My role in The Office series finale

I was honored and thrilled to play a small role in the last episode of The Office, Finale.

Here are my notes about this surreal and once-in-a-lifetime experience!

For the full listing of my 2013 set visit content, go here.

tanster on The Office Finale

January 24, 2013: The inspiration

Like so many things that happen at OfficeTally, the original idea for this came from one of your comments!

Back in January, Eric added this comment to the Customer Loyalty post regarding the documentary crew:

“How many levels of awesome would it be if we found out that Jennie Tan was involved!!? I’d squeal like a pig in heat if that is any part of the reveal!

I thought, yeah, wouldn’t that be cool, to just be shown in the background, like part of the crew?

Then I thought, there’s no harm in asking, right?

February 10, 2013: the ask

I emailed The Office Executive Producer Greg Daniels with my request. Would it be possible to take part in the finale in some way?

He wrote me back immediately with the response, “Of course! I’ll write you in.”

Oh. My. God.

He’ll “write me in”?! What does that mean?

March 7, 2013: the week before

I get an email asking for a headshot and “actor’s resume.” I put together the shortest resume ever. Just like Pam’s. :) I am told that I will be hired as a day actor, with shared end credits.

Hired? — as in, get paid? Credits?! — this is crazy.

March 8, 2013: the week before

I get a call from Carolyn in Wardrobe, and that’s the first time I hear who I’ll be playing. Myself! At a cast Q&A!

Wha-what?! Because I have been at a real cast Q&A. Fiction melding with real life. I can barely process this.

March 10, 2013: the day before

I fly in to Burbank.

At around midnight, less than 10 hours before my call time, I am finally emailed the script.

Oh. My. God. I have SEVEN LINES!

I pace my hotel room frantically trying to memorize the lines. I’m kind of freaking out.

I get very little sleep that night.

March 11, 2013: the day of filming

I arrive on set before my call time of 9:30am. The location is the AT&T Building on Olive Street in Los Angeles, substituting for the Scranton Cultural Center.

Omigod, I have my own trailer!

tanster on The Office Finale
I am a dork, so I take a picture of my trailer. (Look, it’s Dwight’s car in the background!)

I check in with Wardrobe, who takes one look at my own clothes and says, “you look pretty cool as is!” So no wardrobe change needed, I end up wearing my own clothes for the scene.

Next up, makeup and hair. I’m like, this is so exciting!

Throughout the morning, a production assistant checks in with me and reports my whereabouts into a walkie talkie. “Jennie has arrived. Jennie is now in makeup. Jennie is walking to the set.” This keeps the production running smoothly and on schedule.

Okay, finally time to shoot my scene.

First, a rehearsal. I look at the cast, and they are all still reading from their script. So I do, too. And lol, I mess up. So for me, the rehearsal didn’t go so well. I start to panic.

But for whatever the reason, once the cameras start to roll on the first take, I’m calm and get through all my lines.

I do it again, second take. Then a third. No mistakes!

tanster on The Office Finale
Andy Buckley (“David Wallace”) takes this photo of me from where he’s sitting on the stage.

And each time, John and Jenna would look directly at me as they gave their answer. It was SO SURREAL. I was playing myself but talking to Jim and Pam. I was asking the question that many of you had, but something I would never have the courage to ask in real life.

I think filming is going well but then… they call a break. People are scurrying back and forth between Greg Daniels (writer) and Ken Kwapis (director). I’m not sure what’s happening.

I’m about to pass out from the stress, lol.

Then one of the writers’ assistants comes to me and says, “we have a new line for you.”

Omigod NO! I can’t memorize new lines on the spot!

This new version has me ask my question to Pam in a more pointed way. Greg rewrote it on the spot, and I believe he wanted my question to more strongly push Pam to address the issue.

I look at the new sheet of paper that they just handed me, and I see that they rewrote some of Meredith’s lines on the spot as well. Meredith’s new lines appear right above mine on the page, which confuses me because Meredith doesn’t say her lines before mine!

I think at this point, I start to have a panic attack. Kate Flannery calms me down, walks back up the stage, and nails her new lines. (Thanks, Kate, for talking me off the ledge!)

I somehow get through my lines as well. But every time Pam would say her lines to me, I teared up. Well, all the way up to my ‘Harry Potter’ line. (By the way, I’ve never watched or read ‘Harry Potter,’ so I had to pretend I knew its significance, lol. As Holly channeling Jon Lovitz would say, “acting!”)

Andy Buckley emailed me in the middle of my performance, “You’re doing great, Jennie!” So sweet.

