Michael Scott officially exited The Office in 2011, his very last scene aptly taking place in the departures terminal of an airport. At the time, most everyone believed that it was actor Steve Carell who decided he didn’t want to continue on past season 7 — possibly because of other film opportunities. However, a new tell-all type book on The Office has revealed that Carell actually wanted to stay, and that it was NBC who essentially forced him to leave the TV show.
As Collider and IndieWire report, in the book titled The Office: The Untold Story of the Greatest Sitcom of the 2000s, author Andy Greene spoke to various crew members about Carell’s departure. All of them placed the blame on NBC executives, noting how they repeatedly ignored Carell’s desire to move forward with the series at least through season 8.
According to the book, the tension between NBC and Carell all started with a silly press mishap. As sound mixer Brian Wittle and hairstylist Kim Ferry recalled, Carell accidentally revealed during a radio interview that he was considering leaving after season 7. While no actual decision had been made by Carell, the comment made news headlines immediately. And that’s pretty much when NBC began to give the actor the cold shoulder, including refusing to offer a contract extension.
“He didn’t want to leave the show,” Ferry recounted in The Untold Story. “He had told the network that he was going to sign for another couple of years. … He told his manager and his manager contacted them and said he’s willing to sign another contract. And the deadline came for when [the network was] supposed to give him an offer and it passed and they didn’t make him an offer. So his agent was like, ‘Well, I guess they don’t want to renew you for some reason.’ Which was insane to me. And to him, I think.”
Allison Jones, a casting director for the show, echoed Ferry’s account. “As I recall, he was going to do another season and then NBC, for whatever reason, wouldn’t make a deal with him,” she said. “Somebody didn’t pay him enough. It was absolutely asinine. I don’t know what else to say about that. Just asinine.”
Ferry claimed that Carell told him upfront that he didn’t want to leave. “[Carell] was like, ‘Look, I told them I want to do it. I don’t want to leave. I don’t understand.’”
Noticeably frustrated by the situation but also wanting to clear the air, Ferry added, “…I feel bad because I think a lot of people think he did leave the show on his own merit and it’s absolutely not true. I’m telling you. I was there. He really wanted to stay. And it devastated all of us because he was the heart of our show.”
The Untold Story author Greene made it a point to note that Carell’s contract negotiations happened around the same time NBC went through an important changing of the guard, as Bob Greenblatt became NBC Universal Chief following Jeff Zucker’s exit. Greenblatt was apparently “not as big a fan” of The Office, according to one of the show’s producers Randy Cordray. “He took The Office for granted,” he said.
The Office would air two more seasons without Carell, though Scott did make a special cameo during the series finale in 2013. Greene’s The Untold Story is out now and comes as The Office celebrates its 15th anniversary. A potential reboot of The Office may be in the cards for NBC’s streaming service Peacock, which launches this summer.