Credit Ed Helms for moving The Office one step closer to reality.
The workplace-themed sitcom began its eighth season in September with Helms’ character of Andy Bernard elevated from the sales ranks of fictional paper company Dunder-Mifflin to the loftier position of office manager (replacing Steve Carell).
So far, the promotion appears to be paying off: Comcast, the parent company of Office broadcaster NBC, recently licensed a line of Dunder-Mifflin paper stock to be sold by Staples in the United States, while Helms is having a comedy field day as the new boss in way over his head.
Born and raised in Atlanta, Helms was working the comedy-club circuit when he signed up for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart in 2002. Four years later, he joined The Office and drew notice for playing the repressed dentist Stu in the 2009 comedy The Hangover and its 2011 sequel. Helms spoke to us recently from Los Angeles.
Has your niche become playing an average guy looking to break out of his shell?
In some respect, yeah. I'm a pretty normal guy, but I think the characters I play are sort of a heightened version of myself. It's become my way to exorcise some of my own demons of insecurity and social awkwardness. I like playing a guy looking to cut loose.
In the real world, are you more like Andy in The Office or The Hangover's Dr. Stu?
Andy, probably. The wardrobe's the same. I really like the way Andy dresses in certain episodes. Like most people, I struggle with confidence and it ebbs and flows. Certainly I can relate to his fear of walking into a new situation. Although I do think I'm a little better equipped at handling it than Andy.
How has The Office changed since Steve Carell's departure and James Spader's arrival?
James Spader the actor has played a lot of creepy and odd characters throughout his career, but James Spader the man could not be more different. He's a wonderful sort of benevolent and cheerful guy. We miss Steve, of course, but James has brought a fantastic energy to the set.
Some people were surprised Andy was made the new office manager. Is he really management material?
Well, Andy has some real leadership potential, it's just a matter of finding it. He has to dig it out of himself. Hopefully that's going to be a hilarious process to watch this season.
Will true love ever bloom between Andy and Erin (Ellie Kemper)?
They're a pretty odd pair because they have strong emotions and very poor communication skills. There's something kind of charming about watching them try to connect. Of course with Andy's new boss position, there's a power dynamic that makes all that tension and awkwardness even more difficult.
Will viewers ever see the final film chronicle of life at Dunder-Mifflin? This must be the longest documentary ever made.
It seems that way sometimes. But there's something beautiful in the mundane if you take a big enough microscope to it. Some of the best documentaries start on one subject and wind up zeroing in on something that seemed innocuous. The smallness of this world is what makes it so beautiful and compelling.
The Office airs Thursdays on NBC and Global