Interview: Ed Helms

By Amrie Cunningham (My Take on TV)

There are a lot of shows on Thursday nights. Comedies, dramas, reality TV. My TiVo and downstairs DVR are in constant motion on Thursdays. But there is one show that I refuse to miss. That show? That show is The Office. The shenanigans of the Dunder Mifflin gang keep me coming back week after week, anticipating great new stories and comedy geniuses that keep me laughing. This past season, the writers and producers decided to add cast members to kind of change up our little gang. When it was first brought up in the media, a lot of people didn’t want it to happen. “It is perfect the way it is,” they were quoted as saying. Then, along came Rashida Jones as, gasp!, a truly likeable love interest for Pam’s Jim, and Ed Helms in a role that no one else but Ed Helms could play. And suddenly, life without Andy Bernard at Dunder Mifflin Scranton seems like lightyears away, and I can’t imagine the show without him. To my delight, I recently had the immense pleasure of speaking with Mr. Anger Management himself, Ed Helms, about the show (he’s a series regular folks, so he’s in it for the long haul), his fans, and his guilty obsession with a certain chrome-dome hosted NBC reality show.

We love you on the show. You fit in so wonderfully. I just love everything about you and your character!
That’s so nice. Thank you. I think the producers made a really wise decision to introduce Rashida [Jones, who will be back for a few episodes this season] and me in very small doses early on in the Stamford branch. It sort of gave us an opportunity to ease into the characters and it also gave the audience an opportunity to ease into us and not feel like we were intruding too much.

What’s your favorite thing about Andy? He’s definitely crazy, but we love him!
What’s my favorite thing? I think my favorite thing about Andy is his eagerness to break into song. Because that’s pretty close to me in real life. I’m really glad that that’s found its way into that character just because it’s fun and silly. But from an acting standpoint, I think the funnest part for me is Andy’s disconnect with how he’s really feeling. He seems like he’s always trying to give an outward appearance that’s not quite in sync with his real emotional status. That’s always fun.

How much of you is in Andy – the musical stuff, was that written in because of you, or was it already in the scripts?
You know I think that the writers put in that Andy was in an a capella group in college because that seemed a sort of defining part of his history. I think it gives you an immediate association that tells you a lot about who Andy is. So that’s where it started, but then I think the extent of it just grew as we kept shooting more episodes. Some of it was improvised, some of it was written. It’s gotten to a point now where it’s acknowledged as a part of Andy’s character. So the writers write to it.

I think one of my favorite things that I’ve seen on the show is the tag with The Rainbow Connection in pig latin.
That’s so great. I really do play the banjo. It’s just a weird little detail of my life. Greg Daniels, the Executive Producer was tickled about the banjo and so he was looking for a way to get that into the show. That was sort of our shoehorn banjo moment. It worked beautifully.

Do you have a lot of fun on the set?
I have what should be an illegal amount of fun on the set. It’s so…I can’t wait to get back. We start production in a few weeks and I’m already getting antsy because it’s such a great group of people. The whole staff and crew, and of course the cast. They really established a tone in the production there that’s just warm and fun. It’s like it’s more than you can ask for at any job. I feel like I’m worried about my later years in life because I feel like I’m using up so much good karma right now. There’s going to be some sort of karmic backlash somewhere down the road.

You’re cracking me up right now [quite literally. He was so delightfully hilarious that I was laughing with everything that we talked about]. Do people approach you expecting you to be funny all the time?
Not really. I’m a pretty low key person in real life, but most Office fans are really pretty great and friendly. I love to just say hi to folks. I really appreciate nice feedback. Occasionally, it’s funny, and I don’t find this annoying at all, I just find it funny. A lot of people will see me and go ‘hey Big Tuna’ and I’m obviously not Big Tuna. Jim is Big Tuna. People call me Big Tuna when they see me out in the streets. It’s funny because it’s not quite accurate.

