It's time for another installment of guest stars. In this version, I will be looking at The Office. The way I do this is by looking at the cast lists from TVrage.com's printable version and writing down the name of every guest star that I recognize. Thus, it's a highly subjective list. An asterisk denotes a recurring role.
Amy Adams*, Amy Ryan*, Amy Piitz, Armin Shimerman (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine), Conan O’Brian, Chip Esten (Whose Line Is it Anyway), Dan Castellenata (The Simpsons), David Koechner*, Georgia Engel, Idris Elba*, Jim Carrey, Jim Coleman, Joey Slotnick, Josh Groban, Kathy Bates*, Kevin McHale (Glee), Maura Tierney, Melora Hardin*, Nancy Walls*, Patrice O’Neal, Ray Romano, Ricky Gervais, Rob Huebel, Stephen Collins (7th Heaven), Tim Meadows, Timothy Olyphant, Warren Buffett, Will Arnett, Will Ferrell*, Zoe Jarman (The Mindy Project)
The Office has been relatively low key about guest stars in comparison to other NBC programs that previously anchored NBC’s Must See Thursday such Seinfeld, Friends, Will and Grace, and Frasier. Greg Daniel and Mike Schur have said in interviews that the show’s plan was to veer away from stunt casting in an effort to preserve the setting. A big name star, even if they weren’t playing themselves, would break the illusion that these people lived in a small town disconnected from the nation’s cultural centers. For instance,
the show was in talks with Carol Burnett to guest star in the fourth season but likely nixed the idea out of concerns that she was too famous.*
Perhaps, Conan O’Brian’s anti-climactic non-speaking cameo is a wink to this notion.
As Michael Scott is commenting on the greatness of New York, he doesn’t even notice Conan O’Brian walking by although its captured at the edge of the faux documentary shot.
In spite of this, the show has used bigger names in recurring roles (Kathy Bates, Amy Ryan, Timothy Olyphant and Irdis Ebra, and cast James Spader-initially a guest star) and they seemed to reverse course completely with a guest starring binge in the Season 7 finale with Warren Buffet, Ray Romano, James Spader, Jim Carrey, and Will Arnett all guesting as interviewees for the open position. It was also in this season that Will Ferrell was given a 3-episode arc that many found distracting. A possible explanation for this was network pressure being worried that the show would suffer upon Steve Carrell’s departure. Another possible explanation is that since they were all in the running to take over on the Office, the episode served as a proverbial test drive.
Before they were famous:
Kevin McHale-Artie on Glee showed us a nice functioning pair of legs when he played a pizza boy locked in the break room a couple years before he was cast on Glee.
Zoe Jarman-Jarman just got cast in “The Mindy Project” as a level-headed receptionist where Mindy works. She played a bubbly young missionary en route to Mexico in the “Christening”
Amy Adams-Although she had a scene-stealing role in Catch Me If You Can, it wasn’t until she got nominated for an Oscar for Junebug (an independent film few people saw) in early 2006 that she became a known commodity. Her Oscar nomination occurred on the same week as her last episode of the Office
Amy Ryan-One of the show’s greatest moments was when Ryan’s Holly Flax reacted to Michael Scott’s awkward yoda impression with one of her own. It was then that we knew Holly was the ying to Michael’s yang and would root for the two of them to get together for the next three seasons.
Jim Coleman-Probably best known for his role on Heroes, Coleman plays a state senator who’s importance is inflated by wife Angela but taken at face value by everyone else. If that weren’t enough, a twist comes later that season when it’s revealed he’s gay. Being imbued with two jumping-off points for laughs makes him more well-rounded than some cast members.
Josh Groban-Maybe it’s just the novelty of seeing the opera singer do something different, but Groban was a lot of fun as Andy’s brother who can outsing him. Stephen Collins (pictured below) from 7th Heaven played a variation of his dad-of-the-year role with some undertones of parental neglect.
Ricky Gervais-Since the show’s inception as a spin-off of the legendary British series, the original cast of the Office has been high on fan’s wish lists but the show has largely strayed away from any crossover between the universes of Dunder-Mifflin and Slough but in that anomaly of a seventh season, Gervais’ David Brent had a chance meeting with his American expy in the show’s cold open. It was largely inconsequential and blatantly pandering, but an undeniably fun couple of minutes.
Blink and you miss it:
Andy Daly-Ben Franklin in the bachelor party episode was played by stand-up comedian and Mad TV alum Andy Daly. In real life, Daly is a history buff and enjoyed improvising the scene with Rainn Wilson.
Patrice O’Neal-The late great comedian appeared as one of Daryl’s warehouse workers on three occasions.This is ironic because I actually thought that Daryl was played by Patrice O'Neal for a short while before Craig Robinson broke out in Judd Apatow's films.Kevin McHale-As previously mentioned, Kevin McHale played the pizza delivery boy with an attitude who found himself locked in the Dunder-Mifflin conference room when he ticked off Michael Scott.