The Office premiered on NBC in March 2005, and introduced the world to some of the most memorable characters in television history, including Michael Scott, Dwight Schrute, Pam Beesly and Jim Halpert. It was the talented actors behind these colorful characters that brought the boring 9:00 to 5:00 office job to life. For eight seasons, these characters made us cry, made us laugh, made us cringe, and even made us want to work in an office. Prior to taking on the roles of Michael, Dwight, Jim and Pam – actors, Steve Carell, Rainn Wilson, Jenna Fischer and John Krasinski were essentially unknowns aside from Carell who had landed supporting roles in the comedies Bruce Almighty and Anchorman. However, thanks to the success of the show, these actors were skyrocketed into stardom, turning their character’s names and their real names into household names. We’ll always identify Steve Carell as Michael Scott, Rainn Wilson as Dwight Schrute, and John and Jenna as Jim and Pam, because their portrayals of these characters were so genuine that for us – they seemed real. It’s hard to imagine anyone else playing the roles of the famous Dunder-Mifflin staff, but back in 2003, NBC auditioned several now well-known actors. They didn’t make the cut, but they were pretty darn close.
10. John Cho
Actor John Cho, who is best known for his roles in the Harold and Kumar films, was up for the part of Jim Halpert in 2003. From an acting standpoint, John could have easily been able to bring the same personality to the role of Jim, the lovable, mild-mannered paper salesman, as John Krasinski did. However, John Cho is of Asian descent and this singular but significant difference might have reshaped the relationship between Michael and Jim. With Cho as Jim, Michael Scott may not have looked up to him as much and might have acted weird towards him to placate to his Asian heritage, much like he did to Daryl, Stanley and Kelly. Due to the fact that the Michael character was ignorant about cultural differences and was basically a racist because of it, having John Cho as Jim could have completely changed the dynamic of the show. Despite the possibility of a reshaped relationship between Michael and Jim, Cho could have opened up a lot of opportunities for a range of humor. The Office was known for delivering prejudice jokes about African Americans, Mexicans, Gays, Women and more; but it never poked fun of Asian stereotypes, aside from the ‘Diversity Day’ episode in season one. Cho’s presence could have allowed for an additional stream of ridiculous comments out of Michael and provided a new cultural avenue for the writers and cast to explore.
9. Patton Oswalt
Patton Oswalt, who is most recognized for his role as Spence in the television show The King of Queens, was considered for the part of Dwight K. Schrute. Although Oswalt is a phenomenal comedic actor, it’s his physical size that didn’t quite fit the role. Unlike Rainn Wilson, Oswalt is short and a bit chubby, so playing the overly confident Dwight who believed he was a perfect physical specimen (aside from his small nose) might not have been believable. In addition, Oswalt as Dwight may not have had the same sexual bravado with Angela, due to being dumpy and short. At any rate, Oswalt’s size could have added to the absurdity of Dwight’s claims of physical superiority and it may have been even more hilarious to see a dumpy character possess brooding confidence. On top of that, without Rainn Wilson, audiences would have never heard the hilarious, improvised line he delivered to B.J. Novak in the season three ‘Initiation’ episode, “Just as you have planted your seed into the ground, I will plant my seed into you.”
8. Kathryn Hahn
Kathryn Hahn, well-known for her roles in the films, Step Brothers, We’re the Millers and The Goods, once auditioned for the role of the shy and kind receptionist, Pam Beesly. Although Hahn has a similar look to Jenna Fischer, she may not have brought the same level of sweetness and innocence that Jenna brought to the character of Pam, which is what made Pam so likable. Without Jenna, Pam’s modest and down-to-earth style might not have been the same. According to Fischer, Pam’s hair and makeup style was her idea and it’s actually how she wore it in her audition. Fischer had a rule for the hair and makeup team – it couldn’t look like it took Pam more than 30 minutes to get ready in the morning. Even though Pam’s sweetness may not have been as sweet, Hahn could have brought a bit of vulgarity to the character. This could have sparked some hilarious interactions between Michael and Pam, since Pam would have been able to play along with Michael’s crudeness – that’s what she said.
7. Alan Tudyk
Most people recognize Alan Tudyk from the 2004 film Dodgeball, where he played the offbeat character, Steve the Pirate. However, a year prior to the release of Dodgeball, Tudyk was up for the role of Michael Scott. The Office premiered in 2005 and with Tudyk’s claim-to-fame being the character Steve the Pirate, it could have been difficult to take him seriously as Michael, Regional Manager of Dunder Mifflin Scranton. On the other hand, Tudyk is a very eclectic actor with a background in all different genres. He could have brought different facets to the character on the emotional spectrum that Steve Carell wasn’t capable of doing in the first couple of seasons, due to his singular comedy background. Nevertheless, without Steve Carell, audiences would have never experienced the Michael and Oscar kiss in season three’s episode, ‘Gay Witch Hunt.’ It was Carell that improvised the kiss in the scene that only called for a hug and as a result, the shock and uneasiness viewers witnessed from the cast was completely genuine and entirely hilarious.
6. Adam Scott
Adam Scott was also up for the role of Jim Halpert. Although he didn’t get the part, he essentially played the role of Jim as Ben Wyatt in the television show, Parks and Recreation. The character of Wyatt is very similar to the character of Jim, except that Wyatt is just a bit nerdier. Adam Scott as Ben Wyatt makes it clear that Adam Scott as Jim Halpert might not have made much of a difference to The Office, aside from a potential variation in onset chemistry with fellow cast members. During auditions, Jenna Fischer had such a strong chemistry with John Krasinski, that she believed without him she could have not played Pam. In a 2013 interview, Jenna explained why John was the perfect Jim, telling People magazine, “I can’t do Pam without him. In the way you need the right partner to have a great marriage, I needed the right costar to have this relationship.” So, casting Adam Scott could have weakened the Pam and Jim relationship and consequently, they might not have been a fan-favorite. However, if Adam Scott landed the role of Jim he would have never been cast as Wyatt in Parks and Rec. Then again, maybe John Krasinki would have landed the role of Ben Wyatt.
