The Office wrapped its nine-season run in 2013, but the show’s legacy continues through its massive streaming viewership. Two of those loyal audience members are none other than series stars Jenna Fischer and Angela Kinsey. The duo, who played Pam Beesly and Angela Schrute (née Martin), became instant best friends while filming NBC’s iconic sitcom. They are currently re-watching and dissecting each episode through their award-winning weekly podcast titled Office Ladies. In their new book, they go one step further.
In The Office BFFs: Tales Of The Office From Two Best Friends Who Were There, Fischer and Kinsey do a “deep dive” (podcast listeners will be familiar with the pair’s love of the term) into their own special bond. Through the lens of their friendship, the actors revisit the early days of the show and how they grew closer even as their on-screen personas became hilarious frenemies. Much like the Office Ladies podcast, the book is equivalent to getting a warm hug from a comfort TV staple and its appointment reading for fans of The Office.
The A.V. Club spoke to Fischer and Kinsey about the challenges of getting personal with Office BFFs, the stories they couldn’t include, and how they nailed down the perfect rewatch podcast format for Office Ladies.
The A.V. Club: One of the reasons you both were excited to work on this book is because of all the photos and memories you had from your time on The Office. What were the challenges of revisiting and balancing personal stories and professional milestones?
Angela Kinsey: Yeah, one of the biggest challenges from the beginning was actually trying to figure out what all to include. For example, we had thousands of photos but could only put 400 in the book. So the challenge was to figure out, “Okay, what stories do we want to tell, and then what photos can we include?” As Jenna will tell you, I kept wanting to add more and more pictures until I heard “No, we can’t fit them in anymore.” It was a fun challenge to have an abundance of riches of stories, memories, and photos between the two of us.
Jenna Fischer: Angela is right. The hardest part was picking what got to go in the book and what didn’t. There are three specific stories I wish had made it in. One of the things we didn’t get to share, which I so wish was in there because it’s such a huge tradition of our The Office family, is when the cast would get together each week to watch the show at somebody’s house. So when the show aired, we would host viewing parties in our living rooms for years and years and we had pictures of those parties. We couldn’t figure out where to put that part of the story. We also had a picture of what we called the “Death Star,” which was a pointy Christmas prop. It literally kept taking our eye out.
AK: It was this metal star and they hung it over by Pam’s reception desk for a whole week. It tells you the height of where they hung it when I say I bumped into it and it scraped my forehead. It became a running joke on set. These became special moments for us that we couldn’t put in the book.
JF: The other thing we didn’t get to put in is a memo Angela saved announcing that the cast was finally getting wi-fi on set. Those are some milestone moments when we were revisiting our memories and we realize any cast or crew member would instantly recognize them. If we ever did a revised version of the book or something, I’d love to throw those in.
AVC: Oh, wow, are you already talking about revising the book in some form?
JF: No, no, no. We are done with it [the book] for now.
AK: I was just telling Jenna, the book could have a companion piece of just photos, but no. We are definitely done.
AVC: The book topped The New York Times bestseller list the week of publication. What does it signify to you because it’s another indication that The Office fans are still craving content related to the show and what you guys have to say about your time filming it?
AK: First of all, we are humbled, thrilled, and excited to be number one on the NYT bestseller list. It’s been a dream of mine my whole life to write a book, and to get to write it with my best friend is amazing. The book is a love letter to fans of the show and to our friendship, and it’s great to see people embrace The Office the way they still do. Also just knowing that people are buying this book for their best friends or mothers and daughters, knowing it’s bringing a moment of happiness to someone’s life. It means so much. I’m at a loss of words.
JF: We really tried to take great care with the book. One of the reasons it took us so long to finish it is because we hoped to get it just right. When people got the book, we wanted them to feel the love we put into it. It’s exciting to see it now. You know we are going to be saving those The New York Times clippings into the bins we emptied to find the photos for the book. We cleared them out for the book and now we’re filling them right back. It just means so much to me that I did with my best friend. Together we hit this career milestone.
