Rainn Wilson

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    • Rainn: Scotland is the Canada of England!

    • Rainn (on how he manages to play Dwight on The Office): There's like ten minutes when it's like, 'Okay, wait, who is this guy again?' And then, you know, I just put on the calculator watch and the glasses, and just be all, you know, inappropriate. And then it just works out fine.

    • Rainn (on what he did during the WGA Strike): I did a little bit of picketing. I played a lot with my three-and-a-half-year-old son, which was good... And I went to Israel and I did some writing. And I worked on my backhand with my Zen tennis coach.

    • Rainn (on getting back to work on The Office after the WGA Strike): You know, it's been a huge love fest. It's like our other family. It's been really, really fun. And we've had a blast these first two weeks. It is great to see everyone again and batteries were definitely recharged.

    • Rainn (on fans disappointment that his character Arthur on Six Feet Under didn't stay longer): Well, you know, the character was doing so well for me that I actually got cast in a little pilot called The Office. So they had to write me out of the show for that. And then I did the movie, Sahara, so I had to leave the country. That was why they wrote me out. I would have stayed there but I had other work calling me, places to go, people to see, things to do. You know how it is (laughs).

    • Rainn (on his role on Six Feet Under): Playing Arthur, I'm sorry to sound sappy, but it was a gift from the Gods. I've always been a working actor and I've always made my living in acting for a long time. I'd been auditioning for that show, I knew the casting directors pretty well. Arthur was the fifth character I auditioned for on the show. They kept bringing me in for parts and not finding anything for me. I actually wasn't supposed to audition for the part of Arthur, I was auditioning for one of the gay choir members from David's choir. Then I read about that part and went, 'Oh my God, that's perfect for me.' And I asked permission to read for it right then and there. I went in and auditioned without any preparation whatsoever and I think that probably helped me because I didn't overthink it. It was an amazing experience. Those shows are so well written and so well acted they're like little one-hour movies. So in a way I got to do like twelve or thirteen little one-hour movies as a very interesting and complex character. Everyone was really cool. Alan Ball, all the artists behind that show, were just so supportive and great and that really helped launch my career. I'm really grateful to the show for that.

    • Rainn (on the greatest challenge working on The Office): Working with Steve Carell because he's such a dick. Can I say that? No, I'm totally kidding. The great challenge working on this show for me is wearing polyester all day long and having the worst haircut known to man at the top of my head and sitting under fluorescent lights. That is America, people. Polyester, bad haircuts, under fluorescent lights.

    • Rainn (on his favorite episode of The Office): There's so many. Another strength of our show – as you can tell I'm a big fan – is you can have really quiet episodes, really simple episodes. And you can have ridiculous farce episodes like "The Fire" episode, running into walls and throwing water jugs around and singing crazily and jumping around like a lunatic. That's really fun. To date my favorite one is the one called "Office Olympics" where Michael's buying a condo. The rest of the office staff, in a gang led by Jim, decide to create a mini-Olympics in the office with ridiculous games with staplers and boxes of paper and paper clips. Michael and Dwight got to inspect his condo and everyone gets something to do. The romance between Pam and Jim and the friendship between Dwight and Michael happens as well. There's a really sweet ending to it. It's just a really interesting tapestry of ensemble in that episode.

    • What's interesting is the show allows for the awkward pauses to be captured, which makes it stylistically unique, especially for American audiences.

      I think we're the only jokeless show on television. I mean really, we have no setups and no punch lines. It's not a joke show. There are funny lines and funny moments but again the comedy is born of the human experience and awkward pauses are a great (laughing) part of what it is to be human.

    • You excel at playing these offbeat and wholly distinctive characters like Arthur from Six Feet Under and now Dwight Schrute on The Office. What's the appeal of playing a character like Dwight?

