Amy Ryan and Paul Lieberstein interview, NBC’s ‘The Office’

To use a word that has been hijacked by politicians for the upcoming election, actress Amy Ryan has real “gravitas” in the acting world, and was nominated at last year’s Academy Awards for her part in “Gone Baby Gone.”

No cinematic thespian snob, Ryan has scooped up a critically acclaimed side role in smallscreen on one of the most popular NBC shows ever, “The Office.”

The new season of “The Office” premieres on NBC on Sept. 25.

In the finale we saw Ryan introduced as Holly, a human resources executive who catches the eye of boss Michael, played by Steve Carell.

Now she appear in a six-episode arc, and her biggest acting challenges are maintaining her composure with her riotous co-stars.

Ryan shared her bloopers scene moments. “The day that I went first I was mortified. I was like that’s just not done with the new kid. You can’t do that.  But I laughed so hard at one point that it turned into just bawling tears. So I’m not sure where the laughter began and sorrow took over, but I had to reapply – makeup had to come in and reapply…I’m trying to hide behind my hair and just my shoulders are convulsing. And Steve just carried on no bother. I couldn’t believe it.”

Her next film release is December’s “The Changeling,” directed by Clint Eastwood and costarring Angelina Jolie as a single mom whose character she befriends in the movie.

Monsters and Critics joined a few online journalists and spoke to Amy Ryan and actor, producer and writer Paul Lieberstein of NBC’s “The Office” to talk about the series and the new season starting September 25th.

Amy, what was the funniest human resource experience perhaps in your life and maybe was used as inspiration for this great guest role?

Amy Ryan: For my own personal human resource experience?
Well probably back from grammar school when I was at one point a hall monitor. Anyone who keeps boring rules.

No proper interviews or like a corporate job before you got into acting?

Amy Ryan: No, no. But being a fan of ‘The Office’ and watching Paul’s performance as Toby, I think that’s all the research anyone would need.

How did it work out that you got this part?

Amy Ryan: I think there were a few things in play. One is I knew Paul Lieberstein many years ago from a television show we both worked on called ‘The Naked Truth.’ And then most of the writers turned out to be fans of ‘The Wire.’

And then I had briefly known Steve Carrell when we shot the film ‘Dan in Real Life.’ Then I got nominated for an Oscar and I asked my agent and manager – I said,  the one job I’d like that I don’t think I’d get if I weren’t nominated, I want to be on ‘The Office.’

They all laughed at me when I told them that story, but they said I shot too low. But I disagree. I think that’s one of the best shows on TV.

What can we expect this season in the relationships between Holly and Kevin, and Holly and Michael?

Amy Ryan: Well, Holly and Kevin is probably a little bit more a misunderstanding. You imagine, you know, her misunderstanding that he’s mentioned a handicap that sort of – (probably) show its truth pretty soon.

And with Michael and Holly, I think that it gives us all hope that there’s a lid for every pot or I like to say there’s a lid for every cracked pot out there. So it’s – everyone has a chance at some form of love.

Is there a fixed number of episodes that you’re going to be doing?

Amy Ryan: Well I’m back home in New York so I finished my initial agreement of the six episodes. But I suppose,  never say never. But I don’t have any plans at this moment to head back.

Does Michael have a shot with the new girl?

Amy Ryan: Well, I don’t know if I should kiss and tell. I think the beauty is that he’d make shots and then I don’t know if I can really give away plot line. But I will say, you know, he gets points for trying..

Paul Lieberstein: We did. We didn’t have a deal with her yet so we were really hoping. But no, we knew that she would stay around, or we hoped.

Do you actually get to go out and intermingle with the rest of ‘The Office’ staff?

Amy Ryan: Oh yeah, no I’ve completely moved into Toby’s desk.
So complete with personal photos. But yeah, I get to intermingle with everyone in the office.

What TV shows do you love?

Amy Ryan: Well I’m not just saying this but I love ‘The Office’ and so that’s why I was kind of hoping that that worked out. But my guilty pleasure show – and I actually don’t even know if it’s still on the air, but I used to love that show ‘Blind Date.’ That was my guilty pleasure show.

Paul Lieberstein: Yeah, I don’t know – the amount of time I have, I had to fade out some of the guilty pleasure shows. But I watch hour longs because I can appreciate some comedies, but it’s work.

I see them like the code in the matrix because I’m – I’ve been writing them for so long that I can’t just sit back and enjoy them. But that fades away when I’m watching, you know, ‘Law & Order’ or ‘The Wire.’ That was a huge favorite. That’s a good show.

If Helene McCready came to apply for a job at ‘The Office’, would she be able to get in through the front door?

Amy Ryan: Yeah, I don’t know if she’d be invited in but she certainly would come crashing through.  No one lets that woman or rather that woman doesn’t let anyone keep her back.

Will Dwight continue trying to haze her or does that stop?

Amy Ryan: I think – it pretty much stopped, didn’t it Paul?

Paul Lieberstein: Yeah, the hazing stopped.  Dwight pretty much accepts what Michael accepts, and he hazed her in kind of a miscommunication with Michael when Michael – because she came in and – as an HR rep and he didn’t know her yet, and instantly hated her. And Dwight took that as a directive.  But I think once…

Amy Ryan: Yeah, he said the guy was Toby and that it smelled like a woman.

