There was a lot of looking into the camera on The Office, and with good reason: There was supposed to be a documentary crew filming over the entire nine seasons. Everybody did it, and not just Jim Halpert. In fact, breaking the fourth wall — usually a no-no outside the mockumentary genre — was such a big part of the show’s DNA that some of the cast members found it difficult to break the habit on other projects.
As caught by Entertainment Weekly, the eternally nice Steve Carell swung by Office Ladies, the podcast run by fellow alums Jenna Fischer and Angela Kinsey. There, they talked about staring into the lens, usually with a “Can you believe this?” expression. At the time, Carell was not the versatile, Oscar-nominated thespian he soon became. He was a Daily Show vet with a few movies (like Anchorman) under his belt.
“I have never had a job where I didn’t look into the camera at some point,” Carell recalled.
“Same!” replied Fischer. “I can’t not make the camera a character now. It’s such a habit.”
Carell then admitted he’d unthinkingly done just that on one of his movies. “At least once,” he said. “I’m sure on Foxcatcher I like looked into the camera and [then told myself], ‘Nope. You cannot comment on what you just did.’”
Kinsey had done it, too. “I actually had a director say ‘Uh, Angela, you just looked right down the barrel,’” she said.
The Office ran for so long, all while that unseen crew was still apparently rolling, that The Onion even ran a great article around Season 6 entitled, “’The Office’ Ends as Documentary Crew Gets All the Footage It Needs.” Compare that with the original British Office, which ended after two series and 12 episodes, then came back for two specials, in which the documentary compiled from the footage aired in the world of the show.
Speaking of the OG Office, Carell admitted something big about it. “I chose not to watch the British version because I didn’t want that to influence whatever this version was going to be,” he revealed. “[Gervais] was clearly so great at it, he was such a distinctive character, I didn’t want to do an impression of him.”