you know, they’re finding me in me old age.

jenna

It’s true. ‘Cause there is a time capsule aspect to it, where they’re watching you every week streaming and, you know, I’m just like locked in time at 31. I just turned 48, you know? Like, I don’t look the same as the person on the show. And it can be very jarring to the person who [chuckles] is, you know, seeing you in real time.

jesse

What’s that like for you two? Because you’re—like, you’re describing this imaginary third person. Both of you are watching this show every week and you and people you know from 15 years ago. Like, I’m gonna—I’ll tell you, I’ve found a DVD of my sketch comedy show from 2004 or ’05. I did not watch that! [They laugh.]

jenna

I don’t know! It’s been weird! Because sometimes I’m doing this rewatch and I—like, I can’t believe it’s me. I know it’s me. I was there. I have memories of doing it. And yet, maybe because of the passage of time, I’m able to watch it as more of an audience member. At the time, watching it in real time each week, I would have the memory of all the stuff they cut out or the take I wished they’d used! “Oh my gosh, it was so much funnier when he picked me up!” You know? So, it’s like I had a—it’s different. But now, I don’t remember those things. And so, I’m a little removed from it. So, I don’t know.

angela

It is funny. Sometimes I’ll have a day where we’re doing podcast prep and maybe I’ve worked about five hours on the episode. I’ve watched it. I’ve watched the deleted scenes. I’ve jotted down notes. We’ve reached out to people. You know. And then I’ll go in the house to like grab a snack—‘cause I work in like—I converted like a shed into an office. Anyway. So, I’ll walk in the house, and I’ll walk past a mirror and I’m like, “Who’s that? Who’s that lady?” [They chuckle.] Because I start remembering myself in that time capsule, and then I walk by a mirror and I’m like, “Oh god! Oh! Oh, that’s me. Yeah, okay. Right. Right, right, right. That’s 50-year-old me.”

jesse

We’ll wrap up my interview with Jenna Fischer and Angela Kinsey after a quick break. When we return, we’ll talk about the intense feelings fans of the show have for characters like Pam and Angela and what it’s like to be the people playing Pam and Angela. It’s Bullseye, from MaximumFun.org and NPR.

promo

Music: Exciting, distorted techno music. Jesse Thorn: Did your neighbor back into your car?! John Hodgman: Bring that case to Judge Judy. [Gavel bang.] Jesse: Think the mailman might be the real father? John: Give that one to Judge Mathis. [Gavel bang.] Jesse: But. [Music cuts out suddenly.] Does your mom want you to flush her ashes down the toilet at Disney World when she passes away? John: Now, that’s my jurisdiction. [Relaxed music fades in.] John: Welcome to the court of Judge John Hodgman, where the people are real, the disputes are real, and the stakes are often unusual. Speaker 1: If I got arrested for dumping your ashes in The Jungle Cruise, it would be an honor. Speaker 2: I don’t wanna be part of somebody getting a super yacht. Speaker 3: I don’t know at what point you wanna go into this, but we’ve had a worm bin before. Jesse: Available free right now at MaximumFun.org. John: Judge John Hodgman, the court of last resort when your wife won’t stop pretending to be a cat and knocking the clean laundry over. [A meow.]

music

Chiming synth with a steady beat.

jesse

It’s Bullseye. I’m Jesse Thorn. My guests this week are Jenna Fischer and Angela Kinsey, two stars of the hit NBC sitcom, The Office. Jenna played Pam Beesly on the show. On a show full of terrible people, Pam had the rare distinction of being pretty likeable and nice. Angela played Angela Martin, the head of the party planning committee and on again off again partner of Dwight Schrute. Angela and Jenna became fast friends on the set of the show. That friendship has spawned a new book, called The Office BFFs: Tales of The Office from Two Best Friends Who Were There. It’s in bookstores now. Let’s get back into our interview. When I read about the work that the two of you put into preparing for episodes of Office Ladies, I was stunned. You’re watching episodes multiple times. How does the experience of watching an episode of a television show you made change not just watching it 12, 15 years later, but each time you watch it? Like, do you become more or less invested in the fictional part of it? Like, do you—do you notice different things?

jenna

We’ve kind of named our passes. There’s like—

angela

Mm-hm. We have the general pass.

jenna

Yeah, there’s the first pass. And then I do a questions pass, where it’s like, “What am I gonna ask when I reach out to people? What are my questions?” But then we do a details pass. And I love that one, because that’s where I watch the background of every scene. What’s in the background? What’s on the desk? What expression is the person making who isn’t speaking? And the show is so rich with detail. I love that in a scene where—just recently, Andy’s getting a pizza box out of the fridge, and it’s an Alfredo’s pizza box. And I was like, well, Phil Shea, our prop guy, he made sure that—that could have been a generic pizza box. You know? And so, I love the detail pass.

