Brian Baumgartner, <EM>The Office</EM> Brian Baumgartner, The Office

You know why loves the cast of The Office? No, not just because they write all those clever celebrity blogs for us. And not because they're always eager to ring us up for a chat. It's because even after snagging all those awards, all that critical acclaim and all the support from NBC that they deserve, these actors still seem really grateful that their show is even on the air.  Brian Baumgartner, aka "Kevin from accounting," called us to reflect on his momentous year, the source of Kevin's gleeful smirks and the surprising popularity of Scrantonicity. Congrats on your SAG Award for best cast in a comedy series! How do you feel about it?
Brian Baumgartner:
What an amazing night. Not only to be recognized by our peers for our work on the show, but to be presented an award by the cast of one of the greatest office comedies ever, The Mary Tyler Moore Show...? Just to speak with them, and to hear how excited they were for us, was a truly memorable moment. So you're not jaded about these awards shows yet?
Baumgartner: I'm not jaded yet. You can sort of look back to last year's Golden Globes [when Steve Carell won] as one of the things that gave our show a real push. We were all there in this green room watching, and we were completely positive that he was going to lose, and then he won. I don't mean to sound pat or whatever. It's really cool to be recognized. You don't sound pat, you have a Kevin-like enthusiasm about it.
Baumgartner: You can't accuse me of that! I'm not him, dude! Is there anything about him that is like you?
Baumgartner: I do have a childlike enthusiasm at times. I certainly enjoy life and get pleasure sometimes in childish things. Other people have said that I am the [cast member] most unlike my character. I take that as a compliment, though I do really love the Kev. Not that we should study the series in a "dramaturgical" way, but if you look at it, nobody doesn't like Kevin. He is the guy who is friendly with everyone. He has a casual, friendly fantasy football game with Jim, they certainly get along. He totally tolerates Dwight. He doesn't dislike anyone — except Angela. He went to her Christmas party instead of Pam's, though.
Baumgartner: More for the brownies. Ultimately, he's just a guy who is simple and says what's on his mind. It's interesting to me that he's sometimes a step ahead in terms of the humor of a situation. But his problem is that when he says something, he doesn't really remember the past, and he doesn't look ahead to see the ramifications for the future. He's just enjoying or saying what's on his mind in that given moment. That's not really like me. But it's a blast. How have things changed in the past year?
Baumgartner: It has just been such a strange year. When we came back for the second year, we were sort of given a "gift" of six episodes. We shot those six just over a year ago, and then we went home and had no idea if we would ever be back. Then we got [the order for] three more. And then four more. And right about the time our Christmas episode of [2005] aired, they started the downloading thing on iTunes, we moved to Thursday nights, and Steve won the Golden Globes. Then they said, "We'll let you do a full season." And a week later, they said, "And you can come back for a third year, too." Suddenly we went from limping by, a couple of episodes at a time, to having this for a whole other year. Did the ability to plan long-term like that change anything in your everyday life? Did you buy yourself anything good?
Baumgartner: I leased a different car! But not a whole lot. Not too much. Because you still never know. Just having that security and at least knowledge that you're pretty sure you're going to be working for another year and a half enabled me to begin to plan things for the off-season and get some other projects going. What are some of those projects?
Baumgartner: On the hiatus I did License to Wed, a movie that John Krasinski and Mandy Moore are in. Rachael Harris (Fat Actress) is my wife, and we are a couple who fight and are in counseling with Robin Williams who does a boot camp/Gestapo-type training for newlyweds. Now, I'm writing something, and it looks like that's going to happen and be done. I can't say anything about it right now. Hopefully, we will have a deal done in a couple of weeks. Did you ever have an office job?
Baumgartner: I worked as a paralegal in Minneapolis. Very fancy, right? I come from straight theater. I was lucky and worked a lot, but in theater you have to keep going. It's really hard work and hard to make a living. So, I had a board member at one theater say, "I'm a lawyer and I need some help in the office." I would go in and do temporary paralegal jobs for different amounts of time, so I know about pushing paper. Those guys, I'm telling you, 1,000 pages are like nothing to them. How did you go from the theater world to The Office?
Baumgartner: I was working in Minneapolis and all over the country and suddenly I thought, if I'm working all over the country, why would I live [in Minneapolis]? Why not move to the West Coast? Might as well go home to someplace warm. I moved to Los Angeles and decided I was just going to stop doing theater for a year. About three or four months later, I met these guys from The Office. It happened very quickly. I was very lucky. Does the law office realize you're not coming back?
Baumgartner: [Laughs] I think there might be a place for me there still! It's funny now, through some of the fan sites, I have gotten a couple of messages from people who are like, "I don't know if you remember, but I was a full-time paralegal in the office two doors down.... " It's been great. A large part of it is I'm a large guy; I have a distinctive head. So I am recognized quite a bit now. Jenna Fischer and I will go out occasionally, and generally someone will stop me long before they'll stop her or John, just because they look like beautiful people in Los Angeles. Also Kevin is seemingly approachable. There is sort of an everyman thing with him. People have been into the band that he's in. I think that's part of it. Did you know how to play the drums before the show?
Baumgartner: No clue. I was given lessons. We're going to be filming some more Scrantonicity very shortly. Kevin does a blog on MySpace, and I get at least dozens [of e-mails] a week of people saying, "Post the music of Scrantonicity!" It's become this thing. I don't know if I can put my version of "Invisible Touch" online. What's going on with Kevin's love life?
Baumgartner: Kevin has a fiancée, Stacy, who has appeared in two episodes, but has not yet spoken on network television. She was sitting with me in "The Dundies," and she was with me in the episode where we all go to Jim's apartment for a party and there's karaoke. It appears as though she's coming back very soon. A little bit of trivia: Her name is Trish Gates, and she played the main flight attendant in United 93. Do you have a favorite episode?
Baumgartner: I would have to say, for me, "Diversity Day,"  because when I saw that bold of a comedy on network television, I thought it was really something special. It was dealing with stuff — which we've continued to do — in terms of race, culture, religion, bigotry, and tackling some of those things in a really interesting way. Another personal favorite was [the original]Christmas episode, because it started a lot of the upswing that happened with the show. And the last moment with Meredith taking her top off was, I think, my favorite moment of the show ever!

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