Phyllis Smith Didn’t Know She Was Auditioning For 'The Office'

It’s time to hear from Phyllis Smith on this episode of The Office Deep Dive! Brian Baumgartner surprises her with casting director Allison Jones, with whom Phyllis worked as a casting associate for The Office as well as Freaks and Geeks and many other shows. They hadn’t seen each other in a long time, and Brian is adorably excited for his “Oprah moment.” The three of them talk about the casting process, how Phyllis didn’t know she was auditioning, and the time Greg Daniels jumped out of a window; then, Allison leaves Phyllis and Brian to talk about the series finale, how they felt when Steve Carrell left the show, why they think the series resonates with audiences so much, and how strange it is to be well-known as a character who shares your first name (“At least when people call you Kevin, you know it’s because of the show….I have to think, ‘Have we met before? Did we go to school together?’”)

Phyllis and Allison worked together for years before they started casting The Office, and they share some of their favorite memories, like when Phyllis yelled at an agent over the phone for not doing his job, when Ian Somerhalder yelled at Allison “because he thought I read too fast,” and how Heath Ledger “wasn’t good-looking enough for Fox.” Plus, Phyllis knew Dakota Fanning was going to be a big star after she saw her read for a one-line role as a six-year-old. “I can honestly say that I never thought I would be an actor….I thought that ship had sailed,” Phyllis says. But director Ken Kwapis thought Phyllis belonged in a paper company, so he pulled Allison aside and asked her to let Phyllis read with the actors. And even though Allison knew she’d gotten the part, Phyllis didn’t find out until wardrobe called her to discuss costumes. “They said, ‘I understand you’re going to be playing the character of Phyllis,’ and I said, ‘Yes I am,’” Phyllis remembers. 

Brian and Phyllis were often the butt of many jokes: After Steve left the show, Brian was told, “We can’t lose Kevin because….we have nobody else to do really, really stupid things,” and he remembers Kevin’s comedy becoming more physical after that. “There were a few times where I went to them and said, ‘Guys, I’m not a cartoon character! There are physical limitations to what I can do!’” he laughs. Phyllis loved that Angela was her nemesis until she walked in on her and Dwight and “the balance of power shifted….I became her nemesis!” Plus, all their favorite moments and episodes, how Michael Scott’s appearance in the finale was a huge surprise for everyone, and so much more; enjoy all this Office goodness on this episode of The Office Deep Dive.

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