'The Office': Exec producer Greg Daniels on the departure of Steve Carell and tonight's farewell episode, 'Goodbye, Michael' -- EXCLUSIVE


Image Credit: Chris Haston/NBC

One year ago, Steve Carell announced that he would be leaving The Office, leaving us more than enough time to properly send off our favo–  Holy crap, he’s taking off tonight and we haven’t even set up our tear jars! Ready or not, Michael Scott will utter his final foot-in-mouth and walk out of Dunder Mifflin’s doors for the last time in “Goodbye, Michael.” The special 50-minute episode (which airs at 9 p.m. on NBC) was written by Office executive producer Greg Daniels, who spoke exclusively to EW about tonight’s landmark episode and bidding farewell to Carell. 

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What can viewers expect from Michael’s goodbye episode?
GREG DANIELS: It’s basically him settling his affairs and saying his last goodbyes to everybody. And he has gifts for them. It’s about how he deals with his own feelings. There’s lots of little references to the history of the show that the super fans are going to really enjoy. A tiny mystery story — which I’m not sure anyone’s going to catch and will come out a few episodes from now — is being set up here … There’s other stories: Andy [Ed Helms] and Deangelo [Will Ferrell] are trying to hold together Michael’s clients who are starting to bail, and they’re driving around calling on the clients. And the party-planning committee is trying to figure out the best cake and the best way to send him off. All the former chairmen are reuniting to give Michael a good send-off.

Were there more tears or laughs on the set while shooting his final scenes?
I think there were both. But it wasn’t so much tears as it was just this weird sense of “Oh my god, this is his last this thing, this is his last that thing.” I kind of felt like a priest who was sitting with him as he ate his last meal. (Laughs) But the actors were very emotional. You know the concept of breaking? An actor bursts out laughing and drops his character. They kept doing it here because they’d suddenly get really sad that they weren’t going to work with him next week. They were sadder than their characters were supposed to be. They broke, but going to “sad”… I got choked up writing his last moment with Dwight [Rainn Wilson] in a Coffee Bean… [But] by the time I was at the set, I had worked through a lot of it. I was just concerned about keeping it funny.

Did you guys give Steve a piece of the office or something as a goodbye gift?
He’s a hockey player so one of the things we gave him was a hockey jersey with his number on the call sheet on it — it was one — which was retired. The way they retire a guy’s number. We made a little ceremony out of it.

What was the biggest challenge for you in making this episode?
The time. I wrote it as a half-hour and in the scenes with Will Ferrell, he was being very improvisational and funny and you didn’t want to cut that. And then the stuff with Michael was all about him getting his goodbyes with everybody, so you didn’t really want to cut out some of the people. And it needed to be able to breathe, because he was having these goodbyes. So it ended up being really long. As I was trying to cut it, I was like, “This isn’t going to be good if I cut it to a normal length.” I talked to NBC and they were very cool about [making the episode a non-traditional length], even though it was awkward from a business standpoint. [NBC Entertainment Chairman] Bob Greenblatt was like, “You do whatever is best.” They really wanted to give Steve the proper goodbye.

Do you have a favorite Michael Scott moment?
There are Michael Scott moments, which are character choices, but there are also Steve’s reads. Usually the things that I’m the biggest fan of are these weird reads that he does — just the way he’s interacting with other people. They’re often things on the show that if you were to extend the cut two frames, the other person just bursts out laughing. One thing I was watching recently which I just loved was in “The Client.” He was bragging to the camera about this relationship he’s developed with Jan [Melora Hardin]. She starts backing away from it on camera and he gets very flustered and embarrassed, and he hides under his desk and the camera goes to find him under his desk. (Laughs) In this week’s episode, his talking [to the camera] about a gift that he made for Oscar [Oscar Nunez] is one of his best.