      Well, it's funny because I grew up a kind of sad, nerdy individual. There was one point in high school actually when I was on the chess team, marching band, model United Nations and debate club all at the same time. And I would spend time with the computer club after school. And I had just quit pottery club, which I was in junior high, but I let that go. I also played bassoon in the orchestra … so you can imagine. I was kind of pimply. I was a pimply youth. So I really understand what it is to be an outsider and I think that the nerds are kind of taking over now. I don't know if you noticed this, but I saw a girl walking through a mall and she was kind of hot and she had a T-shirt that said 'I Love Nerds' on it. That wasn't the case when I was young. Now you've got these nerd rock bands and these nerdy actors. So I guess I understand that and it's just what's interesting to me. I just find that I like to play characters. I like to transform as an actor into a character. I don't want to just play a normal guy going through a tough time. I'm just drawn to the extreme elements, I guess

    • Rainn (on his The Office character, Dwight Schrute): Dwight is a sad clown. You've seen those paintings of sad clown ... Pagliacci weeping, beating the bass drum. Dwight is hard to categorize. You can't quite say ... which is one thing I really enjoy about him. People say 'Oh, he's the dorky one.' Well, he's kind of dorky but he's not really dorky. The only thing you can say about Dwight Schrute is that he is annoying. I will give him that. He is definitely annoying. But is he a loser? No. He's good at his job and he's focused. He's intense. Is he dumb? Yeah. About a lot of things, yeah, he's an idiot. But about a lot of things too, he's really smart. He's an excellent paper salesman. He takes his job very seriously. He takes himself very seriously. The best summary I ever read [was] when someone wrote about him on the Internet that he was a fascist nerd. I think that kind of sums up Dwight perfectly.

    • Rainn (on if his The Office character cares about being liked): Yeah. I think ultimately he does care about being liked. But he thinks that the way for him to get liked is to get approval in the hierarchy and to do things the best possible way they can get done. The fact that a couple of circuits have been fused in his head doesn't help matters but that's his way towards being accepted.

    • Rainn (on his The Office character's unique relationship with his boss): I think Dwight loves being number two. I don't think he has any desire to be number one. He wants to be number two no matter where he goes. It's like Avis. 'We try harder.' That's Dwight. He has a complex relationship with Michael. In one way they really are friends. They hang out. They go to movies. Dwight goes with him to buy his condo. But Dwight annoys Michael, the boss, to no end. But he needs him at the same time. They really need each other yet resent each other at the same time. It's kinda like my marriage (laughs).

    • The UK series of The Office was viewed by many as a milestone in TV, and the idea of it being redone in the US was thought of by its fan base as blasphemous. But to the show's credit, it works and captures its own distinctive aesthetic slant...

      It's interesting. That thought never crossed my mind how blasphemous it would be to do an American major network recreation.

    • The nerds were saying that.

      Oh, of course, I did this movie, Sahara, and all the Clive Cussler nerds were on the boards for months beforehand talking about how wrong the casting was. And how sure they were gonna mess up Clive Cussler's masterpiece. Well, you read Sahara and it is a piece of crap action movie. They just tried to take some action sequences and get some good actors in there and have a little fun with it. You can't listen to them.

    • how did you get the role of Dwight?

      I was slated to do this show with Janeane Garofalo for ABC when I heard that NBC Universal had gotten the rights to do an American version of The Office. I was really bummed thinking that I would love to be a part of that, oh my God! The Janeane Garofalo show was canceled even before we started shooting – although I did get paid. Thank you ABC. I was actually the first person to audition for the show. I was literally the first person on the call sheet. Then I had to wait several months and I knew that they were interested. Then I had the test process and got to do the pilot. Doing this show is like a dream come true. What we're doing is exactly what I thought could happen and was hoping would happen with the show. I wanted to make it more American. It needed to be a little bit faster paced because it's twenty-two minutes long as opposed to the BBC show, which is thirty minutes long. So we're eight minutes shorter per episode. I knew the humor would have to work in a different way and they'd have to be writing for whatever actors they got. But the setup is so brilliant. The English show will always be there. You can buy those DVDs and you can watch them over and over again. But the comedic environment that it created – this boss who thinks he's everybody's best friend and the underlings just trying to get by day in and day out and the things they do to survive in the work place, with a documentary crew capturing it the whole time – is just brilliant. As we can see, now we're making twenty-two episodes this year. It just plays on and on and on. It's such a brilliant, watertight comedic set up.

    • Rainn (on if had seen the British version of The Office before taking the role of Dwight): Absolutely. As soon as it started playing in the United States a friend of mine, one of the first who I knew that had TiVo, told me I had to see this new show on BBC America. I think he had the first two or three recorded on his TiVo and I went over one night and watched them and it absolutely blew me away. I'd never seen anything like it before.

