Angie: What was the vibe like on set, did it feel like a reunion?
B.J.: It was truly fun and exciting and wonderful to work on this episode.
It was incredible to bring back Rashida Jones (who said it felt like a time warp when she got the phone call asking for her availability on The Office); it was incredible to have David Denman back, sitting next to Pam in her Season Two hair, and Melora Hardin back in Jan-as-diva mode.
And incredibly fun to put our minds back in that world and really believe in it again and add to that backstory. In that way it was a more than a reunion, it was one in which you somehow seemed to actually go back in time.
Imagine if at a high school reunion, they not only brought everyone back together, but also made you wear the exact same clothes again, cut your hair the same way, sit in the same seats and act out the same relationships and study for the same exams again. And imagine that you really loved high school.
The other special thing about making the episode was how it allowed every department to show off its talents. We have such gifted people here in every department, people that got the job due to their enormous creativity and versatility; but the rules of the show mean that each week, most costumes, sets, camera angles, props, hair, makeup, etc. are necessarily simple and similar to what they’ve been before.
With Threat Level Midnight, since the premise was that Michael had put his energy into a jaw-droppingly elaborate and expensive and in many ways misguided film project over the course of many years, every department got to really be creative, and that made for a really exciting energy on set.
Phil Shea, our propmaster, took it upon himself to design a gold handgun for Goldenface (unscripted) and insisted that Michael would flip his coin for the seventh and deciding time with a two-headed quarter; Michael Gallenberg, our production designer, went so far as to make the Threat Level Midnight poster, without being asked; Matt Sohn sought out his own free time to go to a colorizing session to further cheapen the look of Michael’s cameras ever-so-slightly; Alysia Raycraft got to figure out everything from the speed-skating outfits to Karen’s present-day look; Dave Rogers and Claire Scanlon not only edited the episode but also cut Michael’s trailer for the movie and designed his credit sequences. These are just a few examples.
Taylor: There seemed to be a lot of Billy Joel music in the movie (i.e. “Running on Ice” during the hockey training session and “Pressure” during the gunfight speed-skating scene). Is there a particular reason you chose these songs?
B.J.: Our first idea was to try to get the rights to an all Billy Joel soundtrack. We figured that’s what Michael would have wanted for his movie. But aside from that being relatively expensive, it also wasn’t as dramatic a score for the movie as Michael would have wanted. But those two songs worked well.
Chris K: I absolutely loved the song at the end! Who worked on the song? And was it inspired by Will Smith’s tie in songs for Men in Black and Wild Wild West?
Shannon M.: I loved the song at the end “Threat Level what? Midnight” Was that Ed Helms singing it?
B.J.: Since Michael was trying to throw in everything he loved about movies into this film, we thought he might include a Will Smith-esque pop rap over the closing credits.
Danny Chun had made an observation about those songs around the time I was about to go on script, which the idea came from. Several of us worked on the lyrics together.
Charlie Grandy, who contributed a lot of the strongest jokes to this episode, came up with the anti-apartheid message at the end.
Eve Nelson, a composer who works with us a lot, wrote the music. She also wrote the music for “The Scarn” and the Subtle Sexuality songs for the webisodes. She’s incredible. In the longer version of “Threat Level Midnight,” which will be on the DVD, the song is credited as follows: “Theme from Threat Level Midnight. Music and Lyrics by Michael Scott. Performed by Andrew Bernard. Inspired by the music of Will Smith.”