Wilson’s interests in playing the bassoon in orchestra, competing on the chess team and joining the pottery club didn’t exactly make him the cool kid at school. “There were no nerd CEOs or nerd podcasts,” he says of being a nerd before it was accepted. “Nerds were there to get beat up and to be mocked.”
Things changed when he got involved with the drama club at school. “There’s a nerd hierarchy and the drama geek is at the top of it because there are very cute girls that will hang out with you in that environment,” he says. “Once I saw I could make people laugh with acting, I left that other stuff behind. I didn’t quit the bassoon until I got to college, but I was off and running.”
Nineties New York
After college, Wilson spent the early ‘90s pursuing acting while living in New York’s East Village. He lived on Avenue C and 3rd St. in a three bedroom apartment where he and his two roommates each paid $500 a month. “At that time, Alphabet City was pretty overrun with drugs,” he says. When he wasn’t dodging fights between squatters, he liked taking his pit-bull to the dog park in Tompkins Square Park.
“Dog parks are the great equalizer,” he says. “You’ve got folks from the projects, rich folks, students and poor artists like my girlfriend [now wife, Holiday Reinhorn] and me were, so that’s always great.”
Reminiscing on “The Office”
While Wilson had been in long list of TV shows before “The Office,” most of his fans know him as Dwight Schrute and his “Office” audition really did change his life. “I was the first person to audition on the very first day of auditioning,” he remembers. First, he auditioned for the role of Michael Scott, which he says went terribly. But he nailed the Dwight audition. “I just knew that combination of white trash, nerd, know-it-all, self-serious weirdo so well. That was my wheelhouse. I knew I had to play that role.”
Wilson has many favorite Dwight moments — there’s not shortage of memories in his book — but his favorite moment of all is a tender moment he shared with Jim, in the episode, “Money.” Angela has broken up with Dwight and Jim comes down to the stairwell to cheer him up. After they talk, Dwight reaches out to Jim to hug him or thank him, but Jim isn’t there and Dwight is left looking a bit bashful.
“It’s my favorite moment in all the 300 episodes,” Wilson says. “That’s what I loved about the show. We could be ridiculous and absurd in the humor, but at the same time there are some tender, human moments.”
Rainn Wilson book reading
New York City
Nov. 10, 7:30 p.m.
The Powerhouse Arena
37 Main St., Brooklyn
Nov. 11, 7 p.m.
The Wilbur Theater
246 Tremont St., 617-248-9700
Follow Emily on Twitter: @EmLaurence