An Audition Tape Offers an Alternate Version of The Office

Can you imagine Adam Scott—or John Cho—playing Jim Halpert?

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Almost 6 months ago, as The Office neared the end of its 9th and final season, cast member Rainn Wilson (who plays Dwight Schrute) posted a sign-in sheet for the first round of casting for the NBC show.  Some of the names on the list were rather intriguing—Adam Scott was auditioning for the part of Jim Halpert, as was Hamish Linklater. The call sheet is unaltered, and you can see these very names scribbled and locked in 2003.

Entertainment Weekly raised the fascinating premise of The Office That Never Was when they posted a compilation of audition tapes (that will be part of the forthcoming season 9 DVD) showing the likes of Seth Rogen (auditioning for Dwight), Bob Odenkirk (reading for Michael Scott, played by Steve Carell);  John Cho and Adam Scott for (each offering their takes on Jim Halpert, the part that ultimately went to John Krasinski). Scott’s idea of  Jim was similar to Krasinski’s—slightly disaffected, sardonic—though a bit more of a depressive, similar to Scott’s substance-abusing former actor on Party Down.  John Cho at Dunder-Mifflin would have probably have caused the writers to think twice when writing Steve Carell’s improv character named Ping, a medley of heavily accented Asian stereotypes.

Casting The Office must have been challenging if only because many of the actors who auditioned seemed to have landed roles seemingly parallel to those they hoped to play on the long-running sitcom. Scott joined Parks and Recreation created by two Office producers and done in a similar talking-heads style—as a competent, voice-of-reason auditor with an outlandish sense of humor. Bob Odenkirk, whose audition for Michael was as good as Steve Carell’s season 1 interpretation of the character, took a role as a clownish attorney on Breaking Bad—he is as much a lawyer as Michael Scott is a boss. 

Watching this footage makes us raises so many questions. What would an Adam Scott Office really look like?  Would his pranks have been more sinister?  Would Kathryn Hahn have made Pam more obscene and outlandish than the tepid secretary played by Jenna Fischer? How would it have changed the world for characters on Breaking Bad, or Parks and Recreation? Would the show have lasted all 9 seasons—would it have even made it past the pilot at all?