Paul Lieberstein: Yeah, it was just Toby as a woman. And as that changed, Dwight didn’t pick up on it, so that’s where the hazing came from.

Paul, you made the reference earlier that Toby would probably be returning to the (branch) because he can’t escape it. If you could choose an exciting story for him to tell to Pam to impress her, what would it be?

Paul Lieberstein: Maybe the time his camera was stolen by a monkey or the time he was attacked by a monkey in Costa Rica, or the time when a monkey took his wallet. Probably one of those three.

Somebody is picking on him is the theme.

Amy,  did you get a chance to personalize your desk with really any of your own personal effects, anything we can keep an eye out for while we watch the show?

Amy Ryan: No, but that’s kind of the magic of the prop department. One day during a scene I looked over and there was some photograph with me and some other woman that looks like – just like two friends.

But I don’t know who that woman is, so they photo shopped a couple of things together. It’s amazing what they find.
I didn’t take any tokens, though. No, I didn’t take any tokens.

Paul, talk about the development of Holly as a character and whether it was something that you and Jen pitched or whether it was something that the team devised together?

Paul Lieberstein: No, it was talked about among the writing staff a great deal and I would say – but it really crystallized in the episode that you saw on set when we started to see this really silly side that Amy brought to the character, and found almost like a junior Michael in her. And we all saw it and knew what we had.

Amy, can you speak a little bit about what it’s like coming into a cast that is as established as ‘The Office’?

Amy Ryan: Oh, well on paper in the first day, it’s quite intimidating because – especially when you enter a show that you’re a fan of and – but you have great admiration for. You have to take a moment to allow yourself to join them.
And – but it’s quite an extraordinary group that everyone was really supportive, and very down to earth which is kind of staggering. You rarely see that when a group has a great success – a bunch of actors.

There’s always one, and I’m happy to report that there were – everyone was so gracious and generous and that made the greatest welcome..

Paul- how did last year’s writes’ strike affect the last season?

Paul Lieberstein: I think it affected it really positively. It let us do a (reasonable) group in the fall and then kind of like take a break, see how those episodes came out, you know, edit them and really respond.

And I think in the spring came a group of our strongest episodes. So,  I think they’re like kind of the model of how HBO and ‘The Wire,’  will do 12 or 13 in a row and then they’ll come out so strong.

I think it let us do like two groups of 12 and – instead of this giant block where we have to kind of guess how things are going to come out.
Creatively, I was very happy with it.

Jenna Fischer just posted a blog saying that you’re filming a Halloween episode this week and it’s being directed by Stephen Merchant.

Paul Lieberstein: Yes.  Well his episode hasn’t started shooting yet. It shoots this afternoon.  But he was in the writers room with us rewriting it over the last several days and so it was really exciting having him there. He brings a bit of the – kind of that initial integrity of the documentary…that the British had.

And so he calls us out every once in awhile when we’re – he’s like how are they going to do that with a little documentary? You know, when we seem to go a little too far or get too personal with them.

We’ll set a scene in the bathroom and he’s like really, I don’t think they follow them in there. But…he’s extremely funny. And it’s been great working with him.

Any new directors this season?

Paul Lieberstein: Jason Reitman. 

How dangerous is Toby, really? We haven’t seen him really angry, but he seems a little unhinged.

Paul Lieberstein: I don’t think Toby is a danger to anybody.  In my mind — which is really kind of not what everybody is seeing — I think Toby kind of likes Michael a little bit.

Amy Ryan: Aw.

Paul Lieberstein: For the most part he’s happy,  more or less. But he’s never going to be like a really happy guy. But I think a lot doesn’t get to him.

I think he doesn’t hear a lot of the things that might get… He might be spaced out in a – in the meeting. And I think I space out while I’m acting and I try to –  if all of a sudden everybody is looking at me, I know it’s time to say my line.

Is your character Holly as socially dysfunctional as Michael or is she just quirky and she happened to catch Michael on a really good day?

Amy Ryan: Yeah, I think she is slightly odd. But the nice way to say it is she’s just really playful and she finds him funny, and so that unleashes her sense of humor.

So it’s like they’re really kind of like children in that they’re playmates.

With all the different – you wear a lot of different hats on the show with acting, directing, producing, writing. I was wondering if you enjoy any certain one more than the others or do you…

Paul Lieberstein: I think I kind of do. I think we have such incredible actors on the show that when I write a line or a joke and I see them do it awesomely, I think that’s my greatest joy on the show – just kind of nailing that.
We have such talented cast that I think we can really reach kind of great heights and yeah, that’s it.

Amy, was there anything on the set that surprised you?

Amy Ryan: The first day when I walked on set, yeah, it feels like almost walking into a museum. Just anything that you’re very familiar with from the comfort of your own living room couch.

So it took a minute just … I felt like a little kid, walking around.   One of my good friends is Rashida Jones who was on the show, and so I would call her a lot and say –  just ask for advice like before I joined…what can I expect, I knew some of the actors. I knew Rainn. We share mutual friends and Steve and I had a small part in a film of his a year before that.  Paul and I knew each other many years ago on another TV show. So that all helps walking into a new environment.

Were the writers and producers having to change up Darryl’s storyline based on what happened with Craig Robinson?

Paul Lieberstein: No, not at all. He was – he’s been completely available to us and completely professional when he’s here. So it was a surprise to us.
But we saw no evidence of it and it’s never impacted a single day of work or a moment of work.

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