The Office's new receptionist may have Pam's old job, but she couldn't be less like Pam. "I think Pam is a little bit all knowing, whereas Erin is naive and thinks the office is one of the most wonderful places on Earth," says Ellie Kemper, the 29-year-old actress who plays Erin Hannon. With Pam (Jenna Fischer) bumped up to a full-time sales position, her full-time replacement is busier than ever at Dunder Mifflin — but find time for an office romance with Andy Bernard (Ed Helms).
Kemper, a season improviser at the Upright Citizens Brigade theater in New York, spoke with TVGuide.com about getting to know her new Office-mates, the impending nuptials between Jim (John Krasinski) and Pam, and a Dunder Mifflin shakeup.
TVGuide.com: How does it feel being the new girl?
Ellie Kemper: The cast, crew and everyone is so welcoming. I can't imagine a friendlier group of people. Being the new girl on the set couldn't be easier. Being the new girl in the show is a great position to be in because Erin is not jaded by anything and she is so excited to be working there. I am obviously excited to be working there, so it's a weird sort of double life that I'm leading because I'm the new girl in both worlds. In real life, they're more welcoming than in the world of the show because they think she's a little too cheerful.
TVGuide.com: You have a background in improv. How does it feel playing a subdued role that isn't overtly funny yet?
Kemper: I love it. It's very interesting because I'll make an expression that I think is so, so small and the director says, "smaller, smaller, smaller." Being on stage, you can just be bigger and a little larger than life than especially on a show like The Office which is so understated and so subdued. It does take a little bit of adjusting, but for that reason, it's such a funny show. That's its signature.
TVGuide.com: You are known as the new Pam. Are we going to see any comparisons?
Kemper: It's totally different. ... I think that the personalities are just very different. Pam has evolved into this more confident, self-assured person. Erin dresses sort of frumpy, she's new and bright-eyed, so I'm interested to see how she develops from working in that environment.
TVGuide.com: Both Dwight and Andy were vying for your affection last season. We hear you'll just be Andy's love interest this season.
Kemper: Yes. A love connection starts to develop between Andy and Erin. Andy initiates it and pursues it. In some of the stuff we've shot, we begin to see that play out, but it's certainly not fully formed yet.
TVGuide.com: Ed Helms is coming off his success with The Hangover. What's it like working with him?
Kemper: He is so down-to-Earth and kind. I am very comfortable around him because he makes everyone around him comfortable. It's not possible for me to have more praise for him. That sounds really strange. I can't imagine the kind of summer he's had. He's a movie star and he's so grounded and seems to be completely unaffected by whatever success he's had over the years. He didn't know how long his character would be on, and then he was made into a regular. He was very nice to me about that, saying, 'Oh I've been there and it's so great when you find out you're there to stay.' I'm bad because whenever he's acting I start laughing in real life. He's a really funny person.
TVGuide.com: Can the same be said for Steve Carell? Other cast members say there's a running joke that you're not supposed to look him in the eye.
Kemper: [Laughs] He's a funny man! I get so nervous around him. I can't imagine a nicer person. Also, he improvises a lot during takes. I have trouble not laughing because it's an improv show, and I love improv. I guess you don't look into the eyes of a deity, so it's the same thing, but he's a very nice person.
TVGuide.com: Is Erin as sweet as she seems?
Kemper: Unfortunately, at this point, she does seem to be as sweet as she seems. I am hoping that we start to discover some huge shortcomings in her. As of now, where we are in the shooting, she maybe hasn't discovered whatever evil she might be capable of. [It could turn out] she has three children in her basement, but we haven't discovered that yet. You never know.
TVGuide.com: Will Erin get to bring out her funny side this season?
Kemper: I'm happy about that question. I'll say this, there's more dancing going on this season. People asked me after [the "Cafe Disco" episode] if it was really me dancing. I think I'm not a good dancer. My dancing is funny. There is more dancing, so therefore she does get to be more funny.
TVGuide.com: How is the Dunder Mifflin dynamic going to change with Jim and Pam getting married and having a baby?
Kemper: It will be interesting to see what happens once she has the baby. Does Pam bring the baby to work? We've only shot one episode past the wedding, so there's a lot more to come with Jim and Pam being married in the office. There's some shift in positions, like job positions, going on in the office. There's also a lot of judgment from Angela for having a pre-marital baby, even though she was sleeping with two men simultaneously.
TVGuide.com: Are there any troublemakers on set?
Kemper: Oscar Nunez has a thing where every other day he asks me why I'm still there. 'Oh, did you not get the message? You're no longer on this show.' It's so mean, it's funny. He means it in a nice way. Maybe there are more pranks that I don't know about, but they're just on me.