‘The Office’ star Jenna Fischer takes on a ‘Giant Mechanical Man’

Jenna Fischer stars as an unfulfilled adult in "The Giant Mechanical Man," currently screening at the Tribeca Film Festival. It opens in NYC on Friday.

Jenna Fischer can now add “producer” to her résumé — “The Giant Mechanical Man” marks the first time she’s co-produced a movie and, as she tells it, she was willing to do anything to get it done — even if the jobs weren’t all that glamorous. Did we mention that she’s also the film’s leading lady? Fischer plays Janice, a woman who’s unsure about the path she’s on as an adult.

We heard you shot this movie in 19 days.
We shot the movie in the dead of winter, in Detroit, in 19 days. It was actually so invigorating and exciting to be part of something that was just so indie, I have to say. And everyone just came together and they were so up for it. Chris [Messina, her co-star] had one day off and on his day off he worked with the crew as a camera assistant. I had a couple mornings off and I would come to set and clean the bathroom. If there’s like 50 people all using one restroom it gets messy — you gotta go in there and clean it up, make sure there’s hand towels, you know, stuff like that. That was the producing side of me — someone has to do it, right? A producer’s list is very long. It includes very important contract negotiations all the way down to toilet paper in the bathroom.

Will you try producing again?
I hope. I actually really enjoyed producing and acting at the same time. It’s hard for me, as an actor when I’m on set, to just sit and wait to act. I feel this, like, anticipation to perform. When they light a scene … it takes an hour and a half and the actor has nothing to do during that time. That’s always a time that makes me feel very nervous because I’m just thinking about my lines and my performance, so being able to produce in that hour and a half was such a nice distraction.

Have you ever had an experience like Janice, where you weren’t sure about the direction your life was taking?
Of course. I mean, that’s at my core. I feel like my personality doesn’t really reflect that side of me as much anymore. I’m a very driven person, I think way more driven than, say, Pam [from “The Office”] or Janice. In middle school I felt very invisible. I had a lot of dreams that I didn’t know how to accomplish and I wondered if they would ever come true, and I was very shy. I definitely know what it feels like to live life in the background. I don’t know if this is true of everyone, but I feel like who we were in middle school really stays with you. So I come to these events and I have the hair and the makeup and the jewelry and they put these cute dresses on me, but I feel like the girl who didn’t have Guess jeans and an Express shirt, looking at all the other pretty girls wondering if I’ll ever have my day in the sun. So I love playing these characters because they feel like me. It feels like dress up to do all the fancy stuff.

What’s coming up on “The Office”?
The last episode is called “Family Portrait Studio,” and Jim and I bring our kids in for a family portrait. I don’t want to give anything away, but I loved our family portrait so much that I asked for a copy because it’s so funny. That’s our finale: Dwight sets up a photo studio in the office, and Jim is afraid that it is all an elaborate prank to steal our children.


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