Linda Purl Q&A

lindaLinda Purl is an actress best known for her roles on the TV shows ‘Happy Days’ and ‘Matlock.’ She is also an accomplished theater actress and singer.

She recently appeared on two episodes of The Office — Niagara and Double Date — as Pam Beesly’s mom, Helene.

Here is a quick Q&A with Linda about her time on The Office.

Q. How did you get the part of Pam’s mom? | Jennifer

Linda: They asked me to come in. Of course I was thrilled!

I read a wedding speech that ending up not being in the final draft of the script, but it helped give me a sense of who Helene is.

Loved her life, her husband, her daughter … and then her husband, for his own good reasons no doubt left the marriage … leaving a devastated Helene.

The thing that’s so amazing about the writers on The Office is that they take such real situations, often sad, trying difficult ones, and turn them into brilliant comedy. Wouldn’t that be great if we could all do that for ourselves?!

Q. Were you a fan of “The Office” before being cast as Pam’s mom? | Wendy

Linda: I’d seen bits and pieces … being a mom myself, watching whole episodes of anything is a challenge.

Q. What was the atmosphere on the set like?

Linda: Everything you’d want it to be. Focused and fun. Gratitude reigns.

There is a remarkable attention to detail … what looks like improv I think is often not. It has been scripted, crafted, worked on … but it’s so skillfully acted and filmed it seems like improv.

Q. How welcoming was the cast to you when you joined them for the filming of this episode and the episodes to come? Did anyone pull any pranks on you? | Jay

Linda: They were just great. No pranks … sorry to disappoint. Very welcoming and much fun to be around.

Q. Whom did you bond with most of all when you were on the set of The Office? | Dmytro

Linda: Just the way the work went, I’d have to say Steve. We just ended up having more time together through the course of shooting.

Q. What was it like working with Steve Carell as a romantic interest?

Linda: He is a prince of a gentleman. Such a tribute to him as an actor that he is antithetical to his character.

Q. Was it a challenge to act with someone who improvises so much?

Linda: Not at all … an inspiration. Keeps you in the moment and on your toes.

There is improv, but also great deference to the brilliant writing on the show.

Part of the wedding episode included Jim’s speech to Pam. Every time John Krasinski delivered the speech during the shooting, I lost it.

He is a genius of an actor … the real deal. Like a young Tom Hanks and then some! It will be so wonderful to see what he accomplishes in his continuing successful career.

Q. In deciding how to play the role, what did you imagine Helene’s feelings toward Michael to be? | Helga the Outlaw

Linda: Desperate. Think she was just feeling so unloved, undesirable,and suddenly faced with the attentions of a very attractive man, Michael … and perhaps a bit too much champagne at the wedding …

Q. How would you describe what she was getting out of the relationship? | Helga the Outlaw

Linda: A failed attempt at self-esteem.

Q. How hard was it to keep a straight face while you read the Shel Silverstein poem? | Brigette

Linda: I think the genius of the show’s writers and cast is that they play everything for truth. So in the moment, I think it was just heartfelt appreciation from Helene.

Q. Did you shoot any scenes in either episode that didn’t make the cut that you wish had? | Anthony C.

Linda: All the scenes were a bit more involved. It’s the nature of the beast that some things have to get cut in the shortness of time.

There was one moment though, that took place in the conversation in the car with Pam, where Helene blurts out that it’s been years since she’d had the big “o.”

[from tanster: that’s actually in deleted scene #1!]

Q. Did you have a favorite part/scene that you filmed for the two episodes you were in? | Megan

Linda: The dance coming down the aisle in the wedding episode. The joy in that room was tangible.

Q. Can you tell us about any ad libs Steve Carell might have said that caught you completely off guard? | Stapler

Linda: You know, he is such a stand up guy… I would say not caught off guard so much as really impressed with the person he is.

Q. The birthday lunch was great fun to watch. How long did it take to film those scenes? | What’s the dealio?

Linda: Half a day each I’d say.

Q. There’s been much discussion on this site about whether Pam was justified in her anger towards Michael and I was just curious as to how you felt about it and if it made it easier or more difficult to play the role. | Abbey in PA

Linda: I love that Pam is so protective of her mom. I think it speaks to what a great mom she herself will be.

Q. Are there plans to appear in any more episodes?

Linda: I hope so. Who knows … with Pam having a baby …

Thanks, Linda, for answering all of our questions!

Learn more about Linda at her website, http://www.lindapurl.com.

10 comments

  1. Great Q & A. Linda seemed genuinely thrilled with her time on the show and appreciative of the talent surrounding her.

    What stuck out to me most were the things she said about John Krasinski. As a non-fan of the show, she was able to give an objective opinion about JKras’ acting abilities…and she basically said all the same things us squeally fangirls have been saying for years – LOL! Coming from someone as accomplished and professional as she is, those remarks are certainly high praise.

  2. Thank you Linda for taking the time to answer questions and I really hope that they bring you back!

    And thanks Tanster for arranging the Q & A!

  3. Thanks for the link to her website. What an extraordinary and accomplished woman and what a great voice!

    Her comments about John K were lovely, heartfelt and completely true!

  4. I love these Q & A’s . . . they’re always so insightful. I enjoyed all of Linda’s answers to our questions – she is so well spoken and offered interesting insight. I’ve been a little put off by Pam’s anger towards her mom dating Michael, I always thought of it as her being a little selfish; I never realized her anger could result from her being so protective of her mom. Maybe that does bode well for her becoming a good “mama bear” to her baby. And the comparison of John Krasinski to Tom Hanks, never thought of that either, but it’s such a great comparison!

  5. Thank you so much to Linda for answering the questions. It’s always a treat to hear from the actors, and, in this case, it’s a treat to hear from someone with a fresh perspective on the show. I hope we get to see Pam’s mom again in the future.

  6. Thanks so much for facilitating this Q&A and thanks to Linda for taking the time to respond! It’s so fun to get the details on how an episode goes together and amazing how much time and care goes into it. I hope we see more of Linda Purl as Helene in future episodes! She was terrific.

  7. Lovely Q&A! All of the scenes with Pam’s mom were so funny… I hope this really clears stuff up for some people… everyone always credits this show as a great improv comedy, but we’ve been told multiple times that most of the brilliance, writing-wise, is from the writers, not improv-ing. I think Ms. Purl confirmed this in her answers. It’s not a bad thing, I just wonder why so many people feel the need to see the actors as improv-ers.

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