What will you remember about working with Steve?
He taught me a lot about improv… When you see him roll with stuff that happens that’s not what he expected, that was very inspirational. If you’re kind of a control freak like I was coming from animation [Daniels was a co-executive producer of The Simpsons and co-created King of the Hill], where every single thing is controlled, it was very cool to see that he had this attitude of “Yeah, that’s not what we thought it was going to be, but it’s going to be good.” A time that really struck me was when we were producing the first Dundies episode, which was the season 2 premiere. We had all these problems because the location fell through in the middle of shooting, and there was all this weird stuff going down with the Chili’s restaurant and I was panicked. I could just see everything falling apart. And he maintained his creativity under amazing stress and kept pitching all these alternative things, until we found one that worked and kind of saved it. I was like, “Wow, that’s cool. That guy is comfortable in a level of chaos that I am not.”

What were his specific suggestions?
It wasn’t even his scene. He became a producer of the show, and this was definitely one of the reasons. We had written in a thing where Pam gets so drunk at the Dundees that she throws up, and halfway through shooting it, Chili’s was like, “We wouldn’t serve somebody to that amount of drunkenness. We are a very responsible company.” So we had her just fall off her stool instead of vomiting, which I think is better. And then we invented the character of the Chili’s manager, and he said she was banned for life from Chili’s for sneaking drinks or something. Both of [Carell’s ideas] were really good … And then he ended up writing “Casino Night” and “Survivor Man.” He’s directed some great episodes — he directed “Garage Sale,” where he gets engaged to Holly. He’s very versatile. Another thing about him is the professionalism. He was always on time. They kept records of when somebody’s five minutes late and I think he was always on time. When he left, I interviewed a lot of the crew for a toast, and they were always saying he would let them go ahead of him in line and he never abused anything about his position. He was the humblest and most friendly professional person.

He’s been very quiet about his departure.
He’s very modest. He really wants the show to continue after he’s gone. Part of it is because he’s very fond of everybody who works there. And one of the reasons I think we can go on is that he really made it an ensemble. He always encouraged the other members of the cast to have more lines and be in scenes. He was very generous as a performer. Whenever we were on stage for anything, he always stood in the back.

What does his loss mean for the show? And how did you decide to move on without him?
A lot of it had to do with the strength of the other cast. Part of that was from Steve’s encouraging it, being a generous person. But also, if you were to just look at our cast without Steve — and didn’t know that Steve had been on the show — you would say, “Oh my god, what a super cast! How did they ever get all those people together in one show?” So often we’ve had really funny stuff that hasn’t been able to be squeezed into the show because we do an A-plot, B-plot kind of thing, so the idea of being able to allow some of these great actors who are stars of other movies have A plots is good. Obviously it’s going to be difficult because he’s pretty irreplaceable, but I think people are optimistic. This is kind of the situation we were in when we started, because a lot of people were like, “How could you possibly do the show without Ricky Gervais?” These guys had built this toy — the British Office — and they played with it for 12 episodes and a special, and then they stopped playing with it. I was like, “Hey, I want to play with that! There’s a lot of fun left in that toy.” The writing staff and the other actors are feeling a little bit the same way now: “This is only season 7; it’s not like we’re in season 22. We want to tell stories with this toy and play with it.”

It doesn’t sound like there were serious talks of ending the show when Steve left.
I think we said, “What should we do?” If we hadn’t thought of some good ideas, we might have gone that route. But it wasn’t like anybody wanted to end it. Everybody’s really enjoying it, and I think Steve felt terrible about leaving because he was worried that it might mean the end of the show. He didn’t want to be responsible for that. One of the nice things is, the week after his last episode, you can see what you think. It’s not like this is the end of the season. Everybody should tune in and make their minds up.

Is that why you’re sending off Michael a few weeks before the season finale?
We didn’t want all this worry over the summer, like “Will the show survive?” We figured, “Let’s get that out of the way before we go to the summer and have them be thinking about the story lines over the summer, not that question.”… Every single episode between now and the season finale has some big moves in it.

Is it your hope that Steve will return as a guest down the road?
Obviously he’d be welcome at any time, but I don’t think we ever thought he was coming back. So we pretty much wrapped up everything. I don’t know if he would or not. It’s certainly possible.

