The Mid-Week Tally

Ryan, Carell are kindred ‘Office’ spirits

Ryan, Carell are kindred ‘Office’ spirits

The Scranton Times-Tribune
BY JOSH MCAULIFFE
STAFF WRITER
Published: Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Amy Ryan’s stock went way up this year after she received an Academy Award nomination for her tour de force performance in “Gone Baby Gone.”

And with that newfound clout, she decided her next big role would be … guest starring on a sitcom?

That might sound like a bizarre career move for an actress of Ms. Ryan’s caliber, but then “The Office” isn’t your typical sitcom. And Ms. Ryan isn’t your typical actress.

When the Scranton-set NBC comedy begins its fifth season Thursday night at 9, Ms. Ryan will be back as new Dunder Mifflin Scranton human resources representative Holly Flax.

Soft on Michael

Holly first turned up in last season’s finale, “Goodbye, Toby,” which found hapless HR guy Toby (Paul Lieberstein) leaving Dunder Mifflin to live the life of a beach bum in Costa Rica. Toby had been the longtime designated office nemesis of regional manager Michael Scott (Steve Carell), who automatically assumed those duties would be passed on to Holly.

Instead, Michael realized that behind Holly’s buttoned-up exterior was a playful kindred spirit who shared his goofball sense of humor. With that, the seeds of a potential office romance were planted.

“She’s like Michael-in-training,” said Ms. Ryan during a recent phone interview from her home in New York City. “She might be the perfect match for Michael Scott. This might be his best chance at a perfect match. They’re like kids who played on the block after school together, and it never left their lives.”

“I think she’s like Michael in that she’s totally game,” she continued. “They have a shared sense of humor, which no one else can understand.”

Ms. Ryan only signed on for six episodes, so it’s safe to assume the Holly-Michael flirtation will go awry at some point, especially with Michael’s wacky, pregnant ex, Jan (Melora Hardin), still in the picture. Then there’s the matter of office accountant Kevin (Brian Baumgartner), who Holly also took a liking to, mostly because she thought he was mentally challenged.

Stifling laughs

Going into her “Office” stint, Ms. Ryan’s said she was somewhat intimidated by the fact that she didn’t have much comedy on her resume. In the end, though, the hardest part was keeping a straight face on camera.

“With that group of actors and the writing, huge belly laughs all day long,” said Ms. Ryan, noting that, unlike the other characters on the show, Holly actually thinks Michael is funny, so her frequent guffaws around Mr. Carell, a famously brilliant improviser, weren’t that big a deal.

“She brought incredible talent, that’s the main thing. She could go in any direction,” said “Office” executive producer Greg Daniels of Ms. Ryan’s performance. “It was great to work with her.”

The role came to Ms. Ryan shortly after she scored a supporting actress Oscar nomination for her role as Helene McCready, the horrifically irresponsible mother of a kidnapped child in “Gone Baby Gone,” the Boston-set crime thriller directed by Ben Affleck.

Though Ms. Ryan lost the award to Tilda Swinton, the part brought the then little-known actress enough notoriety to land meaty roles in upcoming films like Clint Eastwood’s “Changeling,” starring Angelina Jolie, and “Green Zone,” an Iraq-set thriller in which she’ll star opposite Matt Damon and Greg Kinnear.

Still, one of the first things she told her agent after getting the nomination was to get her a spot on “The Office,” which she had been a huge fan of since its 2005 debut.

“I love it. I think it’s one of the funniest, cruelest shows out there,” Ms. Ryan said. “You can’t peel yourself away from the car accident. It’s so shocking and so funny.”

As it happened, the show’s writers had just come up with the Holly character and had yet to cast it. Meanwhile, most of them were big fans of the HBO series “The Wire,” on which Ms. Ryan played Baltimore policewoman Beatrice “Beadie” Russell. Plus, she had worked with Mr. Lieberstein on the 1990s sitcom, “The Naked Truth,” and with Mr. Carell on the 2007 film, “Dan in Real Life.”

A lot of actors would scoff at a return to TV after hitting it big in the film world, but Ms. Ryan looked at it as keeping “a few steps ahead of what people think I can and can’t do.”

“I was kind of having my cake and eating it, too,” said the Queens, N.Y., native, a two-time Tony Award nominee for her work on Broadway. “‘The Office’ was the sharpest right turn I could see.”

Holly’s future on the show is still up in the air, but, judging by the time Ms. Ryan had during her stint, it appears it won’t take much prodding to bring her back.

“It was great,” Ms. Ryan said. “It was one of the best times I’ve had in a while.”

31 comments

  1. That Jim and Pam video was classic!!! All of us angst ridden Jam lovers can really relate. AWESOME.

  2. Two very familiar Dundermifflininfinity members will also be appearing!

    Both from the Allentown Branch.

    Admike writes:

    The big news is that Puck and myself are going on the 10! Show this morning to talk DMI and the Allentown branch, as well as the party.

    And while I am not sure if it is in studio or by satellite, Rainn Wilson and Angela Kinsey are on the show.

    It is on at 11 AM on NBC10 in Philly. They are also doing a news package that may be used as well.

    So, we will wave to everyone in a very dorky, yet dignified way, and you’ll hear more about it tonight.

    Spread the word!

  3. That was awesome…because that is exactly what I will be doing in my living room during every episode until it happens. Thank you for the hilariousness

  4. I just caught Angela and Rainn on NBC11 Bay Area…it was short but sweet! Rainn could do funny in his sleep. I can’t wait to see Phyllis take over the party planning committee! Thanks for the heads up Tanster!

  5. There’s a good chance Steve Carell will be on Ace of Cakes – I believe it was for a charity benefitting Dana Farber. I saw the pics recently in a newsletter. Nancy Walls was also there.

  6. Just saw the “Ace of Cakes” preview on the Food Network tonight – Steve Carell and his wife, Nancy, will definitely be on! :) Looks fun (already have it set up on the DVR!).

  7. Having trouble opening the Jenna interview…

    [from tanster: thanks for letting me know. changed the link to the general site one …]

  8. The link for the WNDU website goes to Joel’s Blog about the guy from Chuck being on. Having WNDU as my local station, I am desperate to know if they really are gonna be on there! Where did you get this information because I can’t find it anywhere!

  9. That JAM video is so freakin’ hilarious!!! “Damn it, I love this show!” Hahah!! Please show that to the cast and crew somehow, I’m sure they’d get a kick out of it.

  10. Thank you, to the creators of this video, for making my day and answering the Jam question the way we all secretly dream of: a romantically blatant and short notice proposal, along with you telling them to “get on with it already”. :]

  11. That Jim and Pam video is high-larry-ous. ‘But all I could think of was “I own that shirt”

    Nice. :)

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