The now-iconic cast of The Office came together through a long process of auditions. With the original British version of the sitcom having such a strong impact on international audiences, there was a particular focus on getting each part matched with the perfect actor. And showrunner Greg Daniels didn’t always stick with his first choices, even if they were available.
There were always rumors about who did and didn’t make the cut and why. Thanks to the enduring popularity of the American version of The Office, that attention has never waned. And now, a viral TikTok video presents early auditions for the show, much to fans’ delight.
A viral video delves into the deep bench of comedic actors who auditioned for parts in ‘The Office’
The first part of the popular Office auditions TikTok edit, from the account @behinstheshows, immediately begins with a big star who didn’t get cast. Daniels wasn’t just looking at then-unknowns. He was going through auditions from established heavy hitters.
Part 2 of the “Office Edit” audition TikTok series sticks to the familiar — if in an unfamiliar context. Every actor here would sign on to the series, and most would stay until the show’s end. In a way, both parts present what-if scenarios.
What if a different actor had played a key role like the buffoonish boss Michael Scott? What if the actors who signed on had ended up playing their given parts entirely differently? On such a character-driven show, the beloved version audiences got could’ve taken on a much different tone.
Dwight Schrute’s alternate actors had wildly different comedic vibes
One of the most contested parts was that of the paranoid salesman Dwight Schrute. Alternative comedy heavy-hitters Judah Friedlander and Patton Oswalt were frontrunners for the role.
Seth Rogen — already a movie star — also auditioned, with a goofier and less aggressively paranoid take on the character.
But ultimately, the part went to Rainn Wilson, who doubled down on actor Mackenzie Crook’s intensely strange take in the original U.K. version.
1 of TV’s biggest dramatic actors almost played Michael Scott in ‘The Office’
Michael Scott was always going to go to an established comedy star. However, it came down to two remarkably different takes. One was a lovable but deeply troubled goofball. The other was a darker character more obviously afflicted with an undiagnosed personality disorder.
That second take didn’t make it to the show. It was the interpretation of Bob Odenkirk, best known today for Better Call Saul. But back then, he was a powerhouse comedy writer and performer. Always one to challenge his audience — as with his sketch comedy series Mr. Show — he instinctively leaned into the pathetic aspects of Ricky Gervais’ U.K. version of the character.
Steve Carell went another way, one much more palatable for network TV. His Dunder-Mifflin boss’ desperation still surfaced but wasn’t as blatantly dark. That landed Carell the job.
A different ‘Office’ cast member nearly played Pam Beesley
Pam Beesley was another highly competitive role. Kathryn Hahn made a strong impression. Mary Lynn Rajskub, fresh off a major role in the Fox action-drama 24, thought The Office would mark a nice return to her comedic roots, but her absurdist approach wasn’t the right fit for the character.
And fans know the other big name in the running: Angela Kinsey, who landed the role of Angela Martin after Daniels passed on her take on Pam. The part ended up going to the longtime film comedy actor Jenna Fischer.
A laid-back actor was always in the cards for Jim Halpert
Jim Halpert ended up being the character cast and played closest to his counterpart in the original version of The Office. Martin Freeman’s Tim Canterbury was the perfect point-of-view character in the U.K. show, and Daniels didn’t want to change that formula too much.
Accomplished character actors John Cho and Hamish Linklater were frontrunners. And Adam Scott, who later joined the Daniels-related project Parks and Recreation, nearly made the final cut.
However, producers ultimately went with the less experienced John Krasinski, who veered from the darker sides of Freeman’s acting.
This ‘Modern Family’ star nearly joined ‘The Office’ as Kevin Malone
The role of the oafish Kevin Malone didn’t garner as much competition as the other characters. Brian Baumgartner played Kevin in such a hilariously distinctive way that it’s hard to imagine anyone else pulling it off.
The other finalist would’ve played the part very differently. Modern Family actor Eric Stonestreet brought a different vibe to the character. His natural warmth cut through the comedic doofus that Baumgartner created. Unfortunately for Stonestreet, this was the one case where the meaner interpretation of a character won a role in The Office.