'Office' exclusive: Meet Pam's mom!

office-fischer-purl_lOne of the most high-profile job openings in Office history — the role of Pam’s mom — has been filled. And true to their word, producers resisted the urge to cast Meryl Streep. Or Goldie Hawn. Or Bonnie Hunt. Or…… anyone else whose name you’d recognize. Instead, the plum part went to Linda Purl, a relatively unknown actress whose biggest claim to fame was playing Andy Griffith’s daughter on Matlock.

Stop the presses! On second though, don’t.

It’s not like I didn’t see this coming though. Last month, Office producer/star B.J. Novak warned me that Mrs. Beasley probably wouldn’t get an A- (or B- or C-) list portrayer. “That’s the rule we have stuck to on our show — it is supposed to be real average Joes, and casting a famous actor takes away from that,” he said. “We have only cast a famous actor when they can blend right in as was the case with Amy Ryan. Or if it makes sense for the role, like with Jack Black.”

I can respect that. I don’t have to like it, but I can respect it.

Back to whatsherface Purl, she’ll make her Office debut next month at Pam and Jim’s wedding.

Bonus footnote: This is technically a recast. We first caught a glimpse of Pam’s mom in season 2 when she was played by actress Shannon Cochran (The Ring).

Thoughts? Happy the show maintained its creative integrity by hiring Purl? Or are you of the “Screw creative integrity, hire Bette Midler!” mindset? Sound off below! (Additional reporting by Jennifer Armstrong and Carrie Bell)


Comments (250 total) Add your comment
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  • bunker

    They better explain why she looks different from how she looked in S2.

    • Umm

      Linda Purl dated the Fonz, that bumps her to A status.

      • Scott

        No it doesn’t, that’s like saying any woman who has slept with Warren Beatty is A status.

      • Sean

        Scott, she was on Happy Days dope. She didn’t boink Henry Winkler.

      • Jane

        Yup, and Heather “They’re Heeeere” O’Rourke of Poltergeist played her daughter on Happy Days.

    • dbrown1225

      When shows change actors for the same role they rarely give any kind of explanation. So don’t hold your breath.

      And I actually think it’s fine that she’s an unknown. I prefer it that way.

      • veruca k

        Linda Purl is not an unknown. Some folks remember her from her earlier days of TV work. True, she is not a mega star. All the better, I say

    • kevin

      She looks different because it’s a different actress. Nothing more, nothing less.

    • Rich

      It’s because THIS IS A TV SHOW.

    • Glenn

      Wow – why all the snark toward Linda Purl! I love her and she has done some really good stuff. Maybe you should check IMDB before you write and actually view some stuff she’s been in!

      • Regina

        Totally agree. Think she may have played a “slow person” in a TV movie in the 70s or early 80s. She made frequent appearences in TV movies and mini-series and regular series.. so she is not unknown. Don’t be all judgmental and shiitake, know your TV herstory before thumbing your nose at an actor.
        (ps, wish they had kept the original mom, tho, she was awesome in that ep)

      • Jill

        Totally right! Purl has been longer than Ausiello has been alive. Really sloppy reporting.

      • susan

        Absolutely! Linda Purl has done some terrific work in television over the years. What a creepy posting.

  • JT

    Why’d they replace Shannon Cochran? Was she doing a movie with Dustin Hoffman and Rachelle Lafevre, and there was a 10-day shooting overlap?

    • Kate

      LMAO! Well said…and seriously-why could we not have the same actress from S2 back? I’m not happy about this.

      • Andrew

        or, they should go back and reshoot that episode with pam’s new mom…that would make ME happy

  • Joe

    Why? They don’t need to. Rachel had two different actresses in Batman Begins/The Dark Knight and that didn’t need explaining.

    • Kelly

      That is because Katie Holmes was horrible.

      • Andy

        Yeah, but she is cuter than the second actress. Woof.

      • Jane

        Maggie Gyllenhal is definitely ugly, but she did a better job with the role. Katie Holmes was judgmental and just awful. That was a case when recasting was necessary because no one liked her.

    • Rachel

      Oh, it needed explaining. Woof indeed.

      • hobo-kin

        Maggie Gyllenhaal is gorgeous. I would kill to meet her. You are all ridiculous.

  • sharkjumper

    Wasn’t she also Fonzie’s girlfriend late in the “Happy Days” run?

    • Nicolars

      I guess Ausiello is too young a lad to remember Happy Days, because Linda Purl was Fonzie’s girlfriend.

      • Megan

        I’m younger than he is, but I still recognized Ashley Finster ala Happy Days. :)

  • Jodi

    Was Shannon Cochran not available? I thought she was PERFECT. It seems really strange for the show to have someone else.

  • Kevin

    Get over it! They replaced Darrin in Bewitched and Becky in Roseanne and no one even blinked. And why diss Linda Purl she’s a very pretty woman and I think a fine actress.

