B.J. Novak answers ‘Chair Model’ questions

Following are B.J. Novak’s answers to questions that Tallyheads posted last week about Chair Model. It really is a fascinating look at what goes on behind the scenes! Thank you, B.J., for offering such thoughtful answers!

Tanster —

Thanks for all the questions. It is great to have viewers who watch and think about the show so carefully. I think this is a great episode, and first I need to acknowledge that the entire staff did an incredible job contributing to this one, both in terms of the script and the finished product. In particular I remember Paul and Jen giving it shape and bringing the chair model story to the foreground, and Greg leading some inspired dialogue rewrites, and Jeff Blitz coming up with great touches every day on set.

Q. Originally, the episode was titled “Parking.” Was there more of an emphasis before on the stolen parking spaces than there was on Michael’s quest for a date, or did “Chair Model” just seem to fit better overall as a title?
| LittleKidLover

A. The original working title was “Michael Dating.” But we knew the episode title would be released before the airing of “Dinner Party,” and we knew that if that title were next up on people’s Tivos, they’d be able to figure out that the dinner party probably wasn’t going to go that well for Michael and Jan. So “Parking” became the working title. But that’s a pretty bland title, even for an “Office” episode, where we pride ourselves on our bland titles. At one point someone suggested changing it to “Chair Model,” which sounds more fun and still a bit mysterious, and, most importantly to us, more specifically related to the main story of the episode.

We tend to go for the simplest episode title in general, rather than the most clever. Mindy Kaling reminded us during this naming process that “The Injury” was originally titled “My Grilled Foot,” which I had forgotten.

Q. The blind date seemed like a brilliant homage to the British Office. Did you watch that episode before you wrote the script? | Emily

Q. Who was the actress that played the landlady? Has she done any other “Office” episodes? | Clara

A. The actress is Brooke Dillman. She was excellent. Very funny and realistic and a great improviser who had great chemistry with Steve. There were many fantastic takes and other sides to the scene that unfortunately couldn’t be included because of time. Yes, this was her first Office episode.

We did talk about the British “Office” as a reference point when we talked about how to approach that scene. On the one hand, that scene was an opportunity to go into a great area of comic awkwardness that we loved on that show. On the other hand, Michael Scott simply isn’t David Brent.

I think part of the key in getting that brutal awkwardness out of the scene — and still staying true to Michael Scott’s character — was emphasizing Michael’s expectations. I think it helped to show that he was expecting his date to be the young, pretty blonde he first sees — even though the description he’s given directly contradicts that. And Michael is even wearing a rose in his pocket. His expectations for the date are unrealistic, and Michael is a person who really wears his heart on his sleeve; it’s probably his inability to hide his massive disappointment that drives his rudeness to Margaret, rather than a disregard for her feelings.

72 comments

  1. Awesome BJ! Thanks so much for taking the time out of your busy day to answer our questions. Once again, I have to say how much I love The Office and and sheer brilliance of the writers. Muchos Gracias.

  2. that was so fun to read!! Thanks you guys! I definitely love the ending, one of my favourites!

  3. This is a really great feature Tanster, I hope it becomes a regular addition to OT! Thanks to BJ (and Gene and Lee for last time).

  4. Thank you, BJ! You are a wonderful writer and an absolute doll for taking the time out for us!

  5. B.J.- The Office is without a doubt the best show on TV, and that is due to the dedication of its writers and actors. It is such a joy to watch. For you to take time out of what must be an incredibly long day to answer fans questions is fantastic…many thanks!

  6. Awesome! Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions. Undoubtedly, “The Office,” is the best 30 minutes of the week.

    I still maintain that it was Jan/Melora Hardin as the chair model. :)

  7. What a treat! thanks, tanster and BJ.. please do these for all episodes…more more more
    looking forward to tomorrow…………

  8. HA, I KNEW that Kev was using the footbath!

    Thanks B.J. and Tan monster for another look into the brains of our favourite writers!

  9. I’ve been waiting for this post! Again – a great set of questions, thanks BJ for taking the time for us! And Tanster…I really hope this becomes a regular feature on OT! Woohoo!!!

  10. Wow! Thank you, BJ, for answering so many questions! This is a big part of why I love this show so much!

  11. Thanks for the thoughtful answers, B.J.

    I think you’re having a great season, by the way. Both “Local Ad” and “Chair Model” were excellent.

  12. a-maaaaaa-zing!
    Thanks, BJ.

    And tanster, if this Q&A with the writers was your idea, you’re a genius. And I thank you.

  13. Thank you tanster and B.J. Such thoughtful answers. I really hope this becomes a regular thing!

    I was really hoping B.J. would answer the question about why Creed needs three chairs. But honestly what I was really hoping was that B.J. would answer that question with, “We don’t really know! Creed is a mystery.” So, I guess it doesn’t matter, does it? :-)

    Can’t wait for Night Out tomorrow!

  14. That was so interesting! This was a great episode that hit on everything I love about The Office. As if that wasn’t enough, there’s even more–BJ Novak generously shares the writers’ perspective! It’s a wonderful treat, incomparably gracious, so thanks very much!