John was so nice, too — he kept flashing me the thumbs up, thumbs down, thumbs sideways sign to make me laugh, as I was standing at the microphone waiting for cameras to roll. I think he knew I was a little nervous. Afterwards, he said to me, “I was asking Jenna, ‘has Jennie acted before?'” Awww.

Jenna said to me afterward that she wished I could’ve asked real fan questions! That would have been so great.

By the end of multiple takes, I was ready to collapse from anxiety and emotion.

Once the rest of the scene was filmed, I ran up the stage to talk to everyone, and that’s when the audience let out a big round of applause, this time as fans of The Office, not the documentary. :)

tanster on The Office Finale
I run up to the stage as soon as the scene wrapped. Credit: Andy Buckley

Rainn grabbed my camera and said, “turn around, let me take a photo of you with the audience!”

tanster on The Office Finale
Me with a bunch of very excited Office fans! Credit: Rainn Wilson

I went up to John and Jenna and started to cry. I told them it was an honor to be in a scene with them. Especially that scene, with what Pam ends up saying.

Post-March 11

So… for the past two months, I’ve had to keep kind of mum on all of this. It’s been hard. (That’s what she said.)

At one point, I emailed the production staff and asked them, “Can I just mention on OfficeTally that I filmed a scene with Jim and Pam?”

The response I got back was, “You can say that you might be in a scene, but you can’t mention who it’s with.”

So that’s what I did.

As Grave Wedding Minister points out, even when ddker guessed pretty closely what my role would be, I showed superhuman restraint in my response:

My prediction for the finale – so from the pictures it looks like there is some sort of Q & A with them. Our very own tanster gets the mic and says that she loved the documentary so much that she created a website for it. Within 5 minutes OfficeTally crashes from the waves of people getting on the site :)

[ from tanster: lol. oh god no, please no website crashes! ;) ]

But secret secrets are no fun. So true, Elizabeth. So true.

My lines

My original lines, exactly as written by Greg Daniels, were:

Hi, Jennie Tan. I run a website devoted to your show. This is for Pam and Jim. Everybody watching could tell how much you loved each other, how you were soulmates. Which is why a lot of us had trouble understanding why Pam resisted moving to Philadelphia. Was it fear, or doubt, or...?

(later)

You mean like Harry Potter?

My lines, rewritten by Greg Daniels on the spot:

Hi, Jennie Tan. I run a website devoted to your show. This is for Pam and Jim. Your relationship means so much to people. Everybody watching could tell how much you loved each other, how you were soulmates. Pam, how could you doubt that when he moved to Philadelpha?

Other trivia about this scene

Many of the people asking questions are actual staff on the show, mainly writers! Such a sentimental finale, as Greg Daniels I think wanted to include as many of The Office staff as possible.

  • How did it feel to see your lives played out on TV: Brent Forrester, The Office executive producer and writer
  • How did you pay Jim back for leaving Athlead: Amelie Gillette, The Office writer
  • Jim could do anything: Allison Silverman, The Office co-executive producer and writer
  • What was in the teapot letter: Dan Sterling, The Office producer and writer
  • Does your life feel pointless: Steve Hely, The Office producer and writer

Greg Daniels’ wife, Susanne Daniels, was the Q&A moderator.

tanster and The Office's David Rogers
Me with The Office’s director, producer, and editor, David Rogers.

tanster, Ed Helms, Ken Kwapis, Ellie Kemper
I wanted a photo with director Ken Kwapis, then Ellie Kemper pulls herself and Ed Helms into the picture and says, “let’s photobomb!”

During the first few takes of the scene, the audience applauded too boisterously, and Ken had to give them the direction, “remember you’re a PBS audience, not fans of the actors, but fans of the characters in the documentary.”

Ken instructed the audience to 1) laugh at Kevin’s orange juice joke, 2) shhh the guy who gives Andy a hard time, 3) ooh and aah over the end of Pam’s speech, and 4) ooooh at the question directed at Oscar. All other times, the audience should be “engaged, but quiet.”

(I realize that items 1, 2, and 4 didn’t make it into the scene. There was so much good stuff shot, I’m hoping it all makes it onto the DVD!)

I could hear my heart pound during Brent’s question, because I knew I was up next. As soon as I started talking, though, I looked directly at John and Jenna and the lines just poured out. Can I say for the record though, I would never ask such a pointed question at Jenna in real life! I told her that, too, afterwards.