angela

I love the detail pass, too. I saw a train poster behind Jim, in his office. And I talked about it, and a fan wrote in and said it’s actually the Phoebe Snow, and that’s a train that was in Scranton, and like told me the whole history about it. And I’m like, our prop guy, Phil Shea, was so brilliant at like—all the details were connected to Scranton somehow. And just the depth of work that our crew did. I have such an appreciation for the show and their input in the show, now. But yeah, we each watch each week three times. Once as an audience, the second pass I do is deleted scenes or DVD commentary or like any kind of article I can find about it or something in my digital clutter—‘cause apparently I’m a hoarder and I have like 30,000 emails. [Chuckles.] And I’ll find an email that we might have traded that week about something happening on set. And then our last pass is that detail last pass, where we really dig in.

jesse

What’s it like to live with having been this cultural phenomenon—and continuing to be, in a different way, as fictional characters. Right? Like, you are engaged in the idea of both what was it like to make it and what it is like as a thing on its own. And your partners are married to people that did that and are doing that. [Chuckles.]

angela

Yeah! It is surreal. One of the things I forget, and I don’t know why I forget this ‘cause it happens all the time. I mean, on a weekly basis, people yell my name. My actual name. And I was having lunch with Rainn, and we were walking to our cars, and someone drove by and yelled, “Angela!” And I turned. And then they said, “Dwight!” And he was like, “Ange, we don’t know them.” And he goes, “But oh my god, I know the minute they yell Dwight that I don’t know them.” And he said, “They yell your name!” I said, “They do. And Rainn, I look every time! ‘Cause it’s my name!”

jenna

That’s crazy.

angela

I know! Right?!

jenna

Yeah. That’s something that—you know, you’ve said that before, but every time you say that I’m like, “Yeah! Your character name is your name!”

angela

And I had dinner with Oscar—Oscar and his wife and my husband and I had dinner. And we’re walking out and someone’s like “Angela! Oscar!” [Chuckling.] Like, we’re both like, “Hellooo!” ‘Cause it’s our name!

jesse

We’re laughing, but that sounds very uncomfortable to me.

angela

I mean, it’s been—how long now? 15 years? Like, so it’s now just part of my life. It’s like probably—you know, when I think of Norm Macdonald, how many characters he played that they just used his name, Norm. You know?

jesse

[Laughing.] There was a promo for—remember his show, The Norm Show? [Angela confirms.] I very—I was obsessed with Norm Macdonald as a teenager, and I remember very vividly a promo for The Norm Show, the premise of which was that they were addressing Norm Macdonald by his character’s name, which was not Norm, and he was just kind of staring into the distance. [Angela affirms with a laugh.] And then finally, they said, “Well, how about we just call him Norm?” And then he was like, “What? Yes? I’m Norm.” [Chuckles.]

angela

Yeah, I remember that. That’s my Norm moment.

jesse

Have you ever like met—I don’t know—Jamie Farr or like some other actor who’s iconic from an iconic—have you ever met somebody from Cheers? You know, Woody Harrelson.

angela

Ted Danson! [Jenna echoes the name.] I’ve met Ted Danson and it’s—I mean, he was so amazing on The Good Place too, and he’s done so many other things. But yeah, he’s—he’ll always be Sam for me. [Jenna agrees.]

jesse

Yeah. I mean, even if you’re watching like—I think he may be—I love Bored to Death. I think he’s maybe to probably better on Bored to Death than he is on Cheers, which is one of the greatest television shows of all time. And still, when you’re watching Bored to Death, you’re thinking, “Man, Sam Malone’s doing a great job on this show!” [Laughs.]

angela

Yeah! It’s pretty crazy.

jesse

Do you—do you check in with somebody like that? And say like, “I too know what it’s like to have someone yell my character’s name down the street at me 15 years later.” [They laugh.]

jenna

I remember that John and I met Ted Danson, and he sort of alluded to that. He was like, “Listen, no matter what I do for the rest of my life, I’m gonna be Sam Malone. And I’m so grateful for it, because I’m only doing all the rest of the stuff that I’m doing because I was lucky enough to be Sam Malone.” And that always stuck with me, because it’s true. I mean, The Office was my big break, and it’s why I’m able to do everything else that I do. And I’m just so grateful.

jesse

[Playfully.] Again, whiney, but it’s fine.

angela

I know! Such a whiney!

jesse

We’ll tone down the whining a little in the edit.

jenna

I’m so sorry. I can be more negative. I’ll do it. I’ll do it. [They laugh.] I take your note.

angela

Next answer is gonna be spicy.

jenna

Yeah, wait. Wait for it.

