Gene Stupnitsky answers ‘Weight Loss’ questions

Wow. That title sounds like Gene is a dieting counselor. ;)

Here are The Office’s Gene Stupnitsky’s answers to your questions about the Season 5 premiere, Weight Loss!

Q. Give us some behind-the-scenes details on the Jim/Pam proposal scene. I’ve heard that the gas station was fake, the rain was fake, even the traffic was fake! Do tell! | tanster

Gene: I don’t think any scene in our show’s history went through as much prep as that one.

You wouldn’t believe how much time, money and planning went into making that proposal look casual, authentic and unpremeditated.

The original plan was to film this at the actual Merritt Parkway on the East coast — but there were just too many variables. So it was decided, after about a dozen meetings, that we would –- at considerable cost –- recreate the Merritt Parkway in the parking lot of a Best Buy in Los Feliz, California.

I guess that’s what they call “Hollywood magic.”

So led by our most excellent production designer, Michael Gallenberg, and a small army of crew members, a fake gas station was built, complete with rain machines and stunt drivers driving in figure eights to recreate the feel of a highway.

After filming, we sent that footage to a company that does special effects and they covered up the California mountains with those tall East-coast type trees that you now see in the background.

We knew that we had only one chance to get it right. So, yes, while the gas station, traffic and rain were all fake, the sentiment was all real.

And I have to add, driving onto the set with Greg Daniels and Stephen Merchant (he was in town directing an upcoming episode), I couldn’t believe what a big production our little show had become.

It was, to say the least, pretty spectacular to see hundreds of crew members and tons of 18-wheelers there to film what amounted to about 45 seconds or so of footage. Hope you guys were happy with the results.


  1. Wow, that’s unbelievable! I had no idea the proposal scenery was all staged. Now I need to go home and rewatch the scene AGAIN to truly appreciate all the hard work (and expense) that went into it.

  2. Wow. I would have never guessed. That is excellent! I can’t imagine how much time that must have taken, it looked so real! But I guess if some highway driver saw a Jim-Pam proposal at a gas station…word would have leaked VERY quickly.
    Thanks Gene and Tanster!

  3. Dude… I go to that Best Buy all the time! Too bad I didn’t the day they were filming. Well done to all! Definitely wouldn’t have pegged it to be the Best Buy parking lot. I figured you all just went out on some desolate road and did it up.

  4. Regarding the proposal scene:

    Being an East Coaster who has travelled the Merritt many a time, you did a credible job recreating the look and feel. I thought of the Merritt when watching the episode/scene.

    Great episode!

  5. I just wanted to say that all of that hard work paid off because I honestly thought that scene was perfect.

  6. Tanster, you absolutely rock! Thank you so much for doing stuff like this for us! I love these Q & A’s. I can’t believe how much went into that scene. It was most definitely worth it though. Thank you so much for giving us such a wonderful TV moment!

  7. I love how they put the grape soda picture on the window of the gas station. Perfection. They did an awesome job on this whole production.

  8. Wow – they did a great job. I thought the location looked authentic, I’m very impressed. Can’t wait for more Q&A!

  9. That’s awesome Gene! I’m studying to be a production designer so I was really interested to hear all that as well. Thanks so much, and we all really did enjoy it!

  10. There go all my dreams of visiting the gas station where the single greatest marriage proposal of all time was filmed. :(

    But I can see the safety issues involved with filming at a real location. You’re driving along, you see Jenna Fischer and John Krasinski at a gas station, you’re so excited you don’t notice as you drive off a cliff…

  11. So now the Best Buy parking lot in Los Feliz will become an Office shrine! Pilgrims, mark your maps!

    Thanks so much for sharing that info. We dearly love your “little show.”

  12. the result was amazing and perfect. i have no doubt that YEARS AND YEARS from now so many of us will rewatch it and it will still feel as magical.

  13. It was amazing and perfect. I have no doubt that years and years from now when we rewatch it it will still be as magical.

  14. Wow, I didn’t think it was possible for me to be anymore impressed with that scene but I am! I have no idea how much went into filming it. I think I’m even more in love with it knowning how much work they all did to make it all happen.

    Everyone behind the scenes and onscreen did an amazing job, not just on the proposal but the entire episode, thanks guys!

  15. Wow! I will never look at that scene quite the same way again. It was so perfect and fitting for JAM. I guess a three year build-up to such a huge moment required larger than life means to make it happen. It sure makes me appreciate it that much more as a fan. :-)

  16. I just don’t understand why the Merritt Parkway was selected. (Can this be submitted as a follow up question?) Southern Conn. is not really in between NYC and Scranton, at all. Logically it would be somewhere along I-80 around Long Bridge, NJ.

