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The Dwight Stuff

Rainn Wilson, who plays Dwight Schrute, the martial-arts-obsessed kiss-up on NBC’s The Office, talks about the jerks, bad bosses, and loopy colleagues—and those he works with now.

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What was the worst office job you ever had?
Working for crooked insurance brokers in midtown. They made me lie all the time. I’d call up the head of a company—say, Henry Kissinger, from Kissinger Associates—and say, “Hi, is Mr. Kissinger there? We spoke six months ago and he asked me call him back; it was about insurance for the company.” And then, of course, the secretary would say, “But he’s not in charge of buying insurance,” and then give me the name of the person in charge. And then I’d call him up and use the same lie. It was all a ploy to weasel our way in for a meeting.

Were you successful?
I was terrible at it. I was so morally conflicted about lying. It was literally like being in Glengarry Glen Ross, only there was no intermission.

Have you ever had a boss like Steve Carell’s character?
I was the special-events coordinator at a foundation for handicapped people. The boss fired me. He said, “I need someone who, when I say, ‘Jump,’ he says, ‘How high?’ ” He didn’t say it ironically, he really meant it. And the sad thing was that a number of the people who worked there were in those wheelie-cart things, so they weren’t able to jump at all. Literally. He also said to me—in the strictest confidence—that he was using his job at the foundation to work for the NFL. I don’t really know how one parlays fund-raising for the disabled into the National Football League, but he had it in his head that this was a good fit.

Does any cast member’s personality resemble their onscreen persona?
If anyone fulfills his role in real life, it’s me. I’m definitely the one walking around being the jackass. Today I spent the entire morning doing a really inappropriate imitation of Arnold Schwarzenegger, with him making cock jokes and shit jokes and Maria Shriver jokes. And I always throw water bottles at the guy who plays Kevin, and so, yes, I would say I fulfill my obligation as the annoying one.

Do you think the show’s characters accurately depict a real-life work environment?
I think every office has some guy like Creed in it. You know the character Creed? He’s the old guy—there’s always some creepy old guy sitting in a corner, and nobody knows how long he’s worked there or what exactly he does. Everyone has worked with a Creed.

Coming from New York, do you see any differences in people’s attitudes toward work in L.A.?
I think there’s this myth that people in L.A. are really laid-back about their work. They might wear torn jeans to the office, but they’re still working twelve-hour days.

Is that what you wear to work?
I don’t even keep track of what I wear to work. I dress like Dwight all day long.

You never get out of that suit?
No, never.

That must be hard for your family.
Brutal.


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