The Behind-The-Scenes Story Of ‘Diversity Day,’ The Episode That Defined NBC’s ‘The Office’

Of his iconic TV character from the American version of The Office, Steve Carell once said, “If you don’t know a Michael Scott, then you are Michael Scott.” Actually, it was Ricky Gervais who said that to Scott in regard to his character, David Brent, from the U.K. version of the series, but the basic idea behind it remains terrifying to devoted fans of the hit NBC series. Nobody ever wants to be as awkward and prone to humiliating mistakes both in and out of work like Michael Scott was, but he was certainly a character who was far more realistic than a lot of people realized.

Adapted and developed by Greg Daniels for NBC, the American version of The Office debuted on March 24, 2005, and viewers and critics were intrigued from the start. More than 11 million people tuned in to watch the remake of the British series’ pilot, and it was met with negative reviews from critics who were disappointed that it seemed like a cheap carbon copy. The following week, though, Daniels’ series proved that it could and ultimately would shine on its own, as the episode “Diversity Day” introduced us to the real Michael Scott, and how this horribly awkward goon of a Dunder Mifflin boss would affect the lives of his poor office drones. (In the event you’ve never seen it, the full episode is available on YouTube for $1.99.)

“Diversity Day” has long been praised and remembered by critics as one of the best episodes of the entire nine-season run (IGN, and Entertainment Weekly each ranked it No. 3 all-time, for example). Some might argue that other favorites like “Fun Run,” “Gay Witch Hunt” and “The Dundies” were more enjoyable, but no episode defined the entire series quite like “Diversity Day.” For the 10th anniversary of the debut of the American version of The Office, we spoke with some of the cast and crew to find out how this episode was made, and how much it means to them a decade later.

The pilot after the pilot

It was completely and utterly different from any of the British Office episodes that had aired, which was really important.

According to Greg Daniels, “The Office” wasn’t originally meant for NBC. If things had gone according to plan, the series would have ended up at FX because of Kevin Reilly’s interest in the adaptation. However, when Reilly left FX to become the President of NBC, he carried over that interest and NBC had its next big series. Daniels still didn’t want it to become “a typical NBC show,” so his strategy was to produce the pilot as a remake so the following episodes would allow the writers to keep their “weird show” and take on five big topics to fill out the rest of the first season. That started with “Diversity Day,” which was written by B.J. Novak and directed by Ken Kwapis.

GREG DANIELS, Adapter and Executive Producer: When I was making my first notes on adapting the show, I felt like the biggest, sweetest, low-hanging fruit for a show about a boss and a workplace in America, that had sensitivity issues, was going to be race relations. I thought that was bigger here than it was in England, because of our country’s history. I was considering doing that as the pilot. I thought it would be really good.

KEN KWAPIS, Director: I directed the pilot, and I feel like “Diversity Day” set the bar really high in terms of the quality of the show. At the time, we were prepping the episode, Larry Wilmore was on the writing staff as a consultant. Greg Daniels and I were talking about different ideas for the role of Mr. Brown, the diversity training specialist, and I had worked with Larry. I directed the pilot of The Bernie Mac Show, which actually won Larry an Emmy for best half-hour script. Not as many people knew Larry at the time as a performer. He was known more as a writer, but I remember saying to Greg that Larry would be so great in this role. He carries himself with such an authoritative quality. Greg agreed and Mr. Brown was born.

MICHAEL SCHUR, Producer and Writer: It was completely and utterly different from any of the British Office episodes that had aired, which I think was really important. The pilot of the American Office skewed pretty closely to the British Office. But I remember thinking it was a really good idea to have the second episode just be a completely different story. The tone was still the same, which was that the boss is doing something humiliating, but there wasn’t a direct equivalent at all in the British series. So, I remember thinking, “Boy, that’s a really smart move to show people, we’re not just taking the scripts from the British show and re-creating them.”