This is my favorite story actually. I was at a bar in Brooklyn, NY. It was St. Patty’s Day. I was just hanging out with some friends. This little group of guys right behind me at the bar start chanting “Stamford, CT! Stamford, CT!” which was a cheer that I did in the Branch Closing episode. I turn around, I thought they were doing it because I was standing there. I turned around and said “Hey guys, that’s pretty cool” and they looked at me like I had grown a second head. They had no idea who I was. I turned back around and I was like “I don’t know if they know, I don’t know why they were chanting. They clearly didn’t recognize me.” My friend said, “Alright, I’m going to get to the bottom of this.” And he goes and asks them, “why are you chanting that?” And the one guy says, “Oh there’s this guy Ed Helms from The Office. During this one episode he started chanting it, and we’re from there so we just sort of started chanting it, co-opted it and we chant it now and then.” My friend said, “You know he’s sitting right behind you,” and they were like “Come on!” And they turned around and I was sitting right there. It was fun for me because it was a moment of Office fans expressing something, with no idea that I was there. I felt sort of privileged to happen to be sitting there for a moment.

Do you know what’s going to happen in Season 4?
Maybe…maybe not. Jim comes out of the closet, he’s gay. This is really weird, but Dwight murders Creed in the second episode. Are these too big spoilers?

I don’t know, they might ruin the season for someone [cue laughter from both me and Ed].
To be honest, I know little bits and pieces, but I’m certainly not at liberty to discuss them. It’s all subject to change anyway. I can’t wait to start reading new scripts.

I can’t wait to start watching new episodes. You have more episodes this year than last so that’s exciting!
When you guys are excited to watch a new episode, we have that same excitement when we gather for a table read and everyone’s so excited to find out what happens in the new episode. We share that same excitement, but we’re just slightly ahead of a schedule that the fans are on. It’s funny. Everyone’s a fan of the show that works there. We’re following the storylines just like everyone else.

That’s a really good thing to hear! So what else do you watch on TV?
What else do I watch? I watch Braves baseball.

You don’t watch Phillies baseball? [Ed’s cousin Wes is a Third basemen for the most losingest team in MLB history, the Philadelphia Phillies]
I’m sorry, are you in Philadelphia?

Yes I am, but I’ll forgive you that because we like the Braves in my house too!
Good good, I’m in my parents’ house in Atlanta right now! I like to watch, my guilty pleasure is Deal or No Deal. It’s so riveting. I can’t turn away from it. My favorite show is probably Mythbusters. A close second would be Deadliest Catch. I just love Mythbusters. Those 2 guys, I just want to hang out with them at all times. It’s so cool. I’m kind of this nerdy, do-it-yourselfy guy, so I see these guys doing these experiments and blowing shit up. It’s just the coolest thing ever.

That’s almost it for me. One last question – What do you have to say to a new office fan?
John Krasinski has a nude scene in the first episode of the season. So hopefully that’ll get some new fans on board.

[Muffled laughter from both sides of the phone connection]
What else. I don’t know. Jump on the bandwagon. It’s a fun ride. I think new people, people who watch for the first time, I would just say stick with it for a couple of episodes. I think sometimes people watch it for the first time and they don’t quite understand the back-story and the characters, and their relationships within the show. And that’s where so much of the great comedy comes from. I would say if you’re new to the show, make the commitment for a couple of episode, and once you crack the veneer, you’re in.

Thank you so much for your time – it’s been a pleasure!
Great to meet you, Amrie. I look forward to the column. Tune in. Talk to you later!

As hilarious in real life as he is on the small screen, I can only anticipate great things from the new season of The Office. Brand new episodes return starting September 27, with an all new hour long season premiere!

In Other, Emmy-related News!

Just a quick note to mention the Emmy nominations that are announced by Ducky and Brenda Leigh (Jon Cryer and Kyra Sedgwick) this coming Thursday. I’m putting out my own personal “For Your Consideration” for Kyle Chandler, Connie Britton, Friday Night Lights, John Krasinski, Ricky Gervais, and The Office. I also don’t want to leave out my other favorites – Weeds and Dexter – hopefully Showtime gets some love! Hopefully my picks get some appreciation!!

That’s it for this week. Tune in next week for a chat with up and coming actor Noah Bean as we discuss his role on the new (and fabulously good) Glenn Close vehicle Damages on F/X. I’ll also have my reaction to what will probably be another predictable Emmy list. And don’t forget to check back all next week as TheTVAddict and myself head off to ComicCon International for all the latest scoop on your favorite TV shows!

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