Some of the best news I heard all Summer was that Amy Ryan would be returning to The Office as new human resources representative Holly Flax. So when NBC offered up a chance to talk to the Oscar-nominated actress — and her HR predecessor and Office writer Paul Lieberstein — I couldn't say no. The two chatted with reporters yesterday, sharing some of their favorite on-set moments and spilling a few details on the upcoming season. Some highlights:
- Michael Scott and Holly Flax: a love story for the rest of us? Ryan wouldn't say much about what's coming up for Holly and Michael, but she said Michael gets a lot of credit for trying. "I think that it gives us all hope that there’s a lid for every pot — or, I like to say, there’s a lid for every cracked pot out there," Ryan said. "Everyone has a chance at some form of love."
- Toby's not gone forever. "I think what brings him back is failure to escape," Lieberstein said. And if he were to tell Pam a story to impress her about his time away? "Maybe the time his camera was stolen by a monkey, or the time he was attacked by a monkey in Costa Rica, or the time when a monkey took his wallet," he said. "Probably one of those three."
- The show is getting some Brit flavor this season. Stephen Merchant of the original British series will direct the Halloween episode. "He brings . . . kind of that initial integrity of the documentary that the British had," Lieberstein said. "And so he calls us out every once in a while — he’s like, 'How are they going to do that with a little documentary?' You know, when we seem to go a little too far or get too personal with them. We’ll set a scene in the bathroom and he’s like 'Really, I don’t think they follow them in there.'"
- Also directing: Jason Reitman. Yay!
To hear why the writers' strike was actually good for The Office, what the fate of Andy and Angela could be, and how Amy Ryan had an on-set breakdown, just
- The writers' strike had an upside. "I think in the Spring came a group of our strongest episodes," Lieberstein said. "It let us do two groups of 12 instead of this giant block where we have to kind of guess how things are going to come out."
- Sometimes, it's hard not to laugh. "One of my favorite things was almost to see who’s going to go first" when it came to breaking down with laughter in the middle of a scene, Ryan said. "And the day that I went first I was mortified. I was like, 'That’s just not done with the new kid. You can’t do that!' But I laughed so hard at one point that it turned into just bawling tears. So I’m not sure where the laughter began and sorrow took over, but makeup had to come in and reapply . . . I’m trying to hide behind my hair and just my shoulders are convulsing. And Steve [Carell] just carried on like, you know, no bother. I couldn’t believe it."
- Toby's not a real threat to Jim and Pam. "Pam’s going to take an internship in New York and they’re going to try long-distance dating," Lieberstein said. "And that’s going to be, you know, the source of obstacles for them . . . Toby is less of a threat than the price of gas for Pam."
- Will Andy and Angela make it to the altar? "They will make it to an altar of sorts," Lieberstein said. "But probably not what you’re thinking or in the way you’re thinking." Hmm . . .
- The office will throw Jan a baby shower! There's also an ethics training episode coming up that I can only hope is as good as "Diversity Day" and other episodes of that ilk.
- There's going to be a Toby bobblehead. And when the reporter who asked the question joked to Lieberstein that he'd then be able to play with himself, Ryan responded with a perfectly timed "That's what she said."
Photo courtesy of NBC