DANIELS: I had a concept which I had kind of thought about on King of the Hill, which is something I call the “Ur story.” It’s the idea that this is the classic story for the show. And for King of the Hill it was probably the story, or at least we felt it was the story, where Hank has a colonoscopy. Because it got the most comedy out of his psychological makeup that you could think of. At least at the time, in the first season. So, a lot of times we would look back on that episode and think this is maybe a variant on that episode. “Diversity Day” was kind of the Ur story for The Office because afterwards there were all these other days where it would be, like, today it’s “Gay Witch Hunt,” or today we’re going to deal with overweight issues in the office or workplace.

BRIAN BAUMGARTNER, “Kevin Malone”: Around the time [of the debut], I heard some friends of my parents say, “Oh I just can’t watch that show. That Steve Carell, it’s just so awful, so terrible.” And at the same time, there were shows like CSI and those highly successful dramas where essentially every single episode began with a half-naked dismembered woman laying somewhere after being killed. People would watch that. The reason that The Office, and specifically that episode, touched a chord in people and made people uncomfortable was because the show challenged people, which I appreciated and felt like it was a good thing.

KWAPIS: One of the things we wanted to do was give the show the sense that it was about real people in a real space. So we made the walls in such a way that they couldn’t be removed. As a director or camera person, you were forced to respect the limitations of the physical space. If you couldn’t get an angle, then you couldn’t get an angle. In “Diversity Day” there were shots that were very deliberately composed not as elegantly as you might in a different situation, but that’s what we had to do. A lot of my work in the beginning of the series was trying to choreograph, trying to plan the stakes. To pan from one character to another only to find out you panned to the wrong person. You couldn’t do it all the time, but there were a number of times in that first episode where we choreographed things to create the illusion that we were just capturing the action, as opposed to staging it for the camera.

ANGELA KINSEY, “Angela Martin”: Before I got my job on The Office, I was a struggling actor. I would temp at companies, and then I worked at a company for a while that was very corporate. And I had to sit through human resource meetings and all kinds of meetings like that that were in some ways ridiculous, and then to see it played out on TV is great. Because you do, you have people at work who are total idiots and you have to sit through these mundane meetings with them. I just remember thinking, “This show is going to be really relatable and I think we have something kind of special here.”

DANIELS: One of the other things that was kind of big about “Diversity Day” was we figured out how important it was to make everything happen on the same day. It’s actually a pretty complex story. The thing that really sets it off — that Michael had done the Chris Rock routine — you don’t find out about it till the middle of Act One. That kind of became a template for a lot of the episodes, where we would try and do it so that we could show the entire episode in one day.

KWAPIS: A lot of people, and B.J. Novak and I talked about this once, a lot of people, television pundits, critics, felt like The Office took a while to find its footing. Well, it certainly took a while to find its audience. But creatively the show hit a home run in episode two. I mean, that episode really is a standout. Two hundred episodes later, that’s really a standout.

Success was in the cards

This feels like lightning in a bottle. This chemistry, this group of people.

The main focus of the episode is Michael Scott’s Chris Rock routine gone horribly wrong, as it hilariously snowballs into an avalanche of good intentions that are just plain offensive. After Mr. Brown comes in to clean up Michael’s mess, the Scranton branch’s manager decides that he was never wrong and can instead clean his up own mess with his idea of “sensitivity training.” What makes this episode so remarkable is the fact that it not only showed us that Michael was an endearing, albeit bumbling, idiot, but it also laid the foundation for the show’s lovable cast of characters.

KWAPIS: One of the things I love about it is Michael Scott’s diversity event, when everyone is taping cards of different ethnicities on their foreheads. When we spoke about it, one of the things I felt strongly about was that we should play the entire scene in that small conference room. I felt like it would be a funnier scene if everyone was sort of stuck in a small space [laughs]. At first, we were wondering whether we should use the entire bullpen of Dunder Mifflin, but I just had this hunch that it would be funnier if everyone was crammed into this small room together.