5. Eric Stonestreet
Eric Stonestreet is best known for his role as Cameron Tucker on ABC’s Modern Family, but long before that, he was a contender for the role of Kevin Malone, the idiotic and overweight accountant at Dunder Mifflin. Stonestreet is a phenomenal actor, but he has a sophistication about him that might not have fit Kevin’s personality. With Stonestreet as Kevin, he may have come off as lazy, but not as idiotic as how Brian Baumgartner was able to portray Kevin. This change in personality could have eliminated the hilarious interactions in which Angela talks down to Kevin and the incident in season five when Holly mistakes Kevin for a mentally challenged person. Although Stonestreet might not have delivered the same type of dumb humor that Baumgartner brought to Kevin’s character, he could have brought self-deprecating humor to the role. The U.S. version of The Office didn’t utilize self-deprecating humor like the UK version did. So this casting change could have allowed the show to carryover that aspect of the UK Office. Nevertheless, if Eric Stonestreet would have landed the role of Kevin, he would not have played the role of Cameron Tucker in Modern Family.
4. Seth Rogen
Seth Rogen is an A-List actor, but back in 2003 when he was auditioning for the role of Dwight K. Schrute, he was essentially an unknown. Even though he wasn’t well-known, Rogen had already established his ‘stoner persona’ thanks to Freaks and Geeks and Undeclared. This preexisting image could have made Dwight’s passion for safety and security implausible with Rogen as the character of Dwight. Also, Dwight was a Volunteer Sheriff’s Deputy, and audiences got a glimpse of what a crime-fighting Seth Rogen would be like and that glimpse was The Green Hornet. However, instead of the uptight, straight-laced personality that Rainn Wilson brought to the role; Rogen could have portrayed Dwight as more laid-back and chill. This nonchalant outlook combined with Dwight’s know-it-all attitude could have created an uproarious self-contradicting character. Keep in mind that without Rainn, audiences would have never known about some very “serious” diseases he improvised in season one’s ‘Healthcare’ episode, such as “Hot-dog fingers” and “Government-created killer nanorobot infection.”
3. Nick Offerman
Nick Offerman was actually almost cast in, The Office; twice. The first opportunity was for the role of Michael Scott and then later on for an undisclosed guest-star part. He was rejected for the role of Michael, but Offerman landed the guest starring role. However, he had to turn it down due to prior commitments. These decisions worked out best for both The Office and for Parks and Rec. Nick ended up being cast as one of the most iconic television characters of all time, Ron Swanson, the hardened, deadpan, mustachioed boss on Parks and Rec. However, just imagine Offerman, the ultimate man’s man as Regional Manager of Dunder Mifflin. Nick’s manliness could have helped bring a better command presence, and a far different temperament to the role. When Carrell’s Michael would lose it, it was more of a temper tantrum than an actual tirade. Offerman could have delivered outbursts so fanatical that his employees actually feared him, creating a true authoritarian presence in The Office. Everything considered, having Steve Carell play the role of Michael Scott actually saved The Office from cancellation early on. Season 1 debuted with mediocre ratings and NBC execs were going to cancel it, but decided to renew it for one more season solely on the anticipated success of Steve Carell’s film, The 40-Year Old Virgin. NBC hoped Carell’s rising star would boost ratings for the show and it did. Season 2 of The Office was a ratings success.
2. Judah Friedlander
Judah Friedlander, known for his roles in 30 Rock, The Wrestler and Zoolander, was also up for the part of Dwight K. Schrute. Some of Dwight’s claims, as ridiculous as they were, had some sort of air of believability behind them because of how confident the character was and how he carried himself, which Rainn Wilson was able to convincingly portray. Judah Friedlander might not have been able to bring the same level of confidence and therefore, wouldn’t have been taken seriously in any regard. Friedlander has more of a sloppy and unkempt persona, while Dwight’s personality was overly confident, aggressive and competitive. With Friedlander as Dwight, audiences might not have been convinced that he was the #1 salesman, and the Angela/Dwight relationship may have been uncomfortable to watch. In spite of the possible shortcomings, Friedlander, a seasoned stand-up comedian, could have delivered some of the goofiest moments in television history. Due to his comedic experience, Judah may have improvised lines that were even more outlandish and hysterical than Rainn Wilson’s improvisations.
1. Bob Odenkirk
Bob Odenkirk was actually cast as Michael Scott after Steve Carell had to turn it down, due to accepting a role in the NBC sitcom, Come to Papa. However, the show was cancelled after four episodes, allowing Steve Carell to accept the role as Michael Scott. In Season 9, Episode 16, fans were able to get a glimpse of what Bob Odenkirk would have been like as Michael Scott when he played Michael’s doppelganger, Mark, a manager at an office in Philadelphia that Pam was interviewing at. Odenkirk’s ‘Michael Scott’ was a little more enthusiastic, talkative, and over-the-top than Steve Carell’s ‘Michael Scott.’ Even though Odenkirk could have lived up to Michael’s goofy, ignorant and dorky side; he might not have been as convincing during Michael’s serious moments like in Season 4, Episode 12, when Michael had to stand up to Stanley’s insubordination. Additionally, because of his upbeat and over-the-top personality, Michael’s romance with Holly might have seemed far too cheesy with Bob Odenkirk.
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