Office Talk

There is a dark cloud lingering over the upcoming seventh season of the popular, northeast Pennsylvania based NBC sitcom, “The Office.”

With Steve Carell’s much-publicized departure from Michael Scott’s corner office at the end of the season, the decision as to who will replace the five-time Emmy nominee is partly on the shoulders of Stroudsburg High School graduate Daniel Chun.

i know i just used this picture wednesday, but it's the only one i have of danny chun. so deal.

i know i just used this picture wednesday, but it's the only one i have of danny chun. so deal.

Chun, a co-executive producer on the show, has been with “The Office” for more than a year and finds himself on the creative team of how to handle the departure of a beloved TV character and a revered and respected actor.

He took some time this week to talk about his duties with the show, the new season (which starts at 9 p.m. Thursday on NBC) and the upcoming loss of the Scranton branch’s regional manager:

PopRox: You wrote the opening episode on Thursday night, “Nepotism.” What’s it about?

Daniel Chun: It’s about a new person working in the office, and it’s a nepotism hire. It creates a lot of debate, and puts people in some uncomfortable positions. It works in the show because it’s something we haven’t done before. We always try to use relatable office scenarios, like we’ve done episodes concerning sexual harassment or asking for a pay raise. This is one we haven’t done, and we found a way to make it work for a person in the office.

PR: So whose relative is it?

DC: Umm … I probably shouldn’t say. It will become pretty clear who the person is related to during the episode. The guy playing the part is a young actor named Evan Peters, who was just in the movie “Kick-Ass” (as Todd).

PR: Your name is the only name on the writing credit, but how much of it is collaboration?

DC: It varies from episode to episode. Usually every idea that became a story for an episode started with a collaboration. Once we get that idea, everyone throws out funny ideas for it. Then the writer goes off with all those ideas and writes the script.

PR: You’ve been with the show for a year now. How comfortable are you now compared to last year?

DC: In one sense, I’m much more comfortable. But my role has changed and expanded, so on the flip side, there’s a lot more being asked of me this year. Last year I was able to kind of sit back and learn, there weren’t as many expectations.

PR: What’s your new role?

DC: In the credits, it’s co-executive producer, and the one that’s not in the credits is head writer. It’s not to be confused with show runner, that’s still Paul (Liberstein, who plays Toby on the show). But Paul’s spread so thin with production and that kind of stuff, he can’t always be in the writers room. When he’s not around, I handle a lot of the writing.

PR: Is there any major direction you see the show going in this year?

will we ever accept another michael scott? that's what the office producers are trying to figure out right now.

will we ever accept another michael scott? that's what the office producers are trying to figure out right now.

DC: Obviously, there are going to be a lot of changes, the huge one is that Steve (Carell) is leaving. Definitely the show is going to build all year to that. It’s going to allow us to do a lot of things we normally wouldn’t do, because this is our last chance at Michael Scott. That’s really exciting. Last year was kind of a dark year with the corporate takeover and the bankruptcy stuff. From the business end, it was a dark year for Dunder Mifflin. This year it’s going to be more fun and light. I’m not saying that like the show wasn’t fun last year, but with everything that was happening, now you’re going to see the characters more lively and a little happier.

PR: How many times a day does someone ask you who will be replacing Carell?

DC: At work, it’s pretty much all day. Then on the weekends, even when I’m out of work, I do run into that. I’m asked pretty consistently.

PR: How will the show handle the departure of Michael Scott — not of Steve Carell, but of Michael Scott?

DC: We do have an idea. The main thing is that we want it to feel real. That’s always been important on the show. When we do something, people have to believe it can happen in their office. As far as a replacement goes, I think there are a lot of great ideas. The important thing is that we don’t just think of someone that will be fun for the first episode, but potentially fun for multiple seasons. People don’t realize all the things Steve does for the show. He’s not just a funny guy — there are a lot of things Steve can do that other great actors can’t do. He plays emotion really well, and he can make it funny. That’s very rare. He takes those serious or emotional moments and makes them funny. Most people can only do one or the other.

PR: When do you think the show will make an announcement as to who will replace Carell?

DC: I don’t think there will be an official announcement because I think it will probably be hard to hide. Ideally, we want it to be a surprise on the screen. Usually when we do something like that, it’s pretty easy to figure it out when you’re watching the show. So I’m guessing people will know before we tell them. We’re trying to make it spoiler-free.

PR: So we have to wait until the season finale in May, huh?

DC: I’m not sure when it will be. It might be more complicated than someone coming in during the last episode, so it might be before that.

PR: If you had dream casting abilities, not taking into account money or availability, who would you bring in as the replacement?

could this be the next michael scott?

could this be the next michael scott?

DC: Wow. (pause) Uhhh … well of the names I’ve heard thrown around, I actually like the idea of (veteran film actor and 2009 Oscar nominee) Richard Jenkins. It’s not the sexiest idea, but I think he’s fantastic. We were brainstorming one day and that was one of the names that got thrown around. I kind of liked it a little more than I thought I would.

PR: Can I tell you my pick?

DC: Sure.

PR: Jason Bateman.

or maybe it's him?

or maybe it's him?

DC: His name has come up. I haven’t seen too much of his work, I didn’t watch “Arrested Development.” I’m not saying he wouldn’t be great, I just didn’t see that much of “Arrested Development.”

PR: The last time I talked to you, you said you thought the show would survive any cast changes. Do you still think that’s true?

DC: I’m completely, completely sure. The question is just whether psychologically if fans can take it. That might be hard. But there’s no question to me the show can survive.

(That’s all we needed to hear to spread the gospel of Arrested Development, please note the remarkable straight man ability of Bateman in these clips. Chickens don’t clap!)

(Wait, that’s not fair!  This should be ending with a Michael Scott tribute. While you’re laughing, remember how many times Michael Scott has made you laugh in the last six years, how much he’s going to make you laugh in the next year, and how hard it is will be to find someone else to take over Dunder Mifflin’s Scranton branch. Good luck to the people in charge of this decision, they’re going to need it:)

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