It’s no secret that the American version of The Office didn’t have a lot of support behind it in the early days.
Fans of the British Office, which was created Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, were convinced the U.S. adaptation wouldn’t live up to the original. And even the cast and crew doubted if the new show would last on television. But it did. And it didn’t just last, it thrived.
The American Office became so beloved that it got to a point where famous directors were just reaching out and asking if they could direct an episode of the show. Among them? J.J. Abrams. Yeah, the J.J. Abrams.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with Abrams’ work, yes you are. He’s the co-creator of television series like Felicity, Alias, and Lost. He’s an executive producer for HBO’s new series, Lovecraft Country. And he’s directed immensely popular Star Trek and Star Wars films over the years. But back in 2007, Abrams was directing the Season 3 episode of The Office titled “Cocktails.”
How J.J. Abrams was tapped to direct on the show
For those of you starstruck by the idea of this esteemed director working a Season 3 episode of The Office, join the club! Kinsey, Fischer, and the rest of the cast and crew were huge J.J. Abrams fans, and they were delighted to work with him.
“J.J. freaking Abrams. You guys, Google him, he’s done everything. We could not believe he was coming to our little show,” Kinsey, a huge Star Wars fan, said.
“We could not believe he was coming to our little show.”
“Now this was before he directed Star Wars. But Angela, still,” Fischer said. “Like does it freak you out that Star Wars guy directed you in an episode of The Office?”
“J.J., I know you probably listen to our podcast faithfully. Why wasn’t there a very tiny, petite, sassy blond in your Star Wars movie? Please, just in the background. I don’t even have to say anything. Please, can I just be an extra in a Star Wars movie? Please?” Kinsey begged.
“I hope he hears this,” Fischer replied, before proceeding to explain that Abrams reached out to the show to inquire about directing an episode. “We were like, yeah. And we were like, come direct an episode. That’s how it happened,” she said.
“We were so giddy, Jenna. We were all so excited,” Kinsey recalled.
“I just remember him being so smiley. Remember how much he smiled? He was like so happy and kind and just energetic,” Fischer said.
J.J. Abrams chose David Wallace’s house
In case you need a refresher, “Cocktails” featured the Scranton employees attending an after-work cocktail party at CFO David Wallace’s house.
But as true fans of The Office will notice, Wallace’s house in “Cocktails” isn’t the same house that we saw in “Branch Closing,” an earlier Season 3 episode. The reason for that? J.J. Abrams liked this house better.
After several fans wrote in to note inconsistencies between David Wallaces houses, Fischer cleared things up.
“Yes, guys, these are good questions because the original house that you saw on ‘Branch Closing’ was in Pasadena. This is a different house. This one is in Encino,” she said. “More people wrote in about the house, too. And many people noted that this house has a circular driveway in the front, which is different. We changed the house because J.J. Abrams really liked the interior of this house. So we did dress the front door to match the front door of the Pasadena house. But yeah, it was a different house.”
“Very good catch, folks. Real good catch,” Kinsey said. “And that makes sense because he would need the interior of the house more than the exterior because the whole episode almost happens in that house.”
“Yeah. And it needed to flow. And there’s a lot of moments in this episode where you’re on one group of people and then the camera will rack focus and then some other thing is happening in the background,” Fischer said. “So having that open floor plan inside was really important to the storytelling.”
So there you have it: In addition to all his other noteworthy achievements, J.J. Abrams can also be credited with directing an episode of The Office and choosing David Wallace’s house.
Be sure to listen to the full podcast episode for more behind-the-scenes stories from filming “Cocktails.”