‘People were crying everywhere’
The office officially closed its doors a decade ago on May 16, 2013, but the unofficial series finale of the hit NBC comedy aired two years earlier on April 28, 2011, with the two-part episode “Goodbye Michael.” As the title implies, the show then said goodbye to Michael Scott – the bumbling, bumbling Dunder Mifflin manager who was played to perfection by Steve Carell. And The office cast and crew were all too aware that the episode marked an end to the series, even though it took another two years with several actors – including James Spader and Catherine Tate – taking over his job.
“It was like, ‘Wow, the show is over, and now we’re going to do another show without Steve,'” fan favorite Oscar Nunez told Yahoo Entertainment in 2021. “Somebody’s coming in and calling the shots. The office was over: Steve left, and now it’s another show. It was fun, it was great meeting those people, but when Steve left it was really sad” (Watch our video interview above.)
Watch our interview with The office cast and crew on Carell’s farewell episode
It’s not like Carell left the series without a two-week notice. Office showrunner Greg Daniels says the actor made it clear he was moving on when his contract expired at the end of season 7. “He had long told us he was leaving,” Daniels notes. Interestingly, a recent behind-the-scenes book about The office reveals that NBC didn’t put much effort into convincing Carell to stay, angering his colleagues. The actor eventually returned one last time for a guest appearance in the actual series finale, which aired on May 16, 2013.
Carell’s early decision gave the writers plenty of time to plan an appropriate exit. Rather than wait until the end of Season 7 for his farewell, it was decided that Michael would leave Dunder Mifflin’s Scranton office with four episodes left. One rumor story was that he would leave permanently after he was fired, but Daniels – who wrote the episode – doesn’t remember that option being on the table. “That seems like a weird exit for a guy who had given so many great things to the audience and the show,” he says with a laugh.
Instead, Michael leaves for love and moves to Colorado to be with his fiancé, Holly Flax, played by Amy Ryan. However, in classic Michael Scott fashion, he risks screwing up his goodbye by pretending to be not saying goodbye, telling everyone it’s his penultimate day when it’s actually his last day. He initially gets away with the ruse, but as the clock ticks closer to his exit, his resolve begins to waver – especially with Pam (Jenna Fischer) out of the office. In the end, it’s Jim (John Krasinski) who gracefully helps him leave, tearfully calling him “the best boss I’ve ever had.”
Apparently tears flowed during that episode. “People were crying everywhere,” Nunez recalled. “It was very emotional.” In the end, Daniels had to step in and tell the cast to keep their upper lips rigid. “The hardest part was just telling the actors, ‘This is a comedy show, you can’t cry with Steve in every scene! Try to care a little less.'”
At least Carell’s Anchorman co-star Will Ferrell was on hand to try and provide some laughs. The actor was brought in for a four-episode arc as Michael’s replacement, Deangelo Vickers, but he immediately showed his unsuitability for the position – munching on his predecessor’s farewell cake while everyone looks on in shock. According to Nunez, that shock was real. “Will was always doing crazy things, so that was probably improvised, knowing him.”
Of course, Carell didn’t skip his actual farewell party, which followed the end of production of “Goodbye, Michael.” Kate Flannery says he showed up with gifts for the whole team. When Steve left The office, he gave everyone a Rolex watch,” she says, pointing to the timepiece on her wrist. ‘I still wear it. It reminds me of that great experience.”
Nunez also got a watch… but he didn’t keep the gift Michael gave to his alter ego. As a parting gift, Michael gives Oscar a freaky-looking scarecrow doll he made himself. “Looks like it was made by a 2-year-old monkey on a farm,” he later jokes to the camera. “And he just accepted!” That’s a scene many fans have marked as one of their all-time favorites, and Daniels admits that he loves it too. “I don’t know where that doll is,” he says wistfully. “I wish I had it.”
Finally, the truth about the whereabouts can be told. “I left it at the office,” Nunez admits about Michael’s scarecrow gift. “I brought a leash and a pair of shoes, I think. I didn’t have anything like that on my desk, except a real picture of myself and my dog, which I brought because I brought it!”
The office currently streaming on Peacock.
— This article was originally published on April 28, 2021
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