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Steve Carell reflects on the "emotional torture" of filming his final scenes of The Office

Illustration for article titled Steve Carell reflects on the "emotional torture" of filming his final scenes of The Office
Screenshot: The Office

Steve Carell’s Michael Scott was essential to the success of The Office’s American adaptation. As cartoonish as the role often was, it also capitalized well on the sad vulnerability of Carell’s humor, and, in the series’ best episodes, gave him an opportunity to showcase one of the most desperately lonely characters in TV history. The show did its best to fill the void when Carell left toward the end of its seventh season, bringing on James Spader and Catherine Tate, but it was never the same without him—something reflected in a new episode of the An Oral History Of The Office podcast about just how how painful it was for Carell and his old Office castmates to film his departure.


In “When We Said Goodbye To Steve,” host Brian Baumgartner (the show’s resident chili expert) discusses the end of the character with Carell himself, showrunner/writer Greg Daniels, and other former cast mates like Rainn Wilson, Jenna Fischer, John Krasinski, and more. The podcast touches on the network choosing not to renew Carell’s contract—a decision heavily impacted by NBC’s Comcast acquisition and a decline in ratings during the rise of streaming services—as well as what it was like to shoot his last scenes.

Carell says he felt like Michael’s character arc was pretty much finished at this point regardless of his contract and worked with Daniels to figure out how best to conclude his story line. Carell thought it would be a good representation of Michael’s growth to have him leave without being the center of attention. His final scenes, then, were mostly one-on-ones with other actors, which Carell said were “emotional torture.”

“It was ... just fraught with emotion and joy and sadness and nostalgia,” he says on the podcast. “But it was also really beautiful.” Fischer recalls “sobbing” along with him as her character Pam says goodbye to Michael and Krasinski remembers “17 takes of not even speaking, just ... dribbling crying” during their last scene. Krasinski calls Carell’s exit from the series as “the end of something more than even losing Steve or losing Michael.”

“It felt like the end of our show in a way,” he adds. “It’s like when you graduate college, your life isn’t over. But that version of your life will never come back.”

Listen to the entire episode below.


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Contributor, The A.V. Club. Reid's a writer and editor who has appeared at GQ, Playboy, and Paste. He also co-created and writes for videogame sites Bullet Points Monthly and Digital Love Child.