As a "super fan" who's seen every episode, Jake Lacy knew when he joined The Office that he would be able to do something he had never done before.
"The big special thing is that you can look to the camera," Lacy tells TVGuide.com. "I'm still trying to find a balance because I'm so afraid that every take will look like I'm just staring dead into the camera for 35 seconds. They're like, 'Jake, you can't just look at the camera. You have to look around.' I'm always one foot in, like, this is going really well. And the other foot is, am I completely screwing this up?"
Get the scoop on all of your favorite returning shows
So far, so good. Lacy made his debut on last week's season premiere as Pete, one of two new hires filling the empty cubicles left behind by Kelly and, subsequently Ryan. So far little is known about Pete, aka "the new Jim," other than he likes NASCAR and hails from Vermont — why else would he root for the Red Sox this season? — much to Jim's disgust. "It was as under wraps to everyone else as it was to me. They just sent out the sides, and the breakdown for it basically said, 'Pete is a new hire,'" Lacy says. "Even when I got on set, there was no, 'Here's the inside scoop.' They just said 'OK, let's shoot.'"
Lacy's nerves didn't really kick in until his first day on set at Dunder Mifflin. "You think, 'I hope I'm doing this justice because as a fan, I have had an emotional connection to these characters and these stories and this show in general.' I don't want to come onto a project and drag that down for the millions of people," he says. "You just have to let it go and think: They hired me for a reason."
However, he isn't the only new hire this season. He joins fellow first-year Clark Duke, who plays Clark, aka "the new Dwight," aka "Dwight Jr." "Luckily we enjoy each other's company because so much of our time is spent together on- or off-camera."
The Office season premiere: 5 reasons to go "all in" for the final year
Lacy found it more difficult to find his place on-screen than off. "It's a bit of a challenge to figure out how to weave yourself into a story that is complete in a lot of ways," he says. "You don't want to step on someone's toes and be like, 'I'm going to do this thing now,' and they're like, 'Yeah, but they write that for me. We don't need two of this or two of that.' You try to find your own special little spot in that world."
Part of that transition stems from the fact that Lacy's past work has been on more traditional sitcoms, like ABC's multi-camera comedy Better with You, which was shot in front of a live studio audience during its one-season run in 2010-2011. Luckily, he's been able to learn about The Office's unique style from the best. "Greg Daniels has a very, quiet wonderful way of getting actors to stop performing and just do things, which is the basis for what makes this show so special," he says. "He really gets you to trust that just saying these words and doing what's right in front of you is more than enough for this format. You don't need to present it."
Watch full episodes of The Office
Daniels, who adapted the series for America back in 2005 and served as showrunner for the first four seasons, returned to his day-to-day duties this past season in order to — as it was recently revealed — help wrap up the series. "I definitely knew it was a possibility. At the time it was still up in the air and then, the morning that Greg Daniels announced it to the public that this would be the end, he sent out a very kind, comprehensive e-mail to everyone just letting the cast know ahead of time," Lacy says. "I just keep my distance from that because I'm here for a year and then I'm gone and [most of the cast has] been at this for quite a while."
Although many would be disappointed to learn that their new dream job suddenly had an expiration date, Lacy only sees the upside. "Either way, this is a win-win. Three months ago, if you had been like, 'What is the one show you want to be on?' It would have been this show. So that thrill has carried over beyond any sort of looking into the future, like, 'I hope I'm on here for a decade' or 'I hope we are extended for another two or three years,'" he says. "NBC is just going to let them pull out all the stops.
"It's very exciting to be here for this culmination of a 10-year journey both inside that, as a cast member, but also feeling a little outside because they never tell us what's happening. Each week you get a new script and you're like, 'Oh, that's where that's going!'"
The Office airs Thursdays at 9/8c on NBC.