Any hints about the ending of tonight’s episode?
The decision to have him be strangled by the Scranton Strangler is probably going to be unpopular.

(Twitter: @dansnierson)

Read more:
‘The Office:’ Mindy Kaling, B.J. Novak, and Paul Lieberstein have picked their favorite Michael Scott moment. What’s yours?

Comments (71 total) Add your comment
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  • Gupta


    • Good Job Gupta

      The fact that you were first 20 minutes after the story posted shows that you are one truly lucky man! How in the world did you time it????

      • Gupta

        Right place at the right time…

    • Jess

      Why do simpleton jacktards like you still get a thrill from being “First” in a damn thread?
      Is your life really that pathetically empty?

      • Bob Frank

        is yours to correct him?

      • Really?!

        You really need to attack a “simpleton jacktard” for posting “First”. Wow! Your life must really be amazingly full, isn’t it? I know MINE is!

      • alex

        you jess are a s.lut

    • Merrydan

      That’s what she said.

    • Joanne

      Pay no heed to people who try to dampen your pride. I believe people like you are what Dunder Mifflin is all about.

  • Karate Pants

    The fact that there were actual problems going on at Chili’s while shooting is delightful!
    And not that it matters, but “Dundees”? I thought “Dundies”.

    • tnsmoke

      I want THAT Jim and Pam back! The playful couple. I adore them in that episode!

      • Colleen

        I miss that Jim & Pam, too! They kind of lost me after the wedding. That said, I saw the promo of Jim saying goodbye to Michael, and am fully prepared to lose it more than once tonight! John Krasinski does some mean unshed tears!

      • Jane

        Yeah, Jim and Pam have become real wet blankets. Now they’re that boring couple that doesn’t do anything but talk about their stupid kid and disengage from the others. I liked that Deangelo put the kibosh on the baby talk, especially when he said, “I know what you’re doing” in terms of kissing up to him. That was very cool to call them out on it, even if it was mean. Kinda wished he would have followed through.

      • romancelover

        I love Jim&Pam, but you’re right, they are not the same. Going around kissing the new boss’s butt? No way! Maybe they need to have a fight, then we can watch them try to get back together! Don’t like “hardball” Pam.

      • King George III

        If you noticed in a few past episodes, I think Pam and Jim are getting distant. Even before the wedding, Jim seemed to be annoyed with Pam, now that he has her I think he misses when she was out of reach this long. When they were in Erin’s car Jim just walked out on his wife helping her. And in this last episode, while she was looking for shredders, she went to see a three hour movie. That may be explained later, but interesting nonetheless. I am assuming Jim had no desire to see it so she went to see it on her own. I hate to think this, but I smell her walking out on him. You are right, Jim is not the same anymore!

    • Ally

      Chili’s is whack!

  • tnsmoke

    I will miss Steve so much. He has be ROBBED so many years of the Emmy and hope he gets one in the Fall. He is a genius. I have faith the show will still be good and in honor of Steve and the rest of this amazing ensemble I will watch it as long as they keep doing the show. I hope they soften Pam up some more (they started to) and man up Jim more. He was her MAN and now he seems to be her puppy dog. I am hoping the new boss flirts with her and adds a little jealousy in Jim, but don’t want either to cheat on the other. More Creed and Angela and Kevin and all of them!! Michael’s desk and all his toys should go into the Smithstonian tv section!

    • romancelover

      Exactly, I don’t like the new “tough-as-nails” Pam, she seems to always be critical of Jim .. what is this?! I don’t want to see them cheat on each other either, but a short break-up might not be a bad idea .. make them realize how much they mean to each other.

  • Glowbug

    When the show ends completely–I want to see Dwight and Angela get married—

    • audrey50

      At the Shrute family beet farm!

  • JamiJ

    This was wonderful! Thank you!

  • Truth

    This show will tank with Will Ferrell on it. One look at the trailer for Land of the Lost told me to run from that ticket line. Ferrell’s humor is doesn’t even make the bar of juvenile. Good luck Steve.

    • Facts

      Will is only on the show for 2 more episodes, including tonight. Great job keeping up.

