- ‘The Office’ was a mockumentary sitcom based on the BBC series of the same name
- The NBC show ran from 2005 to 2013 and was a launching pad for most of its inimitable cast, including star Steve Carell
- Steve left the show after Season 7
The sitcom world was hit with heartache when Steve Carell bid adieu to his beloved character Michael Scott on NBC’s The Office back in 2011. As we all know, the comedy series soldiered on for a couple more seasons, but let’s be real – it just wasn’t the same without Dunder Mifflin’s quirky and lovable boss.
But hold onto your Dundie Awards! It turns out, the reason behind Steve’s exit may not have been what fans assumed. No, he didn’t dash off to conquer new acting or comedy frontiers. According to juicy revelations in a March 2020 book entitled The Office: The Untold Story of the Greatest Sitcom of the 2000s, the show’s own crew members alleged that Steve never actually intended to say goodbye in the first place! What?! Say it ain’t so!
According to sound mixer Brian Wittle and hairstylist Kim Ferry, Steve hinted that his days as Michael Scott might be numbered during a BBC interview, citing the looming expiration of his contract after season 7. However, Brian explained that, behind the scenes, he hadn’t made a definitive decision yet. As news of Steve’s musings hit the headlines, fans were hoping NBC would rally to keep their comedic genius on board. The network’s executives, however, didn’t extend the grand gesture needed to sway Steve’s decision.
“He didn’t want to leave the show,” Kim said in the book. “He had told the network that he was going to sign for another couple of years. He was willing to and his agent was willing to. But for some reason, they didn’t contact him.” Kim went on to say that Steve had “planned on staying on the show” but the deadline came for when the higher ups were supposed to “give him an offer and it passed and they didn’t make him an offer.”
She added, “[Steve] was like, ‘Look, I told them I want to do it. I don’t want to leave. I don’t understand.’ It just is mind-boggling how that happened. And I feel bad because I think a lot of people think he did leave the show on his own merit and it’s absolutely not true. I’m telling you. I was there.”
The idea that Steve was ready for more Scranton, PA was also given credence by producer Ben Silverman and editor Claire Scanlon during their appearance on the An Oral History of The Office podcast. “When I heard the story of how the network went about its process with him after the fact, it made me so depressed how they had kind of blown something that they could have saved,” said Silverman, who spearheaded the US remake of the British mockumentary series and was co-chairman of NBC Entertainment between 2007 – 2009. Scanlon told the podcast at at the time, “Steve said he would have come back, they didn’t even try!”
She added, “I feel like NBC dropped the ball, because I knew the story behind it, which was they just never even bothered, which was just like so dumb. I don’t know what was wrong with them.”
But perhaps we should take a gander at what the man, the myth, the legend said about the departure. During an interview on the Office Ladies podcast in March 2023, Steve told hosts and former Office co-stars Jenna Fischer and Angela Kinsey about why he left the show.
“It was time for other characters to step to the forefront and other storylines to be pursued. I think it was the right… the timing was right, I think for everybody but simultaneously there’s just a sense of joy for me that we had experienced all of this and we were getting… I was getting a chance to take a lap with everybody. And the way those last two episodes were structured, it felt very rich to me to simultaneously be saying goodbye as Michael and us as friends in this moment of work together. But, yeah, it was a lot, it was a very emotional thing.”
By the time Steve bid farewell, The Office was already approaching its final stretch. The show would continue for two more seasons. With Steve’s absence at the forefront, subsequent episodes revolved around Andy Bernard’s (Ed Helms) ambitious journey to become the regional manager. It also cultivated the memorable Robert California (James Spader), the CEO of the printer company that owns Dunder Mifflin. However, The Office’s final episode, originally aired on NBC on May 16, 2013, did indeed feature Steve returning as Michael Scott.