North Shore-bred actor Robbins relishes his time in ‘The Office’

From an article “North Shore-bred actor Robbins relishes his time in ‘The Office’,” published October 30, 2008, in The Salem News:

The call that led to Blake Robbins landing a role on one of television’s most-watched shows came while he was walking his dog at a Los Angeles dog park.

“It was out of the blue,” Robbins said yesterday.

Could he be at an audition in three hours?

Yes, he told his manager. The 43-year-old actor from Salem knew he was meeting with the woman who cast “The Office,” but not much else.

They gave him seven pages of lines to quickly digest. Going through them moments before the audition, Robbins realized he was reading for the part of Tom Halpert, Jim Halpert’s older brother.

Turn on tonight’s episode of “The Office,” and you will see that Robbins went from the dog park to prime time. It was a particularly rewarding trip, given his affinity for a show that documents life at the Scranton, Pa., branch of the Dunder Mifflin paper company.

“I’m a huge fan of ‘The Office.’ It is appointment television for me,” Robbins said.

Though he now lives in Los Angeles, Robbins grew up on the North Shore. He moved to Swampscott when he was in the sixth grade, attending school there until his parents moved to Salem before his senior year of high school. He graduated from Salem High in 1983.

Robbins, 43, turned to acting in college and pursued it in New York before moving west. He has made a career in television stringing together small roles on popular shows like “The O.C.,” “Crossing Jordan,” “Medium,” “Charmed,” “Cold Case” and “24,” as well as a larger role in the HBO prison drama “Oz.”

In the case of “The Office,” his height — 6 feet 2 inches — helped. They didn’t want an actor shorter than that because Jim, played by John Krasinski of Newton, is 6-foot-3.

On the show, Jim, a paper salesman, is engaged to receptionist-turned-art-student Pam Beesly, played by Jenna Fischer. Tonight, Pam organizes a dinner in New York City so she can meet Jim’s older and younger brothers.

“The most I can say is that it doesn’t go according to her plans,” Robbins said.

The show’s writers generate a premise and script, but there is room to improvise, he said. Both Krasinski and Fischer kept him on his toes during filming.

Laughs on “The Office” are created through authenticity, Robbins said, not by heaping one punch line on top of another.

“They’re not really looking for someone trying to be funny. They’re looking for someone trying to be real,” he said.

During a phone interview yesterday, Robbins had nothing but praise for the show’s famous couple.

“They were extremely gracious, so warm and easy to be around. I can honestly say that I’m a bigger fan of them now, after having worked with them,” he said.

Robbins doesn’t know if his character will appear in a future episode. “I hope they find more for me to do,” he said.

Maybe he will be back for Jim’s and Pam’s wedding. “If they get there,” Robbins said. “I’d like to be back for the bachelor party.”

A father of two young daughters, and with a son on the way, Robbins will watch the show tonight with his wife. He can’t watch with anyone but her.

“I don’t want to worry about what other people’s reaction or response might be,” he said.

And as he always does after one of his performances airs, he will dial up Salem.

“I always call my mom and dad to ask them what they thought,” he said.

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