The Office returned to prime time last night with it’s first new post-strike episode. The general consensus: The Office is as good as ever. The episode, called “The Dinner Party,” focused on the dysfunctional relationship between Michael and Jan. Jan, played by Melora Hardin, has become one of the surprisingly developed characters since the series began. Jan started as a high-powered executive, but has since turned into an unbalanced homemaker. In honor of The Office’s return, and Jan’s feature role, we were able to conduct an e-mail interview with actress Melora Hardin. Check it out below.
When you first started on The Office as Jan, did you have any idea where the character would end up?
No. However we all had a sense that Jan and Michael were weirdly meant for one another and that there was a spark between them.
Was her emotional and mental instability something the writers had you think about since the beginning, or did that just start after her and Michael’s trip to Sandals?
I think the development of Jan has been a wonderful collaboration between the writers and myself. The writers pick up on small things that I bring to my character and then expand into those places with such surprising humor, poignancy & honesty for that character.
How difficult was it to straddle the line between Jan’s quirks being believable (as an executive at a semi-big company) and being legitimately funny (sometimes in a broad way) in her waning moments at Dunder-Mifflin?
I just try to always play the truth of the moment and how Jan would be feeling and behaving. Sometimes she is small and sometimes she is big. It’s part of her rainbow of colors and wonderfully juicy flaws, which are, for an actress, the best part of any character.
Do you ever wish you could be a part of the gang in the actual office?
No, I like being outside of the world of the office because when I come into that world I bring new energy and a different spice for the stew. I think its part of what makes Jan special and some peoples’ favorite character. Because she lives most of her life off camera she is loaded with mystery and doesn’t really ever belong in that world. This fish out of water makes for wonderful humor and a fabulous tension that will never go away between Jan and Michael.
Being the only regular who doesn’t spend a ton of time at the office, do you miss out on being in the ensemble?
I like that I don’t really belong there. I feel a part of the ensemble and I know how my character contributes to the whole of the success of our show. I am happy to be what I am and I love Jan so much, I don’t long for her to be different, therefore, I happily accept her never really belonging to the group.
Obviously, you shoot most of your scenes with Steve Carrell. How did you two create the chemistry you have?
Chemistry is just a mystery. It was there the moment we started to work together. Neither Steve nor I did anything special to create our spark, it just exists between us, out there in the ether, its own magical contribution to our characters and to The Office.
What’s it like playing off of Steve Carrell?
Steve is a wonderful actor. I just respond to the fact that he is an actor that can give and take and listen extremely well with commitment to the truth of the scene and his character. In that I highly respect him and very much enjoy our working relationship and how we play off one another.
What was it like coming back from the strike?
It’s fabulous to be back to work again and inhabit one of my favorite characters I’ve ever had the pleasure of animating. I am very aware of what a gift it is to be on such a classy, hilarious, amazing show that I would watch as part of the general viewing audience even if I weren’t on it. With that spirit of gratitude it is always a pleasure to show up for work every day that I am gifted with being there.
Have you noticed anything different since returning?
We really got back to business as usual pretty fast. I do think the cast and crew had good family time and, so, there is a nice rested feeling to everyone. Down time can really make everyone get all filled up with inspiration and energy to do it all again… even better than before!
-Interview Conducted by Oscar Dahl
(Image Courtesy of NBC)