When John Krasinski auditioned (in 2005) for the role of Jim Halpert on The Office, he was only two years removed from Brown University, and he was working as a waiter. He’d had a few bit parts on TV shows — a CSI here, or a Law & Order there — but among those auditioning for the role of Jim, he was easily the least known. Among those who considered for the role were Paul Rudd, Steve Zahn, Aasif Mandvi, Michael Showalter, Zak Orth, Josh Radnor, Ron Livingston, and Colin Hanks, but it was the less experienced Krasinski who landed the gig.
But had Krasinski auditioned for someone, perhaps, less forgiving than creator and showrunner Greg Daniels, things could have gone very differently.
As Krasinski tells it in The Office: The Untold Story of the Greatest Sitcom of the 2000s, they originally asked him to come in and audition for the role of Dwight. He convinced them to let him audition for Jim, instead. During auditions, about six other actors went in before him, after which they decided to take a break before auditioning Krasinski.
“The casting director said, ‘We’re going to take a five-minute break for lunch. Is that OK?’ I said, ‘Yeah,’ but in my head I was thinking, ‘Come on, just do one more!'”
At that point, a guy walks out with a salad and fork and sits down next to Krasinski. “Are you nervous?” the guy asks.
“Not so much for the audition,” Krasinski says. “But I’m really nervous for the people who are making this show because so often these translations are just garbage, and I really hope they don’t screw it up because so many people are waiting to kill this show.”
And the man with the fork and salad says to Krasinski, “I’ll try my best. I’m Greg Daniels. This is my show.” Oof.
Afterward, a “horrified” Krasinski called his agent and told him what happened. His agent told Krasinski to do the audition anyway, and he got lucky, because everyone in the room was already in a good mood and laughing “because I was such a moron. And everyone was like, ‘Is this the jackass that said this is the show that’s going to be ruined? Go for it, kid.'”
“Weirdly,” Krasinski continues, “because everyone was already laughing, the room was really warm and ready to go.” According to those in the room, Krasinski “felt like our Jim immediately.” He was soon thereafter cast, and despite the massive faux pas, the rest is history.