KINSEY: When we were filming it, there was this moment where we were all in the conference room with all these things on our foreheads. Mine was Jamaica. Jenna was Jewish. I’m sitting next to her and I look at her and Steve Carell was, as Michael Scott, giving his speech about diversity, and I just lost it laughing. I just bust out laughing. He was sitting right in front of us, he had turned his chair backward and was leaning forward to us, and I had the hardest time keeping a straight face. I thought, “This is really cool. This feels like lightning in a bottle. This chemistry. This group of people. I think we have something here.” And it was so exciting. I’ll never forget that moment in a conference room when I looked around at everyone and thought, these people are hilarious and the writing is so smart, and, “Oh my God, I think I just won the lottery, as far as my career.” This was a dream job.

DANIELS: The game of them putting cards on their foreheads happened to Tom Huang, our writer’s assistant at the time, who’s an independent filmmaker now. That’s something that he had suggested that had happened to him in a job. That was a great thing to be able to use. Something real. I think it was kind of cool how many people we worked into the show.

OSCAR NUNEZ, “Oscar Martinez”: It was the exact opposite of what Michael Scott thought he was doing. He had us put those little cards on our heads, trying to bring people together, and all he’s doing is making people so uncomfortable, and re-hashing stereotypes, because in his mind he wants to get “real.”

BAUMGARTNER: I had seen the British version of The Office, and it was something we could change and sort of struggle with for two or three seasons. How far is Michael Scott going to go? How far are we going to be allowed to go with him and that character interacting with us? In terms of first impressions, I feel like it was so special because we were doing something ballsy.

KWAPIS: Michael Scott feels like he’s being a great boss, but it only causes all the employees to roll their eyes. The other one that comes to mind is the following season with “Gay Witch Hunt,” where he humiliates Oscar in front of the group and doesn’t realize it. He thinks he’s doing something, he thinks he’s being a forward-thinking boss. In fact, he doesn’t have a clue how much he’s embarrassing his employees.

SCHUR: Everyone has cards on their heads representing a race and Dwight’s says Asian. He makes Pam try to give him information on what he is, and Pam says, “I don’t agree with this, and I don’t want to do this.” But he basically makes her do it, and she says, “Fine, if I had to say something very stereotypical and bad about this card that’s on your head, if I’m being forced to do this against my will, I suppose I would say, and I don’t actually mean this, but I suppose I would say that you’re not a very good driver.” The joke is, Dwight goes, “Oh man, am I a woman?” And it’s really funny.

KINSEY: Rainn Wilson as Dwight was just riffing, trying to guess Asian. And he was just saying the most hilarious things. I hope that they are on a deleted scenes clip because he was very funny. When Michael Scott was like, “Everyone raise your hand, and tell a different race that you’re attracted to sexually,” and Dwight was like, “I’m attracted to whites and Indians.” Mindy’s expression was so amazing. I was cracking up when I saw it again. There was just some really funny moments, and you really started to see Dwight.

KWAPIS: I remember directing Steve Carell when Mr. Brown is presiding over the room and how hard it was for Michael Scott to resist blurting out the Chris Rock joke. And I just remember wonderful takes where he was about to explode until he finally stands up and blurts out the joke.

DANIELS: There was a lot of tape of Brian Baumgartner… well, I don’t know if Brian did it, but definitely Steve Carell doing Chris Rock’s routine, which has the n-word in it all over the place. I remember being concerned that that not leak out. When they first saw it they were like, “You’re not actually using this, right?” No, no, no, we’re going to bleep it. “How much are you bleeping it, are you bleeping every iota of it? Are you going to have any sound at all? Are you going to scramble the lips so that there’s no way a lip-reader could ever see what was going on?” And that was a big issue.

BAUMGARTNER: It was certainly an inappropriate thing for someone to do in the workplace, but the message behind that was the same message that was behind a lot of the episode. His naiveté got him in trouble, but part of what he was doing, in an age where you were so overloaded on the PC side, and nobody was able to say anything, was forcing people to examine from a naive perspective, why isn’t this something we can talk about? Obviously a work place setting is what makes everyone uncomfortable, but I think just bringing up the issue of race and not hiding is why I’m proud of it.

