It’s the “that’s what she said” (and he said) to end them all.
NBC’s “The Office” was never the same following the departure of Steve Carell’s Michael Scott after the seventh season, as the show shuffled through various ways to fill the void left by the self-proclaimed World’s Best Boss. While it’s been widely speculated that the actor left because his career outside the show was blowing up, a new book seems to dispel that notion.
As reported by Collider, Andy Greene’s “The Office: The Untold Story of the Greatest Sitcom of the 2000s,” which consists of more than 80 interviews with those who brought the show to life, reveals Carell’s departure was more forced than of his own accord.
The cold open for this story starts in April 2010. During a chat with BBC, the interviewer noted Carell’s contract only ran for one more season. In response, the actor said that the upcoming year would “probably” be his last.
But apparently that wasn’t really the case, the show’s boom operator/sound mixer Brian Wittle revealed. Carell had just mentioned leaving the show off the cuff, “almost unconsciously,” explained Wittle in the book. It was NBC’s response, or lack thereof, that made it real:
He was kind of thinking out loud, but he did it in an interview in public and it created news. Then what he said was the people connected to the show had no reaction to it. They didn’t call and say, “What? You wanna leave?” He said he didn’t get any kind of response from them. When he realized he didn’t get any kind of response from them, he thought, “Oh, maybe they don’t really care if I leave. Maybe I should go do other things.” So I think that made it easier, because when the news broke that he was considering it, the people that are in charge of keeping him there didn’t make a big effort to do so until afterward.
The story seems to be backed up by numerous others.
Hairstylist Kim Ferry said that Carell “didn’t want to leave the show,” and told the network he would sign on for “another couple of years,” but the network didn’t give him an offer:
He was willing to and his agent was willing to. But for some reason, they didn’t contact him. I don’t know if it was a game of chicken or what … He planned on staying on the show. He told his manager and his manager contacted them and said he’s willing to sign another contract for a couple years. So all of that was willing and ready and, on their side, honest. And the deadline came for when they were supposed to give him an offer and it passed and they didn’t make him an offer. So his agent was like, “Well, I guess they don’t want to renew you for some reason.” Which was insane to me. And to him, I think.
Producer Randy Cordray added that he believed Carell would’ve stayed on if NBC handled things differently. Casting director Allison Jones also recalled that Carell wanted to do another season.
“NBC, for whatever reason, wouldn’t make a deal with him … Somebody didn’t pay him enough. It was absolutely asinine. I don’t know what else to say about that. Just asinine,” Jones said.
Collider noted the network was going through a regime change during this time, with Jeff Zucker leaving and Bob Greenblatt on his way in. Cordray said he believed Greenblatt wasn’t a big fan of “The Office.” For his part, Greenblatt said he thought Carell was on his way out already.
“I couldn’t do anything about that since it preceded me,” Greenblatt said.
Regardless, Carell left the show in an emotional episode, and ratings for “The Office” left with him. The show continued for only two more seasons, and — according to Dwight himself, Rainn Wilson — got “wonky” without Carell.
Leave it to Dwight to remain loyal even after all these years.
Reps for NBC and Carell didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.