‘Threat Level Midnight’ Q&A with B.J. Novak

Vidsub: Was Ryan’s character still Samuel L Chang?

B.J.: Samuel L. Chang was a half-African-American, half-Asian sidekick based in some ways on Dwight (or “Dwigt”) that was featured in the first draft of “Threat Level: Midnight” that was discovered in the episode The Client.

I figured that Michael would have had trouble casting that role to his liking with actors in Scranton, and so it was one of the aspects that he would have rewritten in the intervening years. The first name “Samuel” remained the same.

(Ryan read his part aloud in “The Client,” but that was not Michael’s casting, it was Jim’s.)

Tyler: Was that really Tony Gardner on Jasmine’s piano? Why would he be in Michael’s movie if he worked at Scranton for under a day and got fired/quit?

B.J.: Okay, imagine you’re Tony Gardner. Your old boss calls you up, apologizes profusely for the way he fired you, and explains that he is making a movie and there’s a role you’d be “absolutely perfect for.” You might be intrigued, you might be flattered, you might be lonely.

I figured Michael would want to cast Tony for his look, and Tony might not have much going on, and Michael’s a great salesman, and so that’s one way it could have happened.

jimbo: Where was David Wallace? 

kreidy: Why did you choose to recast Jim as Goldenface instead of Oscar?

B.J.: In the shooting script, Michael revealed that David Wallace was Michael’s original choice for Goldenface – in his mind, the James Bond model of a smooth, handsome villain – but that Wallace had to turn it down since “it wouldn’t look good to people at corporate.” Then we had a talking head from David Wallace, which Andy Buckley performed beautifully, explaining why he actually regretted his decision:

From his house.

                         DAVID WALLACE
I should have said yes. We all take ourselves too seriously in the moment. We think everybody’s watching and judging us. But in reality, nobody actually gives a damn what you do, they’re wrapped up in their own bullshit. Life is short, so just do what you want to do.

To my great regret, this got cut for time. (The episode really had to be cut to the bone, in order to tell the story of Michael showing the movie as well as tell the story of the movie itself. It was one of those episodes that seemed to come in too long to be a half hour, but not long enough to be an hour-long).

Since it wasn’t part of the movie, it isn’t in the complete Threat Level Midnight movie either. Hopefully it will make the DVD as a deleted scene.

Buster Bluth: Were there any other characters that you wanted to bring back but were unable to do it because of the actor’s schedules?

B.J.: Yes. We really wanted Amy Adams (Katy). I had scripted scene in which she is a “Floozy” in bed with Michael Scarn before Dwight wakes him up with a mission from the President.

In the scene, Michael is unsatisfied from their empty lovemaking because no one is as good in bed as his wife was, and Michael explains to her what love feels like.

Then, in a talking head, Katy explained with a little embarrassment how she had some interest in acting back then, and we catch up with where she is in the present day. But she wasn’t available to film the week we were filming.