    • Jess

      Wrong “Facts”, you P.O.S.

      He’s in THREE more including tonight, you fool.

      • Bob Frank

        ouch thats a little harsh

      • elob

        Whoa there cowboy.

        Take a deep breath.

        There, don’t you feel better?

      • Pope Carmelita I

        Not to mention that Jess takes this obnoxious attitude when it is incorrect…Will Ferrell is in 4 altogether and tonight is #3…

      • Matt W.

        I also thought it was only 4 episodes total. Maybe there is a link somewhere on EW.com to confirm this? I was counting on tonight, and next week him quitting or something.

      • Dave

        The funny thing is that Jess, in all her obnoxious arrogance, is actually wrong. Will Ferrell is in two more episodes, including tonight’s. Next week’s episode is his last.

      • danny ogra

        You are being a small vagina Jess!

      • Jennifer

        FACT: Bears eat Beats.

  • Leon

    In spite the unbelievable popularity of Steve Carell in this series, I think his role could be successfully played by actors like Ben Stiller, Paul Rudd or Justin Bartha. Great show!

  • Bob Frank

    Jim is only funny when he makes faces and pranks Dwight. Pam isn’t funny AT ALL. They need to get Andy and Erin married, Make Ryan more funny, and most importantly GET MORE CREED JOKES!!! There needs to be atleast 2 Creed moments an episode. Focus on those who are funny (Dwight, Andy, Creed, Kevin(kind of getting sick of Kevin), Stanely, Erin and less of those that aren’t funny (Jim, Pam, Ryan, Meredith, Angela)

    • Jess

      GTFO you simpleton. Your opinion is that of a profoundly slow Downer kid.
      Close your ugly fat mouth.
      Your stupidity isn’t wanted here.

      • Bob Frank

        it’s not showing my replys on the computer why????

      • Bob Frank

        oh now it is great. so let me c. GTFO, not sure what that means whatev. slow downer kid, that’s mad offensive to those who have that. ugly fat mouth? i can 100% say i’m no where from fat. Stupidity? It’s called opinion. Take a chill pill and go back to reading your dictionary.

  • jan levinson-gould

    Deangelo is the Scranton Strangler.

    • adam

      That would be too funny

    • daysleeping

      @jan levinson-gould

      EXACTLY! i said that to my friends during Ferrell’s first episode. i’m not sure how they will reveal it (perhaps with him trying to strangle Toby?) but i can’t wait to see…

    • Mandy

      Wow! I think you are probably right! I was wondering why they brought it up at the end of last weeks episode. It all would make perfect sense (why he won’t be staying) and it would be hilarious!

  • next season

    New boss: Creed.

  • Joe

    I think Bob Greenblatt is a great choice to run NBC. The showrunners like him. He helped develop shows like Beverly Hills 90210, The X Files, Dexter. He also was a producer on Six feet Under.

  • Vince from NYC

    This message board used to be a happy place. People are getting so mean. Its just EW people. Take it easy there, you don’t have to agree with everybody. And this isn’t an essay contest, if things aren’t gramatically perfect let it slide.. That being said I will miss Steve on the Office but will continue to watch..

  • Summer

    this is lame Michael Scott should’ve got this weeks cover, not stupid twilight that entertainment weekly seems to be in love with!

    • daysleeping

      EW isn’t in love with twilight, just the money they get from the parents of all the 12 yr olds that are in love with it…

    • whatevs

      I agree. That’s a low blow to a real entertainer instead of that Twi-crap.

  • Brigette

    I’ll miss Steve, but I’m excited to see what happens. I agree with Greg. The rest of the cast is AMAZING and I’m looking forward to seeing them get more screen time.

  • brittlizard

    I would love to see a show where The Office cast go to Colorado for Michael’s wedding to Holly.

    • romancelover

      YES! That will be a MUST!!!

      • James

        it would be a must… but I must say all of the final goodbye moments would just wash away if it really isn’t the final moments, just my opinion. Prob. going to Drop a tear. Just one.

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