KINSEY: Whenever I read our scripts, there were so many that we did that were part of the cringe humor. I think Archie Bunker did that on All in the Family, which is a super old call-back because I’m an old lady [laughs]. But one of your lead characters is inappropriate, you get to call them out on their crap. Say, “No, that’s wrong, dude!” And I feel like we did that throughout all those seasons. I have such fond feelings for this episode and obviously for this show.

There’s a place for everyone at Dunder Mifflin

Mindy pretty much single-handedly swerved that character away from the original conception.

It’s easy to look back at The Office and celebrate its amazing ensemble cast because the finished product makes it seem like everything went according to plan. However, if it weren’t for some good, old television luck and network interference early on, it may have taken longer for one of the zaniest characters to find her place at the Scranton branch, and another character may have never even come to serve as the biggest thorn in Michael Scott’s side. Fortunately, “Diversity Day” provided the perfect opportunity for Mindy Kaling (Kelly) and Paul Lieberstein (Toby) to establish their roles in simple yet effective ways, alongside the characters that already had some substance.

BAUMGARTNER: Leslie David Baker’s character, Stanley, and Kevin were the only two supporting characters that were written in the pilot. Greg Daniels knew he wanted to fill it in with other supporting characters and so forth. Leslie and I both had archetypes from the British series, and I think that what we found specifically for Kevin was I wanted the writers to write for me and there was a way that he spoke. There were similarities to the British characters, but ultimately he evolved and adapted. I can’t say exactly when I feel like the evolution happened for sure. It was sort of constantly changing. But at that time we were right at the beginning and everyone was trying to discover who we were.

KWAPIS: The episode is sort of book-ended by the debut of two important characters, Toby and Kelly. When Paul’s character, Toby, makes his debut in “Diversity Day” and Michael Scott just shoots him down and kicks him out, I remember thinking, “My God, why does Michael Scott hate this guy so much?” I actually didn’t even have a clue where that character was going. I remember thinking, he’s being awfully mean here. And I certainly had no sense of who Kelly was at that time. I think Kelly grew into such a wonderful and memorable character. When she makes her debut in “Diversity Day,” she basically comes in to be insulted by Michael. So, there’s not much to glean about her character yet.

DANIELS: Mindy was always chasing at the Kelly that we created, trying to get her to have better clothes and cooler hair and stuff like that. She pretty much single-handedly swerved that character away from the original conception [laughs]. I had hired her as writer/performer explicitly in the contract, and so I was looking for a way to use her as a performer. So, in “Diversity Day,” it was like, oh, that’s one way. She can be a person who works in the office and Michael can insult her, like the other people on different bases, but that was the beginning of the character, and she was kind of constructed just to be insulted.

NUNEZ: When Michael Scott was like, “Mama-gamush ba-gush” and she slaps him, Mindy just could not keep a straight face. So she would storm out and we would start laughing. When Mindy had to keep slapping Michael, she couldn’t keep it together, then we would all laugh. We had to do that scene so many times.

KINSEY: When Mindy Kaling, as Kelly Kapoor, slaps Michael Scott as he’s going, “gugi gugi,” we all knew the camera was going to pan to us and we all had horrified looks on our faces. I remember Greg Daniels and Teri Weinberg were watching it from outside and they ran in, erupting in laughter. To see that moment, that awkward horrible moment, then to see our reaction to it, they were like, “You guys, this is hilarious. You’re cringing, and you’re laughing.”

SCHUR: I remember very distinctly how hard we all laughed at the outfit Mindy had to wear for her first appearance [laughs]. I remember her accidentally slapping Steve a couple times when she had to do her stage combat slap when he was saying, “Try my gugi-gugi.”

