The Office wasn’t the same after Steve Carell left during season seven. There are some good episodes in the final two seasons and I will forever defend Robert California (he is the f*cking lizard king after all), but when Michael boarded his flight to Colorado, so much of what made the show great was lost. This may not have been the case if James Gandolfini had stepped in as regional manager.
“I was at the meeting with James Gandolfini where we tried to convince him to join the show,” writer and actor B.J. Novak recalled during Thursday’s episode of Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen. “And he was a big comedy fan — his favorite movie was The Rocker starring Rainn Wilson, so he was shy and intrigued.” Novak called The Sopranos the “biggest influence” on The Office because… I’m sorry, I need to pause here. James Gandolfini’s favorite movie was The Rocker, the little-seen 2008 comedy starring Dwight as a failed musician named Robert “Fish” Fishman who appears on the poster in his underwear? This will take some time to process.
Tony Soprano crying to ‘Night Shift’ by Lucy Dacus pic.twitter.com/KA21Ex7g2e
— Matt Erspamer (@erspamer_matt) March 11, 2021
OK, that’s better.
“In fact, the way Michael Scott will say something very serious but mispronounce a word, I feel, is a direct descendent of the Tony Soprano sense of humor,” Novak said. “So I thought he would have been an incredible replacement — I really, really wanted to work with him.”
Novak thinks Gandolfini would have been an “incredible replacement” for Carell, but unfortunately, the deal didn’t happen. As Steve Schirripa explained on Talking Sopranos, NBC offered Gandolfini “$4 million to play him for the season — and HBO paid him $3 million not to do it.” Gandolfini was reportedly going to star in HBO’s The Night Of, but he passed away in 2013; the miniseries would eventually air in 2016.
You can watch the Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen clip above.