Paul Lieberstein ready for season six ‘Office’ premiere
Writer/director/actor Paul Lieberstein ready for season six ‘Office’ premiere
BY JOSH MCAULIFFE (STAFF WRITER)
Published: September 15, 2009
Of the many talented people associated with “The Office,” Paul Lieberstein is perhaps the most versatile.
He writes. He acts. He directs. And now he’s pretty much running the whole show.
“I move in a lot of different areas,” Mr. Lieberstein said. “It’s one of these things where it’d be the best job in the world if it had a few less hours of it.”
No such luck for Mr. Lieberstein, who is busier than ever as the Scranton-set NBC comedy heads into its sixth season, which kicks off Thursday at 9 p.m. on WBRE-TV, Channel 28.
In addition to his role as low-key human resources representative Toby Flenderson, Mr. Lieberstein is one of the show’s original writers. He’s also directed a few episodes, and he recently assumed “showrunner” status – i.e. the producer who oversees a series’ day-to-day production – from “Office” executive producer Greg Daniels, who these days is concentrating more of his energies on “Parks and Recreation.”
“It’s very interesting. It’s a whole different set of responsibilities,” Mr. Lieberstein said of his new duties in a recent phone interview from the show’s set. “There’s little things I have to do now – I have to sign papers, like a regular manager – that I never had to do before.”
“It’s a different skill set. I don’t think it’s easy. I’m starting to realize Greg did it masterfully,” he continued. “I’m grateful to be here, but it’s taken over my life.”
While his fellow cast members were on summer hiatus, Mr. Lieberstein and the rest of the show’s producers were writing the new season’s first few episodes, including Thursday’s premiere, “Gossip,” which will find the Dunder Mifflin Scranton employees kibitzing about the outgoing summer interns.
Feeling left out, Michael (Steve Carell) begins spreading a juicy piece of gossip of his own, “but then realizes it’s a horrible thing to do,” said Mr. Lieberstein, who wrote and directed the episode.
“The only way for him to make it up is to spread a tremendous amount of false gossip,” Mr. Lieberstein said.
Other future storylines include Michael freaking out over a meeting between Dunder Mifflin CFO David Wallace (Andy Buckley) and Jim (John Krasinski), and the employees becoming convinced that an Italian-American insurance man visiting the office is a mobster.
And then, of course, there’s the upcoming marriage of Jim and Pam (Jenna Fischer), who were last seen learning they were having a baby. The wedding will take place over the season’s fourth and fifth episodes, Mr. Lieberstein said, and will be set in part at Niagara Falls, where Mr. Krasinski and Ms. Fischer were recently seen filming scenes.
“That’s coming out really well. It’s pretty straightforward; it’s a wedding,” Mr. Lieberstein said. “It’s just our characters going through it, and things getting messed up.”
As far as plot developments for his own character go, Mr. Lieberstein said Toby will figure prominently in the second episode, when he and Dwight (Rainn Wilson) team up to find out if Darryl (Craig Robinson) is faking a worker’s compensation claim.
While Mr. Lieberstein enjoys the additional screen time, it also means he has to spend that much more time on the set.
“All I kind of hear are the hours it’s going to take me (to film the scenes),” Mr. Lieberstein cracked. “When I see a line for Toby, part of me kind of cringes.”
Mr. Lieberstein never planned to go into acting. When the show was just starting, he said, Mr. Daniels decided he “liked the idea of writers knowing how to act,” so he gave Mr. Lieberstein and fellow scribes B.J. Novak (Ryan Howard) and Mindy Kaling (Kelly Kapoor) small roles.
But, just like everyone else at the Dunder Mifflin Scranton branch, the soft-spoken Toby eventually became a much more substantial character. Over the years, he’s pined for Pam, quit his job briefly to become a surf bum in Costa Rica and served, for reasons that have never quite been explained, as the bane of Michael’s existence.
“He’s a guy who just kind of comes to work. If he hated his job, he would leave it,” Mr. Lieberstein said. “From the human resources people I’ve talked to, I get the sense that people in human resources don’t generally love human resources. They don’t see it necessarily as a calling.”
Mr. Lieberstein, on the other hand, seems to be completely devoted his job, long and hours and all.