Questions for Phyllis Smith
The Office star talks about her role in Bad Teacher and her glory days as a hot-pants-wearing NFL cheerleader.
When I actually got to the table, I was really shaking, and people started laughing after my first line to Cameron. So I actually started thinking, this might work. Part of Lynn's character grew out of my own fear at the table read.
Slate: What sort of script tends to come your way? Is it always comedy, or is it ever dramatic roles?
Smith: I actually just had to pass on a script, a period piece that took place in World War II, and the character was a snarky churchwoman, and it was a drama. I really liked the character, and I wanted to do it, but it was shooting out of the country and it would have been simultaneous with The Office. But I would have loved it. And I have another one now I have to see what happens with. I did do Butter after I did Bad Teacher, with Jennifer Garner and Ty Burrell, Hugh Jackman, and Alicia Silverstone.
Slate: That's a comedy, right?
Smith: It's a dark comedy. It's more like Little Miss Sunshine, a satirical comedy. It's about butter sculpting, actually a real thing in the Midwest. It started in China, where people take a huge hunk of butter and sculpt like, The Last Supper. It's a massive thing done in the refrigerator. The detail is pretty remarkable. I'm the head of the committee in this role, and I think the rules are the most important thing. I don't know where it stands. I believe they're adding the music to it. The director said they'd put it in the festivals.
Slate: According to IMDB, it will be out this year, but who knows?
Smith: Right, who knows? IMDB's not the most accurate. Even my birth place and my age are wrong there.
Slate: Do you ever try to correct it?
Smith: I tried to correct it myself. The process of trying to do things on IMDB—the harder they make it, the less resistance they get. I was sitting at the desk in The Office trying to correct it.
Slate: The stuff at your desks in The Office works?
Smith: It all works. When we first started the pilot, there were fake computers and we had to look like we were working. I remember doing my taxes—if you remember long pieces of paper at my desk during earlier episodes, it's because I was actually doing my taxes. I've done my Christmas cards.
Slate: Do you know anything about the next season of The Office? What's going to happen after the departure of Michael Scott?
Smith: The departure of Steve was heartbreaking. He's such a great guy. And I do not know who's going to take his place. The powers that be may know, but we've been on hiatus since the middle of April, so by that time they had not made a decision. The rumor is that [British comedian] Catherine Tate was being considered, but she had conflicts.
When we do our press at the beginning of each season, on the red carpet, that's when I find everything out. We're always at the mercy of the press.
This interview has been condensed and edited.