With Michael Scott out of The Office's paper company, Season 8 will see two new men take charge of Dunder Mifflin.
When the NBC comedy returns, we'll learn that James Spader's eccentric Robert California has quickly moved up the ranks of Dunder Mifflin — now he's CEO. But don't expect the series to lose its awkward and endearing charm. "Spader has so much of a similar energy to Steve Carell," co-executive producer Mindy Kaling tells TVGuide.com. "Everything he says is funny."
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California will bring out both the best, and worst, in the Dunder Mifflinites simply by being the big man on a small campus. "He always feels like the alpha male in the room, which is really exciting, especially because everyone on our show is funny with an alpha male," co-executive producer B.J. Novak says. "He's extremely intelligent, almost too intelligent. He's an intellectual, and we've never had an intellectual in the Scranton office before so it's very funny to hear him talk to people."
Fittingly, Dwight (Rainn Wilson) will feel threatened by the new boss. "Dwight is extremely torn around Robert California because, on the one hand, Dwight wants to be an alpha male, on the other hand, Dwight admires nothing more than an alpha male who will put him in his place, which is what Michael Scott was to him," Novak says. "So Dwight is torn between loyalty and competition."
With Robert set as CEO — although executive producer Paul Lieberstein says they'd love to have Robert's former competition, Nellie Bertram, return once Catherine Tate finishes a run in a play — there will still be a vacancy for the managerial slot at Dunder Mifflin. The three front-runners? Darryl (Craig Robinson), Dwight and Andy (Ed Helms), Novak says, adding: "Those became the three leading candidates in our minds when it came time to shoot."
But what about Jim? "Everyone agrees Jim would be the best manager," he says. "And Jim has been offered the manager job before, but Jim isn't about his job. Jim works to have a great life at home with Pam [Jenna Fischer] and his family."
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For whoever has to fill Scott's shoes, Novak says the cast is onboard with the producers' decision. "The whole cast is rallying around this choice in a really cool way," he says. "The great thing about how it's playing out so far is that it activates everyone. This person being the boss gives great comedy and drama to every other character."
Spader isn't the only new face coming to The Office this season, either. On Monday, NBC boss Robert Greenblatt said more actors would be joining the show this season. Novak revealed to TVGuide.com that the producers hope to feature more fresh faces from the world of comedy. "I think we want to keep this show exciting and current with people at the forefront of comedy, more than we want to reach out to movie stars," he said, noting that Ellie Kemper and Kaling were unknowns before The Office showed people what they could do. "We want to find more people like that. We'll have a few big names when they fit in really well, the way we did in the finale last year with Ray Romano and Jim Carrey. So we'll do some of that, but for long-term, we really want to grow new stars."
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Despite all the changes Season 8 will see, Lieberstein denies feeling pressure to do anything outrageous to keep viewers tuning in. "I think that would be counterproductive to the show. We still have to stay true to office life. What we do best is small office stories, so I think we have to continue doing that."
Still, Lieberstein notes: "We always felt pressure, even with Steve."
The Office premieres Thursday, Sept. 22 at 9/8c on NBC.