Michael Scott of NBC’s “The Office” is one of the most definitive sitcom characters of the 21st Century, and it turns out there were well over 30 actors considered for the role before Steve Carell landed the part. In Andy Green’s book “The Office: The Untold Story of the Greatest Sitcom of the 2000s” (via Uproxx), producer Ben Silverman and casting director Allison Jones confirm that the Michael Scott role was originally offered to Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Paul Giamatti. Both actors declined the role.
As for the actors who at least made it to the “consideration stage,” the list includes: “David Arquette, Jason Lee, Dave Foley, Dan Castellaneta, Thomas Lennon, Horatio Sanz, Ben Falcone, Owen Wilson, David Koechner, Hank Azaria, Rick Moranis, Kevin Nealon, Dan Aykroyd, Jon Favreau, Eugene Levy, Christopher Guest, Jason Segal, Andy Richter, Jeff Garlin, Cedric the Entertainer, Richard Kind, Matthew Broderick, William H. Macy, Paul F. Tompkins, Stanley Tucci, Steve Buscemi, Gary Cole, Stephen Colbert, and John C. Reilly.”
The search for Michael Scott eventually boiled down to two candidates: Steve Carell and Bob Odenkirk. “We wanted somebody with the kind of generic Americana appeal that most TV stars of the time had,” Ben Silverman told Greene. Tim Allen, Seinfeld, all of these people were not the most extraordinary looking. They were Americana, and that I think was something we knew we needed in our lead as well.”
What tipped the role in Carell’s favor was that he played Michael Scott as more of “a jerk and a douche,” while Odenkirk “was a little tougher and meaner” and played the character as “an asshole.” Jones said Odenkirk had “a great take on the character” that was just as funny as Carell’s interpretation, it just skewed darker than what the show needed.
“The worst thing I have ever had to do ever is to tell Bob Odenkirk’s agent that he didn’t get ‘The Office,'” Jones said. “Believe me, it was a bummer to make that call and I do suspect the show would have worked with Bob Odenkirk.”
Odenkirk would end up guest starring on “The Office” during the show’s final season and now leads his own acclaimed television series, AMC’s “Better Call Saul.” Hoffman, meanwhile, would go on to film the pilot for Showtime’s comedy-drama series “Happyish.” The actor was replaced by Steve Coogan after his death.