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‘The Office’ actors speak on professional experience, personal inspirations at ULS

The 50-minute event allowed actors Leslie David Baker and Kate Flannery to open up to students about their personal and professional journeys. ORACLE PHOTO/CARLEIGH BENEDICT

Upon seeing a long line of people waiting to audition for a role in “The Office,” actor Leslie David Baker, who portrays Stanley in the show, thought he had enough time to leave the building to attend a separate audition before his name would be called.

After hitting traffic on his way back and returning late for his audition for “The Office,” his absence went unnoticed by the casting director.

“By the time I got back to the audition, [our casting director] came to me and said, ‘Oh, Leslie, thank you so much for waiting all this time. They said you were in the bathroom.’ And I said, ‘Uh, yeah. You’re welcome,’” he said.

Baker and actress Kate Flannery, who plays Meredith in the show, spoke at Tuesday evening’s University Lecture Series to a packed crowd of students at the Marshall Student Center Ballroom. The night was filled with laughter and emotion as the actors discussed everything from funny and unexpected moments on set to those who supported them most in their career journeys.

Both actors were asked what advice they would give to their respective characters. When Flannery said she would tell Meredith to not drink at work, Baker said he would actually advise Stanley to drink at work, producing laughter and applause from the crowd.

Being attached to such a famous show has its perks, but both actors said it has been difficult to make new friends that don’t recognize them. Baker said he’s lost some friends over the years who couldn’t support him through his success.

“Sometimes people have trouble dealing with the fact that you get attention when you go out, and they go, ‘Well why are they speaking to you?’ And I’m like, ‘I’m in their living room,’” he said.

“And especially after the past…two years of the pandemic. We were on 53 times in one day. I don’t even look at myself 53 three times in one day.”

Flannery said the show might have helped some people reconnect to normalcy during the pandemic, as it represented an escape from extended periods of isolation.

“‘The Office’ was the most streamed show during the pandemic. I think it’s because people couldn’t go to their real office, so they came to ours,” she said. “I just think our show reaches people on a different level.”

With this recognition, each actor said they have had unique experiences with fans recognizing them. Flannery said she got dragged into someone’s wedding photos at a hotel while “looking like crap.”

Though Baker has had experiences like running into a fan screaming at the top of her lungs at a grocery store, he said the most touching interaction he has had was speaking to someone on a cruise who told him the show helped him get through chemotherapy.

“I ran into this guy with his wife and his three kids, and he said, ‘We’re on a cruise celebrating health. I’m in remission. And when I was at my sickest having chemo, my family would be gathered around me and I’d get my infusion. And, you know, they’re laughing, I’m laughing at ‘The Office.’ I’m throwing up in a bucket and then I threw up some more, then we watched the office and they laugh,’” he said.

“He said, ‘But you and the show got me through my sickness. You were there for [my family].. And I really appreciate that.’”

Beyond the screen, Flannery said her father has been an inspiration to her as she navigates her career. Having just recently turned 99 years old, she said her dad’s approach to life of not seeking credit and being there for people has taught her lessons on how to live her own.

Besides trying to live the way her father does, Flannery said she also stays true to what she called the best piece of advice she has received.

“Never worry about the jobs you don’t get. Because you’re meant to have another job that’s a better fit for you. So even if you’re disappointed, do not let it stop you,” she said. “Rejection is protection. I really believe that.”

Flannery said a big reason for the show’s success is that it never treats the audience like they are incompetent. Instead, viewers get to watch characters like Michael Scott, the clueless boss played by Steve Carrell, grapple with the dumb decisions they make.

“‘The Office’ never treats the audience like they’re stupid. Everybody watching is smarter than Michael Scott,” she said.

“And if you don’t know a Michael Scott, you are a Michael Scott.”