    A quick google maps shows this easily: link

  17. As an east coaster myself, I was actually pretty floored that the rest stop looked so familiar. Everyone was mentioning it was a New Jersey road stop, but it always looked like one of the many parkways I’ve traveled here in NY all my life. Thanks for making that scene so wonderful and local.

  18. Tanster and Gene, Thanks so much for doing these Q&A’s. Now I have to go back and watch the episode for a forth time!

  19. I would have never guessed that there were special effects of that caliber involved. It looked so natural, and that awesome scene came across so authentic, emotional and beautiful. What great, amazing work you guys do!

  20. I’m so impressed! I really thought that the rain was real for some reason. They must have done special effects to make the sky gray as well.

    It must have been so exciting for John and Jenna to film that–a whole huge set built just for them! There must have been so much pressure to film it just right. But they did it perfectly!

  21. I know it’s early to be thinking about it, but I would really love to see a special feature on this in the Season Five DVD set. I think it would be really interesting to see how the set was created and how the scene was filmed. I had no idea that so much work went into it! And it may have only been 45 seconds of footage, but the moment was four seasons in the making (well, technically three and a half), and speaking for myself, it was totally worth it. I’ve watched that scene at least once a day since it aired.

  22. Question!! If this is supposed to be the Merritt, why is there a truck going by!?
    (I just went back and rewatched that scene to see if I could catch anything wrong with it and ruin everyone’s dreams.)

  23. Chel1395 – that’s EXACTLY what would’ve happened had I driven by and seen that. How’d you know? lol

  24. I traveled the Merritt Pkwy everyday for 15 years and I’ve got to say that you all did a fantastic job at getting the proposal scene to look like it was really there. Can’t wait to see what else is in store this season. You are off to an amazing start!!
    Thanks Tanster and Gene.

  25. Everyone involved in that scene did a fantastic job! I would have had no idea that wasn’t a real gas station by the highway! And for such a great moment in The Office, I think it was definitely worth everything that was put into it.

  26. I have to say that the scene that you all created was absolutely AMAZING!!! I loved the proposal! Thanks for the great work you put into it!

  27. Amazing! I have lived in Fairfield County for ages and the only reason I thought it wasn’t the Merritt was because of the truck.

    As to why the Merritt would have been chosen as a location: I know, it’s not in-between Scranton and NYC, but it is, as Parkways go, a good-looking road that has “Northeast” written all over it.

    Again — well done!

  28. Well, now we know where all the extra budget money for this season went…to good use!

  29. This scene will go down in TV history as one of the most classic TV moments of all time. I’ve watched it literally dozens of times. Absolutely perfect. You guys did an amazing job making that moment more incredible than any of us fans imagined (and believe me, we’ve imagined it would be pretty awesome!)

  30. Best scene of The Office EVER. Seriously. And not just because we’ve all been waiting for a JAM proposal, but the sheer amazingness of it… The parking lot of a Best Buy!?! Freaking amazing!

  31. Merrit Parkway? Who goes to Connecticut to get to Scranton from NYC? You would go through Jersey!! Believe me…I’ve done a few times a year for 20 years.

  32. I’m amazed that wasn’t shot on the actual Merritt Parkway – as someone that drives down there on a daily basis, I immediately recognized it and thought it was honestly shot at one of the stops off the side. Fantastic work!

  33. Happy with the results? That’s the understatement of the year!! I was a Tom Cruise-couch jumping fool after that scene!!

  34. WOW!!!!!!!! Thank you so MUCH for the trouble of this SCENE…it was INCREDIBLE and I must say that John AND Jenna deserve an EMMY for that acting…AMAZING!! :) By the way, when will the wedding be??? THIS SPRING??? I can just imagine the wedding!! :)

  35. Everybody who is bashing the use of the exit because it was not on the way from Scranton to NYC, i think they used it because it had a special meaning for Jim and Pam (spilled the soda). So it was a place they spent some time.

  36. (gasp) The Merritt Parkway! As a native of Stamford, I totally swooned at those words. Honestly, every time I watch that scene, it reminds me of one of the Mobil rest stops that dot the Parkway between Greenwich and Fairfield. I think the set designers and all the people who worked on it did a great job, it felt very much like an East Coast rest stop. The only thing is that the Merritt is in Connecticut, north east of NYC, and considering Jim & Pam would have met halfway between NYC & Scranton (southwest of NYC), most likely in Jersey, there’s no way the Merritt would have been believable. :)

  37. Thank you, Gene, for taking the time to bless us with the details of the most memorable moment between Jim and Pam. It’s only fitting that so much time and expense was spent on one scene to make it just right.