I’m thankful to say I didn’t mess up my lines once during filming. On the other hand, i have no recollection of performing any of them. I kind of blacked out, lol.

tanster, Rainn Wilson, Kate Flannery
Me with Rainn Wilson and Kate Flannery. I was so shocked when I saw Meredith in non-Meredith clothes and hair!

tanster John Krasinski Jenna Fischer
What an extraordinary honor to act opposite John Krasinski and Jenna Fischer.
Credit: Andy Buckley

tanster John Krasinski Jenna Fischer

This was an experience of a lifetime. Thank you, Greg Daniels, for letting me be part of such an amazing show. I can’t thank you enough.

The Office Executive Producer Greg Daniels
Me with The Office creator, executive producer, and Finale writer, Greg Daniels.

tanster on The Office Finale
My name in the opening credits. Speechless.

My scene, woo hoo!

[Video no longer available]

Behind the scenes

Andy Buckley (“David Wallace”) shot this on his iPhone while sitting on the panel. That’s Director of Photography Matt Sohn filming the action. Thanks, Andy!

108 comments

  1. Well deserved role. It couldn’t have happened to a greater fan. We are all envious, but I think we can all agree that after years of dedication to this site and its visitors, it’s the least the show could have done for you.

    Thank you for all your hard work Jennie. We all love you and this site.

  2. You nailed it, Jennie! I am so happy for you! Oh, and greetings from “the Scranton of the Europe” :)

  3. Jennie, I have followed Office Tally since Season 3, and I was so delighted to see you pop up on the finale. You were great! I squealed almost as loud as I did when Steve Carell appeared!

    This show will forever touch my heart, as I know it has yours.

    Josh

  4. Well done! Of all the things that The Office does right, I am particularly impressed by the way the series treats its fans.

  5. You were fantastic Jennie! I was surprised how easily and naturally you delivered your lines. Not a hint of nerves – nothing! Anyone who didn’t know who you were wouldn’t have a clue that you weren’t a professional actor. You should be really proud :) I was really glad to see you as it’s been a long time since your last cameo but also a perfect time for The Office to include people who’ve contributed to the show. Well done Jennie! And thanks for the blog. You may know that over the last couple of years my comments have been more critical than favourable, but it’s been great to have a place to discuss a show that’s played such a huge role in all our lives. Thanks to you for that. Goodbye Jennie :waves:

  6. What a buzz that must have been! Thanks for posting about your day in the episode. You did great work too, loved the Harry Potter line!

  7. Adam and I were SO excited to see you! You were incredible. It felt very right to have you in that part of the finale. So proud of you!

  8. I too was excited to see you in the final. I cried out WOW. My wife is only a casual fan thought you were a plot twist based on my reaction. Good for you. Please keep the site up.

  9. What I like best is how open you are about your experience and how sweet Andy Buckley is to you. ( making photos for you to remember this by and emailing you ).

    Thanks and congrats. I had to giggle when I saw your name in the intro.

  10. That was just absolutely fantastic. Congrats to you, what an amazing experience that must have been.

  11. When I saw you last night I started jumping and down and pointing at the TV screaming “It’s her! It’s her!” I think I freaked my kids a little. I love that Michael Scott came back, but, you were the best surprise. This is more evidence that this show appreciates us, the fans.

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. You have done something here that totally changed the way we relate to the show. I will always be grateful to you for all the work you put into this blog.

  12. I have never seen a show that has this kind of relationship with its fans. It really looks like they consider you part of The Office family, and you deserve it!

  13. I’m pretty sure I scared my dog out of the room two times last night. The first was your part. I yelled “Tanster!” You did a great job :)

    The other time was when Michael showed up as Dwight’s best man and I screamed like a fan girl. :)

  14. Loved it! I squealed when I saw you, though no one else in my living room knew why I was excited. Glad you got this opportunity. You deserve it for all the hard work you’ve put in for all of us.

  15. You were perfect!!!!! And I still say you should write a book about your experience with The Office.

    Or maybe your own TV show…

    I’ve said this a hillion-jillion times before, but thank you! We couldn’t ask for a better “Fan for the Fans”!

  16. I just found this website because I’m sad about The Office ending. I found this article and I was like “hey I just found a website made by someone that was in The Office!”

  17. Amazing! Such a great honor and so well deserved! I had to hold back my gasp of astonishment when you came on screen because I was the only one in the room that knew who you were. :)

  18. This is my first time on the site, came here from a Vulture link saying a superfan was incorporated into the finale and I just have to say: So cool!

    The site looks great and now, in addition to missing the show, I also regret not having been playing along with your recaps. A great finale, and congratulations on playing a part in it!

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