B.J. Novak answers ‘Chair Model’ questions

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2008 | 72 comments

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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.

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72 comments

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  1. 72. Jill  

    Wow! I love all these tidbits! They let me appreciate this great ep even more! Thanks BJ


  2. 71. In2TheRoses  

    I agree, these are great! Please make them a regular!!


  3. 70. Sara in Philly  

    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.


  4. 69. Dwigt  

    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.


  5. 68. I like beets  

    Awesome!!! I LOVE this site!!


  6. 67. Sticious  

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


  7. 66. absolutely I do  

    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.)


  8. 65. Pam Scherbatsky  

    Thanks a bunch! These were great!


  9. 64. eb  

    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.


  10. 63. my my my turn  

    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!


  11. 62. Stapler  

    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!


  12. 61. Extra Awesome  

    Thanks B.J. and Tanster…I love these Q&A’s!!


  13. 60. UNSHUN  

    Wow… this is not your ordinary blog. You have the connects!


  14. 59. kelley  

    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 :-)


  15. 58. the zoppity  

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


  16. 57. Ben  

    So informative! PLEASE have these for every episode, they greatly add!


  17. 56. Ashley  

    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!


  18. 55. Kristin  

    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!!!


  19. 54. jenn mark  

    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?


  20. 53. NathanTheTemp  

    This is just awesome. Many thanks to B.J. for taking the time to do this. And many corresponding thanks to tanster for hooking us up!

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