‘Threat Level Midnight’ Q&A with B.J. Novak

Threat Level Midnight

The Office’s writer/producer B.J. Novak provides a Q&A as epic as the episode ‘Threat Level Midnight’ itself.

What happened to David Wallace? Who sang the rap at the end? Which character did they want to bring back but couldn’t?

History. Regret. Exploding heads. It’s all in there.

Steve: How did you go about mapping out the scenes in the movie to make sure they fit chronologically within the timeframe of the show’s events?

B.J.: I made my very best effort to get those details right when writing it. Then David Rogers, our most veteran editor, and Veda Semarne, our script supervisor, both turned a very specific eye on it and mapped out when everything would have been filmed, looking out for anything that wouldn’t have been possible.

soup snake: What made you decide to pick the NHL all star game? Is it because Steve played hockey? Why wasn’t Erin in the movie?

B.J.: As far as major sporting events go, all-star games are a little flashy and silly and insignificant, compared to championship games, but I could see Michael Scott falling for their appeal and mistaking them for something gravely important.

So I liked that Goldenface had a thing for All-Star Games, and was thwarted at all of them by Michael Scott, but then blew up the WNBA All-Star Game (which Catherine Zeta-Scarn was playing in, and which Michael Scarn missed to run a charity race with his friend Robin Williams) and consequently sent Scarn into depressed retirement.

Michael would have chosen hockey because he can skate and would want to show off.

Erin wasn’t in the movie because we figured that Michael finished filming quite some time ago, and had been editing and procrastinating since then.

MuckMallard: How did Michael convince Angela, Oscar, Karen, and Helene to appear in his movie?

B.J.: Most of the movie was filmed years ago, back when people acted somewhat differently towards Michael as their boss. It could have been out of personal kindness, or a sense of professional ambition or responsibility, or for some people a combination.

I didn’t find it hard to believe that any of these people would be persuaded, after great pressure, to give up a night or a weekend afternoon to work on a movie project that meant everything in the world to their boss.

In terms of specific characters, it’s important to point out the the movie was filmed over the course of many years, as Michael explains in the beginning of the episode; so there would be different answers in different scenes, since the characters are in different states in their relationships with Michael.

The bar scene featuring “The Scarn” would have been filmed right after Karen transferred to Scranton, so she would have a brand new employee in a new city, eager to fit in; you can even see her going the extra mile to play along pretending to “learn” the Scarn dance the first time Michael demonstrates it.

Angela has some professional ambition and acted out of more respect for Michael all those years ago; still, in the completed movie, you can see her mixed feelings by the contempt by which she delivers her line.

Stanley got a big kick out of seeing himself onscreen in “Local Ad,” and combined with the fact that he was only doing voiceover work, it seemed completely plausible that Michael would have persuaded him to do it on a lunch break.

Helene would have shot her scene when Michael was dating her.


  1. Thanks BJ and LaVerne for the answers! It would have been so cool to have Amy Adams show up in the movie and now I can’t wait to watch the whole thing!

  2. Wow, that was completely amazing.

    I love that the office writers get so involved.

    Thanks for the behind the scenes look BJ!

  3. Fantastic Q&A! Thank you so much. This is the type of thing that sets The Office apart. Awesome generosity!

  4. Wait So Erin wasn’t in the movie because Michael had stopped filming awhile ago, but Helene was in the movie?

    Erin was working in the Office when Michael was dating Helene.

    Michael must have done some pick ups and re-shoots :)

  5. Well, I’m glad I figured out why David Wallace wasn’t in the movie, or why he hasn’t been seen on the episode. I hope I find him on a deleted scene.

  6. Yay! He answered my comment (which ended the segment)! This made my day…

    So thank you B.J. for not only answering our questions, but maintaining the world’s greatest and smartest show as well!

  7. Thanks, BJ and crew! I loved the description of going back in time…that was how it was watching it for me. Just a great episode and really appreciate the insights.

  8. @ #5
    Didn’t Michael not like Erin for a while, but finally got used to her? Because he was reluctant to let her go with him to the school in “Scott’s Tots” maybe he didn’t want her in it then but was already done filming when he finally liked her.

  9. Great interview! It’s always good to see the process behind bringing all those elements together on screen.

  10. Thank you, BJ, for sharing such interesting information about the making of TLM. As usual, you gave us a great insight into how you put this all together. And I loved how expertly you captured Michael’s mind and intentions — he truly is a most remarkable character!

  11. This was awesome! I’m sitting here going through back episodes on Netflix tonight and forget just how incredibly funny some of these are. I LOVE THIS SHOW.

  12. Thanks for all the detailed answers B.J.! I hope the David Wallace talking head makes it as a deleted scene on the DVD. It’s amazing how much work every department put into making this a great episode. It would have been funny to see Katy come out in the movie. I can’t believe this episode was Steve’s idea. Steve is a genius! I’m so glad everyone decided to jump on board to do this episode.

  13. Thanks Tanster and BJ! I can’t believe he answered my really stupid question! I was kind of hoping he wouldn’t see it because I felt so embarrassed for submitting it. But look how well he answered it!

  14. Thank you so much to B.J., LaVerne, and everyone else involved for the great Q&A and the great episode.

  15. Wow – what a great Q & A! Thank you BJ and the entire Office crew – this is such a gift for us fans!

  16. What a fantastic Q&A — It deserves a second reading! I will never get tired of geeking out over the behind the scenes Office stuff. Thanks so much for facilitating this and thanks to wonderful BJ Novak for his great responses, and to sweet LaVerne too!

  17. What a great Q&A! It really rounds the episode out for me. Thanks, BJ and LaVerne, for those great answers, and thanks, as always, to Tanster for making this happen!

  18. Thank you BJ! I can never get enough behind the scenes insight. Love this stuff. We Office fans are sure lucky. Look what we get! Such a great group of people.

    Very interesting to find out this was Steve’s idea. Sounds like an amazing experience for everybody involved. And I too hope to see that David Wallace TH on the dvd.

  19. Just noticed that other than the voiceover, Leslie David Baker does not appear in this episode! Why he is not there for the viewing party?

  20. I love this show, love the writers, and love everything about it. I have all the episodes on random/repeat 24/7.

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