    • Aheafner

      No one blinked? Or the interent wasn’t around for venting on petty items?

      • RA


      • Regina


    • Sarah D

      Uh the second becky controversy was huge. In fast when Scrubs came along people called Sarah Chalke “second becky” for at least 2 seasons.

      • Regina

        Random, but Roseanne was on the Howard Stern show a few years back (think when he was on broadcast radio) and she started giving the story about why they changed Beckys one of the times, can’t remember if Stern bleeped it out or Roseanne censored herself, but they left the subject real fast.. I heard something about the original Becky was having an affair or tryst with one of the producers..

  • Chlark Fan

    I think it’s great casting. A famous actress would detract from Jim and Pam.

    And hey, she was on Happy Days Again and played Nellie Bly in The Amazing Nellie Bly. She’s still working in a brutal industry. Longevity should count for something, right?

  • officeianado

    Linda Purl is not a relatively unknown actress. She has been doing episodic tv since the early 70s. Check her resume. Those of us of a certain age certainly know who she is.

    • Annette

      Thank you Officianado. The person who wrote this article must be all of 17 (with no ability to do a lick of research). Anyone who grew up in the ’70s is well familiar with Linda Purl and personally I’m glad to see her back on TV! I’m so tired of these young, no-nothing journalists.

      • pop

        yeah – she is super familiar!

      • Nicole

        Heck, I was born in ’85 and am familiar with (and a fan of) Ms. Purl. I usually like Ausiello, but this article was just juvenile and obnoxious.

      • Tookie

        Yes, Linda Purl is probably better known than Michael Ausiello. Unknown indeed!

      • Gidget

        Agreed. I am amused, most of the time by by Michael’s sarcasm and was so happy when he got this post at EW. But this just seemed downright rude towards someone that certainly doesn’t deserve it. The lined
        out “whatshername”…really? I’m surprised he doesn’t seem to know who she is.

      • Rodney NY

        I agree with all of these posts… Linda Purl was fairly famous in the 70s and early 80s for her television work. She is a familiar face and name… ausielo is an aushole on this one..

      • chicagobart

        Agreed. Loved her in Happy Days!

    • Wendi

      Exactly!! Thank you for making the comment I was thinking as I read this piece. She has been around for years. She is very talented and will be a wonderful addition to the cast.

      • Jane

        When I was growing up I always was happy to see Linda Purl, and that was before she got cast as Fonzie’s girlfriend. Ausiello doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about, as usual.

    • bootsycolumbia

      Thanks, Officeianado! I know I’m an old geezer by EW writers’ standards, but Linda Purl has been around for a long time on TV, and Michael Ausiello should have done some research before writing this item. And writing “what’s her name” was really rude and totally uncalled for.

    • Tim

      Was she not on China Beach?

  • aBc

    Linda Purl is “relatively unknown actress whose biggest claim to fame was playing Andy Griffith’s daughter in the first season of Matlock”?? Wasn’t she is a bunch of horror flicks back in the 70s/80s? I thought she was right up there with Linda Blair.

  • Heyyyyyy

    Linda Purl also played The Fonz’s girlfriend, Ashley, at the end of Happy Days

    • Peggy

      If you turned your TV on in the 70’s/80’s she was on. She was on the Waltons, Happy Days, Love Boat (who wasn’t on that show?) and I totally remember her on several Pioneer movies/shhows. If you look her up, she basically has never stopped working.

  • Frank

    I like not having big names on the show. I think they did good.

    • Regina

      I’m with you and many on here… I like seeing new actors, faces that we haven’t seen much of.. I mean it can’t be Alan Dale or Jane Lynch all the time, you know? And I love when the show gives roles to actors from smaller shows that rocked like The Wire and Deadwood (Many DW thesps are on Lost and the Wire has spread the love, specifically to The Office w/Amy Ryan and Idris Alba)
      And big names do take away, they shud only show up as themselves (like tina fey did) this is a show about regular people and most of them look like most of us…

  • Angie

    I’m old enough to remember Linda Purl from “Happy Days” when she played Fonzie’s girlfriend with a little girl.

  • Neal

    Linda Purl is hardly unknown. Maybe to today’s audience with a brief attention span, but she’s been around awhile and is a fine actress and still quite pretty.

  • Becky

    I love the mindset of keeping the ‘stars’ and ‘celebrities’ off the show. The Office doesn’t need special guests to make it “MUST SEE TV?

    • Laura

      I agree. It’s distracting when The Office stunt-casts and it never feels organic — it takes me out of the world of The Office, which is where I want to be when I tune in to the show. I hope they always stick to their “Average Joe” casting philosophy.

      • Rachel

        Yeah, I like that about The Office. It’s understated hilarity with “real” people, as opposed to 30 Rock, which is undeniably brilliant but a bit too showy with its guest stars.

  • couchgrouch

    as long as they didn’t replace her with Don Cheadle…

    • haha

      Nice Terrance Howard reference

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