DANIELS: Obviously, Mindy’s bursting with creativity and the more that we incorporated her personality and ways that she could be funny, the more the character changed. She was not interested in being funny as a beautiful, hard-working, good-worker character. She had all these comic flaws. A lot of them were stuff we agreed on but some of them were stuff that she would sneak in. Like wardrobe and hair-extensions, shamelessly. It was mostly between her and the makeup department and we’d go, “What the hell are you doing? What are you doing?”

SCHUR: I remember Paul Lieberstein’s extreme reluctance to act in that episode even though he only had one line: “Are we all going to have to sit Indian style?” And Michael Scott, who is on this mission to prove that he’s culturally sensitive, immediately kicks Toby out of the meeting. Kevin Riley, who was the head of NBC at the time, saw that moment in the cut and said, “Who is that guy? He’s really funny. Put him in the show more.”

DANIELS: Kevin Riley was always trying to get us to use more Paul. So he had this bit where he came in and Michael was very, “I have no place for you here.” Very harsh. And that started the whole thing of Michael being unfair to Toby. That started that whole relationship in that one line.

SCHUR: That was the worst news you could have given Paul, because he truly does not like acting [laughs]. And he was like, “No, I don’t want to be in the show!” and he had to be dragged kicking and screaming into every episode.

Diversity brings people together

She just leaned against him and suddenly everything changed for Jim.

This episode wasn’t simply about creating a foundation for The Office’s main characters, and their respective quirks and flaws. It was also about creating an intimate setting and planting seeds for the stories that would develop for as long as NBC would keep this series on television. For Kwapis, it was especially an opportunity to remind us that these were characters on a documentary within a TV series, so they weren’t oblivious to the cameras. In fact, the cameras simply made things more uncomfortable for the characters who were trying to escape the omnipotent awkwardness of Michael Scott. And those that were also focused more on each other.

KWAPIS: One of the great things about The Office is that its characters are employees at a paper company who are not particularly happy with a documentary crew intruding upon their lives. So, you really see it sometimes in “Diversity Day,” like some of the secondary players have these sad dead-panned expressions, and they really don’t want to be there. They particularly don’t want to be forced to do this diversity training game that Michael Scott devises, and I remember very distinctly that it was not easy for all the actors to keep a straight face. The characters were supposed to be mortified by Michael Scott, but of course Steve Carell happens to be brilliantly funny so it was very hard for the cast to maintain their dead-pan reactions to him.

KINSEY: The character Michael Scott, you as the viewer know he’s inappropriate. So, what we’re saying is this is inappropriate, and this guy is an idiot, and we’re all reacting to him because he’s an idiot. It’s not saying what he’s saying is okay, and that’s how people should think. It’s written that Michael Scott is inappropriate, and you shouldn’t talk that way to people. Our reactions to him validate that. I guess as it went out to the world that people would see that we’re saying, “No, this is wrong and we’re going to laugh at it. And call it out.”

KWAPIS: After “Diversity Day,” the conference room became very important, and I used it again in the same season in “Booze Cruise,” when Michael Scott announces the cruise that they’re all going to go on. It was certainly used in “Gay Witch Hunt,” the scene in which Michael Scott basically has Oscar coming out in front of the group and then kisses him. Weirdly enough, the conference room became this great place for everyone to be together and shoulder to shoulder stuck together. So, I really liked it. “Diversity Day” was the first time we crammed all the Dunder Mifflin employees into that room.

BAUMGARTNER: We shot for five days, probably. Seventy hours that week. It was a big ensemble conference room scene. We had a conference room scene in the pilot, but with everyone wearing the stuff on their heads and then going around and being forced to have the interactions with people, I remember being put together for these long periods of time in that space, which sort of became the cornerstone moment for a lot of our episodes. That long speech with the whole group of them in that conference room.

KWAPIS: If you go into most bullpens, people’s offices are in cubicles and you can’t see one another. One of the decisions we made was to not do that. Although it felt like it was appropriate for the accounting department to have a divider, it was a glass divider. So, there were things like that. But it never occurred to me how important that conference room would be in series until we finished “Diversity Day.” What’s nice about the conference room is you have a captive audience of employees for Michael Scott’s cringe-worthy behavior. I spent a lot of time deciding whether Pam and Jim should face each other or whether Jim should be sort of, his desk would be 90 degrees towards Pam’s reception desk, so that she could look squarely at him, but he would have to turn to look at her. Those are small things but they really create the signature look of the series.

