The non-spinoff spinoff of The Office finally has itself a possible title — Public Service — and a very funny pilot script that I got a chance to read back at the TCA press tour. It also has an up-and-coming costar in Aziz Ansari, who's been popping up everywhere from Flight of the Conchords to Scrubs to his MTV sketch show, Human Giant. He was the first person to join the series before writers Greg Daniels and Michael Schur even had a concept locked down, and at TCA, we chatted about the leap of faith it took him to join and about his character, a local government networker named Tom. Read on for highlights:
You were a part of the show really early. How did you first get involved?
When I got on board it was before they really had a concept or anything nailed down, and it was really like, "Do you want to do a show with Mike and Greg, a documentary-type show?" And I was like, "Yeah, that would be my dream job."
Were you a fan of The Office?
The Office is probably my favorite comedy on TV, and as soon as I heard they were doing another show, I was like, "Oh my God, I'd love to be a part of that." I met with them pretty early on and I told them that, flat-out . . . A month or so later, they're like, "Yeah, we want you to do it with us." They still didn't have anything as far as their concept, but I was super excited. Then after a few months I found out Amy was doing it, and then I was like, "Oh, that's great — it'll be awesome."
Since you were involved so early, did you get to be involved in creating your character?
They kind of wrote it toward my strengths and attitudes that they'd seen me play. Since they knew they were writing it for me, I know that helped a ton.
What is it that you like about the mockumentary style?
It's just a fun format to do comedy in. The interviews and stuff like that — it's a great format for improvising. Even in Human Giant, we would do sketches or profile pieces that were kind of like little mockumentaries, and it was just a really fun format for performers and people who like to improvise especially.
To find out the future for Ansari on Scrubs and Human Giant, just read more.
Since there wasn't a concept for the show yet, what made you ready to take that leap of faith?
There's very few people you'd do that with besides Greg and MIke, but if there are any two guys you're gonna trust with that kind of a job, it would be those two guys. It could have been anything. It could have been like, "Hey! You're a guy who works in a Slurpee shop and you have a thick Indian accent." But obviously those guys are awesome and you're going to make something great.
Have you created any kind of history or backstory for your character?
I've read what's in the script and I have some ideas — I've talked with Greg and Mike and the writers about different aspects of the guy's personality, and I kind of have in my head how I want to do him and what his attitudes are going to be like. I think I've definitely seen those type of guys, the kind of guys who are all about networking and weaseling their way to the top.
What does this mean for your future on Scrubs?
I couldn't do any more Scrubs after I got this cause obviously there's a conflict with ABC and NBC — you can't do both networks . . . I had a really good time doing that show. Bill [Lawrence] is awesome, I couldn't have had a better experience working with him. I did four or five episodes and it was really fun, but yeah, I couldn't keep doing it because I got this opportunity.
And what's the future of Human Giant?
We weren't able to do a third season in the time we had to put out a third season and [for me] to do this show, but MTV's been really cool about saying, "The door's open for you guys, if you want to do anything on the channel just let us know, you're always welcome."