    • Rainn (on Dwight's relationship with his The Office castmate, Jim): Jim … It's interesting. I was thinking about this the other day. The relationship between Jim and Dwight is very different than the English series where they definitely were more combative. More of the combativeness is coming now between Dwight and Michael and more of the tension. I think Jim certainly loves to pull pranks on Dwight and pull the wool over his eyes and Jim can run circles around him. He's so much more intelligent than Dwight. But in some ways I think they respect each other and I think Jim really needs Dwight to be there. I think Dwight really likes having Jim there at the same time. In an odd way there's thin kind of uneasy truce between the two of them as different as they are.

    • Congrats on being picked up for the rest of the year. This is a show that seems to gain popularity with each episode.

      I have to hand it to NBC. They've done a great job sticking with this show and they really do believe in it comedically. And yes, there really is a groundswell that is growing in support for the show. It's so funny because you read these things about our ratings and about our demographic. Our best demographic is young males, like college students and twenty-somethings love it and then rich people love it. Rich families with incomes over a hundred thousand dollars. So you've got rich people (laughs) and young guys especially watching it, and a lot of young girls too.

    • Discuss what it's like to work with such a strong and talented ensemble cast.

      This is a very different show than any I've worked on before. We work sixty-hour weeks. I work 6AM to 6PM because we are all in almost every scene. Even if there's a scene at the reception desk or there's a scene in Michael's office, we're in the background or passing through, walking through. We're creating that office environment; we're always around so it's very demanding. We also have very little lighting set-ups. They'll just shift a fluorescent light or two between scenes and we just do tons of takes. So the best thing about the show is that the writers are brilliant and the writing is very sharp and very smart. All you need to do is make the writing work but because you're doing so many takes and we have such a great ensemble, you can go anyway that you want to go with it. Once we've gotten it down, you can improvise and change it around and bring in stuff, and add stuff all you want. There is a lot of improvisation on the show. A lot of times we will have a scene and then just keep going. And we do it time and time again. We just keep going, and keep going and keep going and a lot of times that stuff at the end of the scene actually becomes the scene. I don't know if you saw the Halloween episode but there's a sequence where Michael has a fake head on his shoulder and Dwight is dressed as the evil emperor from Star Wars and the head on Michael's shoulder is threatening to fire Dwight and Dwight gets in a whole conversation with this whole other head, pleading with the other head, 'don't fire Dwight'. And Dwight basically becomes the evil emperor from Star Wars talking to one of his minions. Well, that was all completely improvised. That was not part of the scene at all and that became what the scene is. And so many people are like 'Oh my God, that's my favorite scene that's ever been in The Office, Dwight as the evil emperor talking to Michael's second head.'

    • Rainn: I've worked in many offices myself, yes. I get paid a little bit more than the six dollars and twenty five cents an hour I got when I worked at the Multiple Sclerosis Society of New York … first as a receptionist, then an assistant office manager, then an assistant in events coordination. But I was let go. I was fired by my boss because he literally said to me, "I want someone to work for me who when I say 'jump' says 'how high.''' He literally said that cliché with a straight face. And the ironic thing is so many of the people that worked there went around in those little wheelie carts, so they couldn't jump at all.

    • How is filming The Office in a "docu-reality" manner different than the mechanics of a regular TV show?

      I think what's really interesting about it is the show we're doing is a "mockumentary" – where this documentary crew has shown up in this completely average, banal Scranton paper office. The characters' awareness of what the camera is capturing, or their obliviousness to what the camera is capturing just adds a whole other element to the comedy. It also allows poignant moments because the camera can catch really private moments through the blinds or through a window or something like that you can't normally play in a straight show.

    • Rainn: If we're going to sustain 22 [episodes] a year for the next 10 years, we need that ensemble to fill out the office.

    • Rainn: Well, Dwight was born to be No. 2 and I don't think he would know what to do as a leader. But he loves following. He would have made a great fascist.

    • Rainn:Pretty much anybody who's ever worked can relate to our show.

    • Rainn: I learned a ton from Joe, ... He'd allow you to do anything you wanted in rehearsal. You could do handstands while doing your lines. He just wants you to explode and explore it. Then he'll guide you and help you focus in like a laser on what the character's journey is.

    • Rainn: I've always been terrible on regular sitcoms with lots of jokes. I don't know how to tell jokes.

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