The Office’s Ricky Gervais talks to Vanity Fair about his concept for a spin-off tentatively called ‘Office Babies’:
What I’m getting from this is, you’re sending us subliminal clues that we should expect a big David Brent storyline in The Office season finale. Am I reading you correctly?
Absolutely you are. In fact, feel free to write about a whole storyline that you’ve just entirely made up. You can say that you’ve seen the last episode, and Michael Scott pulls off his mask at the end and shows that he’s really Ricky Gervais.
Ricky Gervais or David Brent?
No, it’s me, Ricky Gervais. There’s no such person as Steve Carell. And I was in Evan Almighty as well. All of Steve’s films, it was all me in a mask. It’s very Charlie Kaufman-esque, don’t you think?
So in this episode of The Office, you’re basically breaking down the fourth wall. You’re revealing that Steve Carell, the actor who plays Michael Scott, is just the fictional creation of Ricky Gervais, who plays a fictional character named David Brent. That’s so meta-meta-meta-something.
(Laughs.) It’s so weird on so many levels. David Brent is mixed in with Michael Scott who’s Steve Carell who’s really Ricky Gervais. It’s TV eating itself and then vomiting it up.
Does this somehow tie into the Jim and Pam pregnancy? Are we going to find out that their baby was actually fathered by David Brent?
Exactly! The baby’s going to have my face. And then we have the obvious spin-off, Office Babies. It’s a show where it’s just a load of babies crawling around, with voice-overs by all the actors from the adult version. It’s sort of like Look Who’s Talking, but set in an office. We’re actually making that show for NBC and it comes out in April. It’ll follow 30 Rock. It’s called Office Babies, and it’s definitely happening. (Laughs.)
Aren’t babies a death sentence for even the best sitcoms?
Well, it’s not something that would’ve worked with the British show, because it was so finite. It would’ve been weird and overpowering. But when you’ve done a hundred or so episodes, you need to move on and explore all realms. Otherwise, you’re just repeating yourself. The writers know what they’re doing. As for whether audiences like it or not, I guess we’ll see. But again, you shouldn’t worry about that. Not everyone is going to like everything you do. You just have to trust your instincts.
And your instincts tell you to milk every last drop of profitability from the Office franchise and make a spin-off called Office Babies?
Oh, that’s definitely happening. I’m filming it now. It’s just loads of babies. And you know what the terrible thing is? We’re not even paying them. (Laughs.) What we did is, we pretended to do a promotional thing where parents can come and meet famous people from The Office. So they leave their babies with us, and while they’re distracted getting autographs, we shoot the entire series. It’s just babies crawling over copiers and stuff, and then we overdub the footage. There are no actor fees. At least not until the second season, when it becomes a hit. Then they’ll be asking for a pay raise, you can be sure. But that’s when we’ll write them out. (Laughs.)
How angry would you be if I pretended to misunderstand you and reported on Office Babies as a real thing, without any irony whatsoever?
I insist on it. I think you should give this interview a title like “Ricky Gervais Reveals All About Office Babies Spin-Off: ‘It’s Definitely Happening.’”
Consider it done.
And after that we’re going to do Caveman Office, which is just a lot of grunting with subtitles. And then there’s Victorian Office. We’ll have a new Office for every period in history. We’re never going to run out of ideas. NBC really doesn’t need to have any other programming. They should just go ahead and change the network’s name from NBC to Office-TV. And that is definitely happening.
There’s a sort of if-you-can’t-beat-‘em-join-‘em brilliance to this idea. If the media is just going to repeat misinformation about you, do you prefer to be in on the joke?
It seems to be more fun that way, don’t you think? On The Wire, which is the greatest TV show of all time, there was this fictional newspaper called The Sun, and they had a weird sense of journalistic integrity. Their writers were always checking out every story, calling and asking things like “Did this really happen? Was that a quote?” I wish that existed in the real world. But if it did, the British press would shut down. They’d go, “Aw, fuck it! We’ve got to be honest now? Just forget it!” (Laughs.)
Now you’re making me feel a little guilty. How can I write about Office Babies as pseudo-fact if I know you’re silently judging me?
Oh don’t worry, I’m definitely going to do Office Babies. I’m not being ironic anymore. I think it’s an amazing idea. I think the baby based on me should have a little goatee drawn on his face, like with a sharpie marker. Rainn Wilson’s baby needs to have the glasses and the center part in his hair. This could be the greatest show ever broadcast on TV.