AK: When we got the news about being number one on the list, we were speechless. Then we teared up. Then we just went, “Oh my God, we did it together.” Jenna makes me better in every way. We sharpen each other. We get to share this and that just makes it sweeter.
AVC: Obviously this book puts your friendship front and center. Were you nervous about sharing these intimate moments of your lives in the book?
JF: I wasn’t nervous about it because it’s such a longstanding friendship and I’m so confident in it. It feeds my life. I was happy to share all about this thing that’s so significant to me.
AK: I was too. Jenna and I have worked hard over the years on our friendship. We’ve invested time, energy, and support in each other and to share that with other people means a lot to me because it might speak to someone else. It’s what I teach my daughter too. It’s rewarding to have a friendship like that.
AVC: What’s it like now to discuss your real-life bond more than talking about Pam and Angela’s relationship on The Office? For example, my own best friend and I discuss the podcast and how I’m the Angela and she’s more like the Jenna in our duo.
AK: Oh, it just tickles me. Like what you just said, I instantly want to know more about you and your friend. It’s an unexpected outcome but I get very excited when people now share their own friendships with us.
AVC: What do you feel like you discovered about your relationship while working on this book and your podcast together?
JF: I feel like I’ve discovered things about how our friendship works thanks to the podcast that I wouldn’t know otherwise. What’s funny to me is that until we started doing Office Ladies, and I don’t know how to explain it really, there are aspects of our friendship that I hadn’t really noticed. Well, notice may not be the right word, but I didn’t really put my finger on it. My love of structure or lists weren’t things I was super aware of in our relationship until we started working together weekly. There are always things that will surprise me.
Something we never speak about on the podcast is I’ve realized you never have to remind Angela of anything. Just recently, I told her something like, “Oh, don’t forget to bring this thing on Thursday,” and she says, “Lady, it’s already in my bag.” It’s true, we joke that I’m the organized one, but Angela is too. You don’t just stick to your designated roles. But at the same time, I do so know what you mean when people say, like you just did, “I’m the Angela” or “I’m the Jenna” now. It tickles me too. It’s so interesting to hear.
AK: I’m a digital hoarder. I’ve got a lot of digital clutter. For the podcast, I go back and read a lot of old emails because it’s how we would keep our friendship going before smartphones. We’d send each other long emails with all kinds of updates. I’ve been traveling back in time in our friendship to see what we were doing when filming old episodes. For example, I found an email while recording for [season six’s] “Happy Hour” that during that time, Jenna had asked me if I would join her to shop for her wedding dress. It made me so happy to see our friendship at this young place, and here we are all these years later. The podcast and book have held a mirror to our friendship to make us discover things that were actually there all along.
AVC: What was the process of having a co-writer and still retaining your individual voices in the book?
JF: Since the book plays like a conversation, we had the benefit of each being able to retain our voice. That was great. Angela wrote her parts and I wrote mine. I’ve written a book before and I have to say, I loved having a partner. There were times when I was uninspired or have writer’s block, and Angela would be having a fruitful day and was able to move us forward.
AK: I haven’t written a book but I’ve written and sold television pilots. I found I love the story, and Jenna would help me polish it and give it shape and structure. I found us to be good partners in that way. Not to say we didn’t have to work out some kinks. We have different creative bursts during the day. Jenna is way more of a morning person. I always say she gets up and her brain gets going immediately. I’m more of an evening writer once the day is quiet. We got to coordinate our schedules in that sense. People write books in a vacuum by themselves and now I think that must be so terrifying.
AVC: The Office ended almost a decade ago but now that you’re looking back at it so closely after all these years later, how has your perspective on the show changed or reframed due to the book and podcast?
JF: I haven’t seen the episodes since they aired, so doing the rewatch podcast has actually made me such a huge fan of the show. [Laughs]. I’m now the person who knows all the quotes and all of Michael Scott’s (Steve Carell) best lines. I’m getting to watch it as an audience member. Back when we would watch it together as a cast, I’d be thinking about it differently like “Oh, I wonder what take they’re going to use here” or “Oh my God, look, Ed Helms, your improv got in,” just stuff like that. I now watch it in a totally different way. It’s surreal to me that I’m in it and that Pam was me. It’s so fun to discover episodes I’ve forgotten about. We’re currently finishing up season six, and I forgot how great the “Sabre” and “The Manager And The Salesman” episodes are.
