Jenna Fischer knows a thing or two about personal shake-ups. To play Laura, a Long Island mother whose already rocky life is thrown off-course by the death of her husband (Chris O’Donnell), in “a Little Help,” the “Office” star was able to draw on experience.
“I had kind of gone through a really big, life-altering event myself shortly before I agreed to do this movie, which is that I got divorced after having been married almost eight years,” she explains. “I kind of drew on my own experience of feeling lost and not knowing who I was. I remember moving into my own place then after having lived with someone for eight years, and being like, ‘Oh, I’m the only person who has to like these plates. Just me. I don’t have to compromise in any way.’ It was so weird. You’re so used to sharing. And so you feel a little lost when it’s just you, at first.
Fischer also admits she felt a bit lost taking the lead in a film for the first time, a prospect she admits is more than a little scary. “As the lead of a movie, you really set the tone off-camera as well. And that’s a really big responsibility, and I’d never had that responsibility before,” she says. “It was a movie of being in the driver’s seat, and that was new for me, and a different kind of exhausting.”
After filming “a Little Help,” Fischer could at least turn to “the Office” star Steve Carell for commiseration. “When I got done with this movie I went in to work after the summer, and I said, ‘Steve, I have a newfound respect for what you do,’” she says.
Of course, this year will be different, as Carell clocked out for the last time on “the Office” toward the end of last season. And while news of James Spader joining the show’s cast — taking over for Kathy Bates as the parent company Sabre’s CEO — exactly who will be taking over for Carell as regional manager of Dunder-Mifflin is a mystery — but not to Fischer. “I’m not allowed to say, but I know who the manager is,” she teases. “It’s a secret, they haven’t revealed it yet, but it’s a great choice. It’s going to be neat. We’re kind of being forced to shake things up, which is a nice thing. We won’t be repeating ourselves this year, that’s for sure.”
That’s not completely true, though, as Fischer’s Pam will be expecting once again: the actress’ own pregnancy is being worked into the show’s plot. “Pam will be pregnant,” she confirms. “If you remember, Pam and Jim had sex in the office on Valentine’s Day, and it turns out they conceived a child. They apparently are very good at getting pregnant on accident.”