‘The Office’: B.J Novak Wanted This Actor to Play Michael Scott After Steve Carell’s Exit

Steve Carell’s departure from The Office changed the show forever. Some may argue that the NBC sitcom was never the same. Either way, Michael Scott was the heart of the show. Although actors Rainn Wilson (Dwight Schrute), Creed Bratton (Creed), and even Ed Helms (Andy Bernard) played the manager position at Dunder Mifflin, B.J. Novak (Ryan Howard) felt like there was one actor that could replace Carell. 

Steve Carell says goodbye in ‘The Office’ Season 7

In 2011, Steve Carell left the NBC sitcom after seven seasons. Although the departure devastated many Office fans, the actor never intended to leave the show at all. In Andy Greene’s tell-all book The Office: The Untold Story of the Greatest Sitcom of the 2000s, former crew members revealed Carell didn’t want to exit the series. 

According to sound mixer Brian Wittle and hairstylist Kim Ferry, Carell hinted at a departure during an interview with BBC. NBC didn’t renew his contract and revealed season 7 might be his last. But, Wittle explained that the actor hadn’t made a decision yet. 

As a result, the network decided not to pick up Carell for another season. “He didn’t want to leave the show. [Carell] had told the network that he was going to sign for another couple of years. He was willing to, and his agent was willing to. But for some reason, they didn’t contact him,” Ferry said in the book.

Ferry added, “[Steve] was like, ‘Look, I told them I want to do it. I don’t want to leave. I don’t understand.’ It just is mind-boggling how that happened. And I feel bad because I think a lot of people think he did leave the show on his own merit, and it’s absolutely not true. I’m telling you. I was there.”

‘The Office’ actor B.J. Novak tried to convince James Gandolfini to join the show

After Steve Carell’s exit, B.J. Novak tried to convince another actor to play the Dunder Mifflin manager. In a special appearance on Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen, the actor shared that he tried to recruit Sopranos star James Gandolfini to replace Carell on The Office

“I was at the meeting with James Gandolfini where we tried to convince him to join the show,” he said. “And he was a big comedy fan — his favorite movie was The Rocker starring Rainn Wilson, so he was shy and intrigued.” 

Novak added, “In fact, the way Michael Scott will say something very serious but mispronounce a word, I feel, is a direct descendent of the Tony Soprano sense of humor. So I thought he would have been an incredible replacement — I really, really wanted to work with him.” 

James Gandolfini turned down the role of Michael Scott

Initially, Novak thought Gandolfini wanted to take part in the show. But, James Spader later got the role, and he played the eccentric manager Robert California throughout The Office Season 8. 

When Andy Cohen asked if the late actor showed interest in the role, Novak said, “I did [feel like he wanted it],” he explained. “It was interesting, we suggested sort of a white-collar character to play against type, and he said something I’ll never forget – he said, ‘I feel as an actor, whoever comes out at 3 a.m., that’s who you should be playing. And at 3 a.m., what comes out of me is a blue-collar guy.’ I thought that was so interesting.”

All nine seasons of The Office are streaming now on Peacock.

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