AK: I would piggyback on that and say I’m such a big fan of the show, and especially of Jim (John Krasinski) and Pam. I love tearing up along with them and cheering them on. I don’t remember when we did this show about being so aware of different character journeys. I’m loving watching the scenes I wasn’t part of so maybe I wasn’t there the day it was filmed. Jenna and I both reach out to people about it too. “Happy Hour” is fresh on my mind because we just rewatched it, and Oscar Nuñez [who plays Angela’s fellow account, Oscar] is so good in it. I texted him to say he was crushing it. We get to celebrate our cast members’ performances in this way. And of course, people are often like, “What are you guys doing texting me about things that happened years ago?”
AVC: The podcast is almost closing in on season six, but are there any episodes or storylines you’re excited to talk about for the remainder of the show?
AK: I’m very excited about Robert Lipton a.k.a. the Senator’s (Jack Coleman) arrival, I have to say. I loved doing those scenes with Oscar and that love triangle we had. I haven’t seen them since they aired so I can’t wait.
JF: I’m very excited to see Will Ferrell’s arc as Deangelo Vickers in season seven. I’m also very interested in watching season eight. It is often considered our clunkiest. I have no opinion yet, so I’ll be going in with a mindset of, “Okay, let’s see what do I think of it.” And I don’t have a lot of memories of how I felt about it at the time. I just know back then we were all mourning Steve Carell leaving the show.
AVC: What was the inspiration for crafting the format of the rewatch podcast in the first place, figuring out all the segments and interviews? You guys really go in-depth with every episode.
AK: We really came up with it right at the beginning. Jenna and I knew we wanted to start with a summary. She also wanted to do fast facts about the episode we were going to cover.
AK: [Laughs]. She didn’t think about how many she’d have to do for the whole run. How many is it in total Jenna?
JF: Well, whatever is 201 episodes times 3 facts for each. So 603 fast facts during Office Ladies.
AK: We then sort of naturally figured out the things we wanted to tackle. I said I’d look for deleted scenes and commentaries. We both scour the internet for all kinds of articles and reach out to people for interviews. Jenna is a scheduling master and so she can look ahead and anticipate and say, “Oh, we should ask Andy Buckley to talk about David Wallace here.” She has a great vision for coordination. The woman loves to deep dive on topics, which I so enjoy. We love going back to shooting drafts. Basically, we both just love doing research.
JF: So much of it is just about getting curious about our own show and then having relationships with people who can tell us how we accomplished something. I have such a deeper appreciation for the craft that went on behind the show. We have been in touch with our line producers and also our props master, Phil Shea. Even when I got to speak with Steve Rostine, our set decorator who was in charge of the plants at Pam’s desk, finding out the details of the smallest things behind our show that we love so much is great. And so much we just find in the moment, like [Office Ladies’ audio engineer] Sam Kieffer is going to make me a “Lady who Googles” jingle because that’s what I spend a lot of time doing.
AK: Jenna loves doing a location breakdown, she enjoys the nuts and bolts. Much in the way how we approached the book, we’re both interested in the same topic but it opens our brains up in different ways and we bring different things to it. My favorite thing about the book or podcast is when I say something that Jenna didn’t know or takes her by surprise. After all these years, it’s hard to get something by each other. You know that kind of friendship, right? So to get something that makes her laugh or catches her by surprise, I get so tickled. It makes me so happy.
AVC: Now that the book is out and the podcast has roughly three more seasons to cover, would both of you want to keep working together in some way?
JF: We talk about that all the time. I hope we stay in the podcast space because we do love chatting.
AK: On the podcast, we joked about doing an Office Ladies spinoff where we watch Keanu Reeves movies, or we have a running joke about being mom detectives where we break down crimes that no one cares about. We definitely want to keep working together. Jenna is the absolute best business partner who inspires me. We also have created a company together where we put family first. It was a huge goal for us.