DANIELS: When I had all the writers together, I was saying to them, “Look, I want really small, sort of beautiful moments for Jim and Pam.” I gave the example, if Pam fell asleep on Jim’s shoulder during the meeting and that one moment was the best moment of Jim’s day. That would be enough for a romantic story. So we put that on the board as a template on how to tell small romantic stories. And then B.J. just took it and put it right in the script [laughs].

KINSEY: I had forgotten about that really tender moment between Jim and Pam where she falls asleep on his shoulder. It just reminded me that the show is such a success because it followed sort of the dynamic of a small workplace, but also these relationships that were so powerful.

KWAPIS: To B.J. and Greg’s credit, I love the way that Jim’s story is threaded throughout the “Diversity Day” storyline, where he’s eager to make a particular sale and by the end of it he is scooped by Dwight. He’s upset. You can see his defeat by putting a little split of champagne that he’s bought for himself on Dwight’s desk. It seems like it’s going to be a bad day for him until Jenna’s character, Pam, falls asleep on his shoulder in the diversity seminar. And so the outcome of this, I think it’s the last shot in that episode, is Jim saying to the camera, “Not a bad day after all,” because of this tiny little thing. I love the fact that it wasn’t even a big, romantic gesture. She just leaned against him and suddenly everything changed for Jim. That’s really good writing.

Cutting is such sweet sorrow

I have my one thing: Inclusion, New-Attitudes, Colorblind, Expectations, Sharing, and Tolerance.

Between the reactions to Carell’s Chris Rock routine and Kaling slapping the hell out of his face, there was more than enough material for the blooper reel. While the jokes and scenes that made the cut could have been deemed too offensive, nobody really complained, and everyone seemed to laugh along. But there were also jokes that couldn’t make the network and social media cuts, including one taboo bit that would have undoubtedly been one of Michael Scott’s worst moments of cluelessness. That’s saying a lot.

NUNEZ: If it’s funny, it’s funny, and that’s all that matters. B.J. is funny and smart and one of my favorite writers, so I wasn’t worried about it [being offensive]. I don’t think there was any controversy that I remember, surrounding that episode.

SCHUR: If you watch [Dwight’s attempt to guess his ethnicity] again, you’ll see that right as he does that, Jim starts to make a move toward him because there was a whole section that was cut that made me laugh so hard. Jim said, “You know what Dwight, yes, and you shouldn’t have, this is ridiculous, I’m going to write you a new card.” So he writes him a new card and puts it on his forehead and the card says, “Dwight.” And so Dwight is going around asking people to describe him and people are saying, “You’re really annoying, you’re driving me nuts all the time.” Dwight is trying to figure out what race is being stereotypically represented by people’s comments, and what he doesn’t know is it’s literally him.

DANIELS: It was really hard to cut that episode down, and then they asked me to cut it down and make a 12-minute version of it for MySpace, which was almost impossible. I really sweated cutting it down to the 22-minute version, so it was very hard but eventually I cut it down to 12.

SCHUR: When Greg cut it for time, I remember thinking, “That’s such a shame that that had to get cut.” But it sort of set the tone for the show. The assembly of those episodes would be 42 minutes long for a 21-minute show and Greg had to be really, really brutal, as he did on Parks and Rec, too. I remember him saying, “It’s a really good situation, a really good scenario if you have to cut a bunch of stuff that you think is funny, because that means the stuff you’re leaving in is even funnier.” I don’t think we cut anything because it went too far or anything like that, but there were really good jokes left on the cutting room floor, as there were in many of those episodes.

KWAPIS: There was one thing we cut, where Mr. Brown spells the word HERO.