jesse

Were the two of you scared to embark on the project of watching the episodes? Or did you look forward to it?

angela

Oh, I looked forward to it, but I was also nervous, because the fandom is so loyal and so strong, and they know the show way better than we do. We watch it three times a week. They’ve seen the whole series 17 times. And their support has been amazing, and I just always wanna do right by them and uncover everything I can and learn everything I can and add what I remember and my own memories. But I was—I was nervous about making sure we did right by the show that’s so beloved. What about you, Jenna?

jenna

I didn’t think hard enough about it, and so now I am like, “Oh wow! We promised to watch all 201 episodes.” [Chuckles.] That’s like really a lot. I just didn’t think ahead. So, I think now I’m nervous. Like, can you make 201 great podcasts? Like, I feel a pressure to not go back on my research, to not phone it in, like to give every episode the same amount of effort. So, I feel that pressure, I guess.

angela

There’s webisodes, too.

jenna

Oh boy. [They laugh.] Oh dear.

jesse

Gotta deal with webisodes. You gotta deal with mobisodes. You gotta deal with quick bites. [Laughing.] You gotta deal with—

angela

All the digital NBC.com stuff.

jesse

I mean, at the time, I got the impression that maybe the two of you just want—really wanted an excuse to hang out with each other. And maybe your dream project might have been just like West Wing recaps or something. [Chuckles.]

jenna

Well, there was a lot behind this decision. We had both been working a lot after The Office, but a lot out of town. You know? A lot of things shoot out of Los Angeles. And even after I was cast on a local sitcom for ABC—Splitting Up Together—I was close to home, but I was working 14 hours a day away from home. And it just was—it was getting difficult for me to parent the way I wanted to. You know? I didn’t love Facetiming my kids for dinner and leaving before they woke up in the morning. The hours were so demanding, and I was missing out on a lot of the—like, a lot of the little parenting—almost like the mundane parts of parenting that I was really craving. And I talked to my sister about this. She’s not in the industry, but this is such a working parent thing. You know? And Angela and I would talk about it a lot. How can we be at the school concert and also have a job that we love and that pays the bills and all that. [Angela agrees.] And—

angela

And we wanted to work together again. We’ve wanted— [Jenna echoes her.] We’ve wanted to work together again ever since the show ended. And you know, I’m thankful that we’re both like working character actresses, but it was like—a job would be in Vancouver or New Orleans or Atlanta or you’d have hours where you miss things. And in our true hearts, we just love family. And we wanna be with our family. And we were like, “Okay, how do we work together and not miss soccer practice and earn a living and—?”

jenna

And so, we went into business with one another, which has been the greatest thing in the whole world! And we’re our own bosses now, and we have this like most amazing, fun job.

jesse

So, I think in the initial run of The Office, people had the relationships that they typically have to sitcoms. Right? I think there were comedy nerd snobs—like me—who loved that they were getting to see a comedy nerd snob TV show on regular television at a time when there just weren’t very many shows like that. It was the very beginning of there being shows that—more than one at a time—shows that snobs liked. [Laughing.] You know? Like, before it was like, “Ugh! I gotta figure out when News Radio and Seinfeld are on, and those are the only two good shows ‘cause I don’t have cable!” And it was the beginning of the blossoming of that. So, there was that for us. And then I think there was a lot of people who just liked it ‘cause it was a good sitcom and people just watch whatever sitcom is on that’s good and they like it and they’re like, “Yeah, I like those characters. It’s fun. It’s funny.” A thing in the age of streaming particularly—to some extent DVDs, but streaming particularly, you evolve a very different relationship to the show that is much deeper, in terms of its relationship—in terms of relationships to the characters rather than the jokes or the—you know, comedy nerd things that is really like personal and emotional in a way that is unusual for a sitcom. And that’s amazing and beautiful. It’s a lot for you two to lean into. You know? Like, you’ve taken it on. [Laughs.] You know? [Angela agrees.] It’s like being a cast member of the original Star Trek and being willing to go to the cons. Right? Like, it’s—not to say that—there are many worse jobs than having people tell you how you’ve changed their lives, but it’s also haaard! It’s haaard. And I wonder if you feel more or less comfortable accepting that, when someone says that to you or when you feel that from someone, if you can like—if you can bear it.