  15. Thanks for answering these questions, BJ. I really love getting the inside scoop on my favorite show!

  16. I don’t know if this has been mentioned in the comments already, but the actress who played Pam’s Landlady was also the Home Ec teacher in Superbad.

  17. I love this! Thanks B.J. This was such a great idea Tanster, to have them answer questions, I hope we get to see this for the rest of the season, it just tops everything off perfectly.

  18. Oh, dear. Cool Guy Paul. Interesting that in the interview he did about the episode, he just says that he got a tour of the set through some acting “connections” — like being the cousin of one of the writers :).

    Thanks for the answers, BJ. I still want to know what the story behind Pam being a slob :).

  19. Great work BJ!!!

    Kevin Malone was priceless this episode and Jam was Jammy good.

    Thanks Tanster

  20. BJ and Tanster, thank you SO much. It makes the show infinitely more brilliant and fascinating to have the inside scoop. BJ, you’re very generous!

  21. Thanks, BJ! It’s so great to get insight into the show, particularly about the characters themselves.

    Terrific episode by the way :)

  22. nice observation about pam’s landlady and superbad! she is also in a ‘Reddi Wip’ commercial on tv right now.

  23. Did anyone else just go to CoolGuyPaul.com and started getting worried and then spent $150 on emergency disaster supplies?…

  24. Thank you very, very, much for setting this up! It’s amazing that the already very-busy writers are willing to share what goes on “inside the story” on these episodes. I totally love it! I can’t believe how accessible the writers are (thanks, guys!)–and tanster, thank you for working this out for us to enjoy!

  25. Just wanted to add my thanks to BJ and tanster for this great Q & A. The writers are such a huge part of The Office and it’s so great that the fans (though tanster and OT) have such incredible access to them and that they are so willing to share some insight into these episodes. I hope these Q & A’s can keep going – I’d really love to hear from Mindy about this week’s episode too!

  26. Thanks, BJ, for taking the time to answer the great questions. This was such an awesome episode and seemed to be an ultimate collaborative effort. You are all so talented!!

  27. Loved the answers BJ gives. What a fun episode to write. I feel like everyone that works there is, in some way, related either by marriage or by blood to Angela Kinsey (Greg Daniels, Paul/Toby, Cool Guy Paul)… I’m adopted. I wonder if I have any Kinsey heritage?

  28. Thanks for taking the time to answer all those questions, B.J. It was a fantastic read!

  29. A feature I would like to see on upcoming DVD’s: The director’s cut versions of episodes, or options to include deleted scenes while watching the episodes. You know, so the deleted scenes appear in order while you’re watching. That would be cool.

  30. Ah! I wish I would have submitted a question on time…but maybe i’ll just ask you tallyheads what you think? do you think that they shot the cemetery scene on a fake cemetery? I mean it would be sooo disrespectful to be dancing around and being so silly like that in a real cemetery, no?

  31. Thank you so much for giving us this extra insight into the show we all love so much! What other show has writers/actors/producers/directors who are so giving of their time and talent to their fans??? And what other fan website has such an awesome administrator who thinks up great ideas like this Q&A segment and then has the connections to pull it off? Thanks Tanster! And thanks to B.J. and Gene and Lee for taking the time to answer. I really hope to hear from Mindy too!!!

  32. Thanks for using my question, Tanster (and thanks for answering BJ)!

    I hope this continues…it’s really cool to get the background behind these episodes so soon after watching them!

  33. I would have died to see Michael and Dwight singing ‘Legs’ about the chair model. But, it ended pretty well anyway.

  34. lol, I seriously saw that Reddi Whip commercial with Pam’s landlady like 10 minutes after I watched this episode and I was completely thrown off!

    Thanks BJ and tanster :-)

  35. I concur with everyone above…great to have a Q&A feature with guest responders! Really appreciate the time BJ took to answer questions and of course Jennie for setting it up.

    I love any behind-the-scenes insight like this. It proves that the fans are sharp (like picking up that Kevin was using his footbath) and the writers for making these characters so real and remembering their histories (even though we didn’t see the footbath in the broadcast version, the writers put it there and we noticed).

    LOVED the Paul Faust story – how he got cast, using his real name, and how he connected his real website to his character. Just brilliant!

  36. Thanks Tanster and BJ! It is really great to have these Q&As! Just another reason (the graciousness of everyone involved) why The Office is my favorite show!

  37. Just as brilliant as last time. Thank you so much BJ and Tanster. Our writers are the best. Hope to hear from Mindy as well. This is sort of, kind of a regular column now, yes? :) Once again thanks.

  38. I didn’t think about the cemetery angle until it was brought up here, but yea, it would seem kinda strange to take a small film crew into a real cemetery to film a comedy where a guy dances on a grave.
    In tanster’s set blog there was a pic of fake Schrute headstones in the prop dept. It’s plausible it’s either a fake cemetery or real with fake headstones(esp those Dwight jumped on.)

  39. Thank you B.J. for providing such great answers and thank you Tan Monster for setting this up!

  40. This is so cool because it shows you just how down to earth the Office people are. They sound like they’d be so fun to hang out with.

  41. 66 – I doubt it was in a real cemetery. They had to have made that gravestone, and most cemeteries have visitors and ceremonies each day. They can’t just shut one down because a show has to film.

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