Andy Bernard always seemed like a loveable loser in the workplace of Dunder Mifflin. Who knew that after four years of pushing paper on NBC’s best-rated comedy, “The Office,” Ed Helms and his character would rise to the top, replacing Steve Carell’s Michael Scott as regional manager? Helms doesn’t exactly know, but he and one of the show’s creators and stars, Paul Lieberstein (aka hapless HR manager Toby Flenderson) recently spoke about the transition.
There were rumors that you’d bring in new talent to take on Michael’s role at Dunder Mifflin. How did you arrive at the decision to promote from within?
Lieberstein: The natural question was, should we continue after Steve Carell leaves? The answer was clear when we said, “Our cast is amazing and we don’t need anybody else.” We still want to watch our cast. We still want to write for our cast. Although different names were batted around at times, we never really considered changing the focus of the show to anyone else but our people.
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Were members of the cast vying for that spot?
Helms: There was a lot of internal wondering and questioning what was next, “Who might be the next boss?” But I think it’s a testament to the cast and the dignity of everyone involved that we all took a backseat to the creative considerations upstairs and were eager to support whatever decision came down.
What is it about Andy that made him the best person to be regional manager?
Lieberstein: He can take the role of father of the family, partly through insecurity and partly through genuine affection. He’s really caring and interested and empathetic. Any problem that anyone is having, he would feel very deeply — which makes him suited to be a comic relief in the show.
Considering their office rivalry, what are Andy’s plans for managing Dwight Schrute (Rainn Wilson)?
Helms: Dwight is someone who responds very well to a firm hand of leadership. Andy is searching for that a little bit, but in that first episode we started to see the very first inkling of a backbone in Andy. I’m excited about it because it makes Andy’s leadership more plausible, and it also shows you where Andy has to go. Dwight provides a constant friction for that.