DANIELS: It stands for Honesty, Empathy, Respect and Open-Mindedness. And Dwight says, “That’s not all that it takes to be a HERO.” Mr. Brown says, “Great, well, what’s a hero to you?” and Dwight says, “A hero kills people, people who wish him harm.” Mr. Brown is like, “Wait a minute…” and Dwight says, “A hero is part human and part supernatural. A hero is born out of a childhood trauma.” So, he’s off talking about superheroes. Later, when Michael’s doing it, he says to Mr. Brown, “You know, I have my one thing: Inclusion, New-Attitudes, Colorblind, Expectations, Sharing, and Tolerance,” and Mr. Brown gets excited about it until someone points out that that spells INCEST.

And Michael goes on this long-run trying to say, “Well, INCEST is a good device because…” and Mr. Brown says, “We can’t use it, it’s too inappropriate.” Michael says, “Well, I’ll give you the reasons it’s very helpful. Incest is bad. Racism is bad. Incest, we’re all related, we’re all brothers and sisters so racial methods, and this is a fact the states where there’s a lot of racism are the states that have a lot of incest.” And he goes on trying to salvage his whole idea. That didn’t make it in. [laughs] Possibly for good reason.

Where does the episode rank?

If people give this show a chance, we have the opportunity to do something really special.

When it comes to “Diversity Day,” the critics have spoken, and the so-called best episodes have been ranked. All that really matters, though, is where the episode stands to the people who helped make it. Obviously, actors and writers are always partial to the early episodes, simply because the beginning is always new and exciting. But for one episode to stand out over nine seasons and 10 years, it really says something about the effort and heart that was put into making this show a success from day one.

SCHUR: In terms of my personal pantheon of episodes, it’s definitely up there. I mean, I think that we got better and better and better at writing that show and writing those characters, and I think there are episodes where Michael is pretty much a thunderhead, and he’s pretty annoying. And so for that reason, I think there are episodes that I like more because Michael became a lot more likable as a character. It’s not my favorite of all-time, but it’s certainly very important because it was really funny and a little bit edgy in terms of dealing with race and racial politics in the workplace. And it was a really important thing for the show to break away from the British show so early in its run.

NUNEZ: It’s one of my favorites. Arguably my favorite. This is a really special episode. I used to watch Seinfeld, and there was one where they did a whole episode at the waiting area of a Chinese restaurant. The whole episode took place in the restaurant because they were on the waiting list and people kept going in front of them. And I remember thinking, “Oh my God, the whole episode took place in the waiting area, how fantastic.” I remember thinking the same thing about “Diversity Day,” thinking how special this episode was.

BAUMGARTNER: When I’m asked the question, it’s always one of my top three. It was sort of a benchmark. When we were doing “Diversity Day,” the first episode we did after the pilot, I remember being in the conference room and saying, “If people give this show a chance, we have the opportunity to do something really special.” I felt like, sort of the boldness that we were looking at, the issues of race, etc., really had gone away from network television. Really going back all the way to All in the Family, the way that we were looking at it, in a contemporary way, and specifically using Steve Carell’s character, we were examining race in a way that people had shied away from. The way we were shooting was different.

KINSEY: It’s actually still one of my favorite episodes of all nine seasons. When we did the pilot, I had been a fan of the BBC version, and I was definitely nervous. I was hoping we would do our own thing and make it our own show because I just loved the BBC version so much, and I felt like it was its own thing. And I was nervous we wouldn’t do it justice. When I read “Diversity Day,” it just made me laugh.

KWAPIS: Of the 14 episodes I directed — I don’t want to rank anyone else’s — it would certainly be at the top of the list. I mean there are others I am proud of, too, but that one is a very unique episode. It was just a lot of smart thinking and, again, B.J. wrote a terrific script. Also, it was the first episode after we had gotten picked up. So there was a lot of great energy going into the series. It always frustrated me when people would say, “Oh that show took a while to find its voice.” I thought, “Wow, watch Episode 2.” So I’m so happy you’re writing about it. I’m very proud of that pilot and that show.

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