Alright, that title may be a bit misleading. We actually exchanged emails, but Mr Shafer offered some incredible answers to our questions. Thanks to him for accepting our invitation to the cast. Thanks to those of you who sent in great questions. Be sure to leave a comment for Mr Shafer letting him know that we appreciated his time.
And now, let’s get on with the great tidbits!!!
1) Will you tell us about landing the role of Bob Vance? How did it happen? Did you get to choose for the character to have your same name?
When my agent called with the audition, I told him immediately that it was a “MUST-HAVE!” I had watched some of the shows and it was absolutely exhilarating TV.
I got the sides for Bob Vance in the morning to read for the casting director, Allison Jones that same day at 5:00 PM at Sunset-Gower Studios. I had to fight my way through heavy traffic into Hollywood because it was Halloween and there is a huge parade. I was about ten minutes late and I had to park several blocks away and I ended up sprinting through a bunch of drunks dressed in outrageous costumes. I just barely made it in time and I was the last actor of the day to sign in. Allison was taping and she also read with me and we did it twice and I could tell that she really liked it. So I left feeling very positive and as I walked down Hollywood Boulevard to my car I passed some girls dressed as ANGELS and they waved their magic wands at me and I remember laughing and thinking that this was a good omen.
I had a few anxious days of torture waiting to hear about a callback, and when my agent called with the news that they wanted me to come in and read for the director, Charles McCullough, I told him “that I was going to go get the part because I had been anointed by angels.” There was a long pause and then he said, “Okay, if you say so, that’s good, I’m all for that, whatever it takes, call me when you’re done.”
The callback was at the offices and sound stages in Van Nuys and this time I was early and the first person I met was Phyllis and she was there to read with the Bob’s.
I was confidant and ready and my reading was good and then they had me improv for awhile and I just let it rip and got some laughs and walked out thinking ‘Oh-my-god, what just happened in there?’
Then I waited for long hellish agonizing days and when I hadn’t heard anything by Friday evening, I was depressed and ranting to my agent “we shoulda heard by now,” and I may have been swearing some and then he reminded me that I was the leading contender for another part on another show and that maybe I’d get that part instead. And I was extremely petulant and I told him: “BUT I WANT THE OFFICE, DAMN IT! AND I AM BOB VANCE!”
And then they called and offered me the part and that was a very happy moment indeed.
The character was already named BOB VANCE. Their original concept (and material) was that Bob was a bit smarmy and smutty, but that changed immediately and for the better.
2) You were quite the charmer in the Valentine’s Day episode. What would Bob take Phyllis to do on a date?
Well, Bob Vance is obviously an incurable romantic and I loved the way Phyllis carried her bear out of the office in that episode.
We might go to Chili’s for dinner and enjoy those awesome combo specials and then split a dessert. Afterward we might go bowling, have a few beers, walk by the lake in the moonlight, go to the movies, play Parcheesi, etc. etc. etc.
3) How is “The Office” set compared to other television show sets you have been on?
The best by far from top to bottom. There is a real and tangible sense of commitment and teamwork and an incredible absence of ego, and frankly, it’s an amazing and thrilling environment to work in.
4) What is the most challenging part of being on a non-traditional, mockumentary sitcom?
At first the most challenging thing for me was the way that the cameras move and “just grab stuff.” But whatever the style, the actor is really only interested in the character and their life, and how that behavior is captured is secondary and usually entails technical adjustments depending upon the medium. What this show does is allow the character “to live, to just be” — and so in that sense, the way that it is shot elicits the naturalism that elevates this show way-way-way out of sitcomville.
5) Everyone seems so natural in their parts on the show. Who is the most different in real life compared to their character?
Without question, Steve Carrel. He is nothing like Michael Scott, yet he IS Michael Scott. That is the paradox and I would also suggest that that is the THE DRUG for an actor: to be it, but not be it. See what I mean?
6) Do you have any “behind the scene” tidbits that would be interesting to share?
When I saw The Valentine’s Day show, I realized that I needed to send Phyllis flowers for Valentine’s Day in real life. So I did, and I used a quote from e.e. cummings and I signed the card, BOB VANCE, VANCE REFRIGERATION. So it was a big mystery for Phyllis and all the girls on the set until I showed up a few days later to shoot ‘Casino Night” and it was early morning and all the girls were in the makeup trailer and I came in and Phyllis said, “Did you send those roses?” And I quoted the e.e. cummings: ‘though love be a day and life be nothing, it shall not stop kissing.’ And all the girls went “aaaahhhhh.” And cupid (and Bob Vance) got it done again.
and the standard staple question…
7) Will you encourage other Office cast members to interview with us here at LITO?
Absolutely. And if anyone needs help with their refrigeration, call a professional. Remember… happiness is a cold refrigerator. Just ask Creed.