This article originally appeared at http://www.heynielsen.com/blog/2008/04/08/thats-what-she-said-an-interview-with-jennie-from-officetally/ on April 8, 2008.
That’s What She Said! An Interview With Jennie From OfficeTally
By Steve Ciabattoni – Apr 8th, 2008
Jennie Tan knows cubicle life. Perhaps that’s why she’s just the right person to run OfficeTally, a website devoted to the US version of the popular series ‘The Office.’ What started as a site for fans to rate their favorite episodes (hence the name) has blossomed into the site for ‘The Office’ news, gossip, and more… even her new BFFs, the stars of the the show, read it when they’re killing time at their fictional desks. So enjoy this interview… then get back to work! Oh, but not before playing our Trivia Quiz which features a question from OfficeTally.
Q: We all have our favorite shows, but what attracted you so much to ‘The Office’ that you started a website?
It was all by accident, really. I’m a huge web nerd, and I wanted to learn how to create and maintain my own blog. I had just started getting interested in ‘The Office,’ so I figured that would be a good topic. If it hadn’t been ‘The Office,’ I might have started a blog about eating or restaurants or geek gadgets.
Q: As I write to you from my stylish beige cubicle, I have to ask… did you ever work in an office? If so, was it more or less soul-sucking than [the paper company on the show] Dunder Mifflin?
Uh, I’ve worked in an office for … years! That’s all I’ve ever known professionally. I am used to sitting in an 8×10 cubicle in front of a computer all day. Fortunately, the company I work for is way less soul-sucking than Dunder Mifflin. In fact, it is one of Forbes’ “Best Companies To Work For”!
Q: With all the Jim/Pam, Michael/Jan and Angela/Dwight relationship storylines, what’s your policy on office romances?
I’ve been involved in several. And they’ve all ended badly so… not a good idea. Even if you disclose them to HR! :)
Q: Moving on then… what is your relationship like with the producers and stars of the show? How did they become aware of the site and did you really believe it was them when they first contacted you?
I have a wonderful relationship with ‘The Office’ staff and NBC. Everyone’s been so supportive of OfficeTally; I am really grateful to all of them! I keep in touch with producers, writers, cast, and crew, as well as NBC contacts in PR, NBC.com, and the NBC store on a regular basis. I am really not quite sure how they first found OfficeTally. I think it might have had something to do with the “Supersized Office Finale” petition that I helped with.
Your second question makes me laugh. Whenever someone from ‘The Office’ contacts me for the first time, the first thing I do is make them answer a “security question” to confirm their identity. I did this to Rainn Wilson (Dwight), (writer/producer) Michael Schur, Angela Kinsey (Angela), Brian Baumgartner (Kevin), and Jenna Fischer (Pam). They’ve teased me about my security measures, but the fact is, some people *have* contacted me before, impersonating Office staff! A girl’s gotta be careful.
My first contact with someone from ‘The Office’ was when I wrote B.J. Novak (Ryan) via MySpace. I was really tickled by a line from the episode ‘The Fire,’ which he wrote. I wrote him about that particular line, and when he actually wrote me back, I was really encouraged! I was thinking, wow, I just got an email from a TV STAR. Maybe OfficeTally will be a fun project!
Q: What’s been their reaction/involvement with the site?
One of the coolest things Jenna ever said to me is that Pam’s computer on set has OfficeTally bookmarked! During The Office Convention in Scranton, Brian Baumgartner jokingly told an audience that he reads OfficeTally “to find out what [he] did last night.”
After getting to know some of the cast last year, I contacted the producers to ask if I could come down for a set visit. I asked Jenna, Angela, and Kate to put in a good word for me, and they did, which allowed me to visit, and it was a dream come true! That was one of the funnest days of my life. They were so gracious in letting me take photos and observe the shooting process.
During the WGA strike, ‘The Office’ writers generously hosted my trip down to picket with them. I appreciated that tremendously. I think it was really important for them to keep in touch with the fans during that time, and I was happy to help with that.
Rainn let me sit in on a writers meeting for his hosting gig at the Spirit Awards. I am incredibly interested in the writing process, so that was fun.
Many of the cast and writing staff have visited the OfficeTally Chat Room, including Jenna Fischer just this past week. It means so much to fans to be able to interact with people from the show.
Q: Does running a news site/community for the show have drawbacks? Would you like to know less about certain ways the show is made, or maybe not have info on spoilers.
The biggest drawback is that I have an almost non-existent social life. Running OfficeTally takes 40-50 hours a week. It’s like a second full-time job! Oh, and I could use more sleep, always. I take fewer and shorter vacations, and I *must* have Internet access wherever I travel, which didn’t used to be the case. I moderate comments from my cell phone while I’m driving home from work!
Yes, spoilers are a double-edged sword. On one hand, the spoilers page is pretty much THE most popular page on the site, and it’s my job to keep it updated. On the other hand … they’re SPOILERS!
And I have to be honest, Thursday nights are not much fun for me — I have to moderate hundreds of comments, then stay up late to transcribe my favorite quotes of the episode. I don’t usually get to bed until way past midnight. I don’t really get to enjoy the episode as a viewer until many months later. (Which is okay, since I watch every episode many many times over!)
Q: What are some of your other favorite shows?
The X-Files and Twin Peaks are some of my past faves; I was HUGELY obsessed with Mulder and Scully. Currently, I love Lost (the most amazing season ever), Breaking Bad, Free Radio, and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. If I didn’t have OfficeTally, I would probably blog about ‘Sunny.’ I was also a big fan of Journeyman, and was devastated when it was canceled. I’m hoping against all hope that 24 returns strong. A friend turned me on recently to Arrested Development, so I’m slowly making my way through the DVDs. It is brilliant.
Q: Are you excited that more behind the scenes clips and special content (like character blogs) are online, or do you feel it takes away from the show?
Oh I love all the extra stuff! You can’t have enough quality content. It’s what gets fans excited. The official NBC Office site is quite amazing in that respect, especially with regards to the whole Dunder Mifflin Infinity game. That’s like a whole mega-site unto itself.
Q: What can you tell us about the people who visit and comment on OfficeTally? What has it taught you about the power of community as it relates to the shows we watch?
‘The Office’ fandom is super passionate. They love every last detail and bit of news on the show. I hear from Tallyheads all the time who say ‘I visit your site 10 times a day!’ OfficeTally is just one of many, many websites dedicated to the show. I’ve never had a fansite before, but I suspect that this show has one of the strongest online communities on the planet. And how many TV shows do you know that have its own fan convention? Where the staff are treated like bonafide ROCK STARS? It is a testament to the show’s staff the tremendous outpouring of love they get from fans. And the staff gives the love right back. :)
Q: So, a spinoff of ‘The Office’? Any new gossip (or facts about this)?
I have asked around, and nobody seems to know anything. If it does happen, I can tell you that OfficeTally will probably NOT cover it. I don’t get enough sleep as it is!