  38. Ditto #47, I live in Westport and I was so excited! They made it look so much like the Merritt, but they kinda spent TOO much money… and true, why is there a truck if it’s supposed to be the Merritt? I know it’s the JAM proposal scene, but this whole thing seemed a little excessive.

  39. Gene, it’s truly difficult to put into words just how beautifully perfect that scene was. It was understated but compelling, sweetly romantic but not saccharin, beautifully written and acted, and the staging was without a doubt beyond believable. This will go down in television history as one of the best, (if not THE best), and most touching proposal scenes ever. So nicely done. Kudos. The whole episode was absolutely stellar. Thank you.

  40. It was indeed impressive . . . but the Merritt Parkway isn’t remotely between NYC and Scranton :). Pam mentioned Montclair, which is closer, but it’s about a 20 minute drive from NYC and a two hour drive from Scranton.

    Otherwise, amazing job :).

  41. I think we can let whether or not it could geographically be the Merritt Parkway slide. The results speak for themselves, right?

  42. Even though I know this won’t continue (you’re right, tanster, after every episode would be slightly stalker-ish), these writer interviews really enhance each episode for me. Thanks to Gene and all the writers who did this in the past and, of course, the Tan Monster herself.

  43. Before I start reading, I just want to say thank you to both of you for this. Oh, how I love this website :)

  44. Wow. I am as jaded L.A. as you can get and the only thing I thought was staged were the cars (obviously stunt drivers) and the rain (for scheduling reasons). What kills me is you know there are tons of Office fans in LF that had NO idea such a scene was being filmed there at the ‘ol Best Buy. I could’ve driven right by it! Crazy and job well done!!

    Thanks Gene!

  45. It makes me really happy that Gene is ALSO upset with Entertainment Weekly guy. I was reading my issue several weeks ago when, with little warning, there was a huge spoiler about Jim and Pam. I try very hard to avoid spoilers! It was still an AWESOME scene though.

    Thanks so much for posting this Tanster! It was a fun read.

  46. Kudos to Randall Einhorn on the improv sigh! it was definitely one of the funniest moments on the show

  47. HA. Nice call out on Ausiello :) I was pretty disappointed in that spoiler as well. We know you’re oh-so-important with your industry contacts, but jeez, show some restraint for the fans!

  48. Gene, thanks for the insight into this episode. I love the care in the details that go into this show. That “sigh” is hilarious! You can picture the cameraman’s shoulders drooping as he walks away in disappointment. lol

    (Tanster, thanks for adding my question.)

  49. “Even the cameramen improvise”! I love it. :) That sigh cracked me up too!

    Thanks to Gene and tanster for the great Q&A, as usual! LOVED this episode!

  50. I too was annoyed by the rainstorm hint by the EW guy. Was expecting a more racy scene than a proposal so I was still surprised.

  51. I cannot believe they filmed the proposal at the Los Feliz Best Buy parking lot! That used to be my local Best Buy. Too crazy. They did a phenomenal job. I never would have known- great job everyone!!!

    Thanks Tanster, for the Q&A!

  52. Maybe the cast and crew should all start talking about how horrible Amy Ryan is and how hard she is to work with. You know, so no one will want to hire her. That way we can have Holly forever. What, that’s not fair to Amy Ryan?

  53. Thanks so much for answering everyone’s questions, Gene! My favorite scene was the Phyllis/Dwight one, too. Maybe they both could use a little “laugh therapy.” Have you ever heard of that? There are some funny clips of laugh therapy on YouTube (even one with John Cleese).

  54. thanks for picking my question!! hopefully we’ll get a more in-depth answer one of these days regarding the screen names =P

  55. Nothing at all about the disappearing/reappearing goatee??? I figured that would be one of the questions and would have been interested in his perspective. Was it not on your list, Tanster, or did Gene choose not to answer it?

    [from tanster: it was on the list.]

  56. I love The Office, and how hard they always tried for accuracy about Scranton, but they messed up on the proposal location. The product placements (I grew up drinking Crystal soda), locations, names, even the catch phrases (“that’s what she said” was the ongoing joke all through high school in the 80s). Yes, the proposal scene was terrific, but this article shows they were off base. Mr. Stupnitsky (a great Wilkes-Barre name) said they were recreating the Merritt Parkway. But the Merritt runs from Milford, CT to the NY border near Greenwich… so if Jim and Pam were on the Merritt they were on the opposite side of NYC and Pratt from Scranton and another 35 miles in the wrong direction. They should’ve been on Interstate 80 near the PA/NJ border around the Delaware Water Gap. That’s roughly halfway. But then there would be rest stops next the highway… exits with gas stations required leaving the highway completely.

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