jenna

You know, I wrote a book several years ago, called The Actor’s Life: A Survival Guide. And I went out on a book tour. And sometimes I—you know—would do a signing. And I really got a glimpse into like how intense people have feelings for the show and also for Pam. You know? Especially for young women, Pam’s journey really resonates. It resonates for me. I mean, I feel like I blossomed as a human being while playing Pam, so it’s very personal to me. And in moments in meeting people, there were times when people would share their traumas with me—deep pain, grief, family stuff—as a way of explaining how The Office has helped them through. And it is, uh—it was—it’s a lot to hold. You know? It is. It’s true. And I just so—yet, at the same time, I can’t express to you like what it means to be able to personify that for a person. For a young woman to tell me what that growth has been for her and watching Pam. But it’s emotional, and—you know, at the end of those evenings, it is definitely a lot to hold, but it—I think it’s—I don’t know. It’s also very meaningful. I don’t know if that made any sense.

angela

No, it did. I mean, I think for me [sighs] I always think sometimes people have space in their heart for you in a way. And if I can make space for someone who’s going through something—a few years ago, my dad passed away and some of the music we used to listen to together will come on and I’m just instantly just with my dad in a way. And it’s so meaningful to me. And if I ever met that artist, I might—I don’t know what I would say to them. I might lose myself in that moment. And I just have compassion for people in that moment, because you never know what people are going through. And if our show got them through something and I can be there and tell them thank you, then I wanna do that.

jesse

And when you’re done with The Office episodes, is it—you gonna do West Wing or is it—? [They chuckle.]

angela

Well, we have a book coming out. We wrote a book: The Office BFFs, which we’re really excited about because it’s very different from the podcast in the fact that it’s just a more intimate story of our friendship and how we met there and our life in Hollywood and just like learning how to walk a red carpet. We were a hot mess, and being at an awards show, and maybe—

jenna

Yeah, and learning how to pump at work.

angela

[Chuckles.] Yeah. But we were going through all of these photos. We have so much. We had thousands of pictures and memorabilia, ‘cause—I don’t know. We’re hoarders or something? We save everything.

jenna

We’re the people who brought our cameras to work!

angela

Yeah! We were the people on MySpace! [Chuckles.] And we were like, “What can we do with all of this?” And we’ve put it in this book and we’re sharing our personal stories, and it means so much to me. I’m so excited for my daughter have the book. And listen, lady, I will do a podcast with you as long as you wanna do it, ‘cause I love doing it. We’ve joked that we would love to do all of Keanu Reeve’s movies. [Laughs.]

jenna

Yeah! Office Ladies Watch Movies. Office Ladies Watch Keanu. And we’ll just break down, you know—I don’t know where we start, but like—Point Break. So much rain!

angela

Oh my gosh, Johnny Utah, are you kidding!?

music

Gentle, jazzy music fades in.

jesse

Angela and Jenna, I’m so grateful to you for taking the time to come on the show. Thank you very much. [They thank Jesse.] Jenna Fischer and Angela Kinsey, two very cool people! Their new book is called The Office BFFs: Tales of The Office from Two Best Friends Who Were There. You can buy it online or at your local bookstore. It’s got tons of information about the show and about their really special friendship. If you haven’t given their podcast a listen, you should. It’s called The Office Ladies. They’re currently making their way through season six of the show. They often have people from The Office on with them to chat and gossip. And, as you can hear in this interview, they’re just lovely and delightful. [Music fades out.]

music

Bright, chiming synth with a steady beat.

jesse

That’s the end of another episode of Bullseye. Bullseye is created from the homes me and the staff of Maximum Fun, in and around greater Los Angeles, California. I woke up this morning and, uh, went outside to my front gate, where I found someone had left me a gift. An enormous, pink brassiere. So, thanks to whoever left that for me and my family. We appreciate it very much. Our show is produced by speaking into microphones. Our senior producer is Kevin Ferguson. Our producers are Jesus Ambrosio, Valerie Moffat, and Richard Robey. Our production fellow at Maximum Fun is Tabatha Myers. We get booking help from Mara Davis. Our interstitial music is by Dan Wally, also known as DJW. Our theme song is called “Huddle Formation”, written and recorded by The Go! Team. Thanks to them and their label, Memphis Industries, for sharing it with us. Bullseye is also on YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook. You can find us there. Give us a follow. We’ll share with you all of our interviews. And I think that’s about it. Just remember: all great radio hosts have a signature signoff.

promo

Speaker: Bullseye with Jesse Thorn is a production of MaximumFun.org and is distributed by NPR. [Music fades out.]

About the show

Bullseye is a celebration of the best of arts and culture in public radio form. Host Jesse Thorn sifts the wheat from the chaff to bring you in-depth interviews with the most revered and revolutionary minds in our culture.

Bullseye has been featured in Time, The New York Times, GQ and McSweeney’s, which called it “the kind of show people listen to in a more perfect world.” Since April 2013, the show has been distributed by NPR.

If you would like to pitch a guest for Bullseye, please CLICK HERE. You can also follow Bullseye on Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook. For more about Bullseye and to see a list of stations that carry it, please click here.

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