Unlike the very calculated machinations of incoming Dunder-Mifflin-Sabre CEO Robert California, James Spader’s new steady gig on "The Office” was the result of a lark.
“It really came about in spite of all efforts,” Spader tells PopcornBiz, explaining how he came to fill some of the void left by Steve Carell after a casual meet-and-greet with "The Officer" producers Greg Daniels and Paul Lieberstein. “They just seem like people that would be great fun to work together with at some point, and we didn't really even talk about 'The Office' at that time. And then all of a sudden, out of the blue they called up and said, 'We've written a role that we'd love to have you do in the finale.'”
“They said, 'We're having a bunch of different [famous] names come in, and do stuff,'” recalls Spader, who claimed three Emmy for his role as the idiosyncratic attorney Alan Shore on both “The Practice” and “Boston Legal.” “So they sent it over. It was so funny and I thought that it would be great fun. They said, 'No obligation – just for the fun of it. Just come and do it.' I went and it was so much fun.”
But what was a quick one-off quickly snowballed. “I started to get calls every so often when they started to edit [the episode]. They said 'God, it's great – It's really great fun!' And then all of a sudden it aired and they called up a couple of days after that and it all happened very sporadically and very spontaneously. They then called back and said, 'We want to have the character back so badly. Can we at least start talking about that?' So, we did just start talking about it, and now here we are.”
Spader says that, just like the show’s fans, he’s eager to find out how Robert California develops after his introduction as the wildly confident, intensely persuasive corporate ladder-climber last season. “I'm just waiting to see,” he laughs. “I love to be surprised. That's always been the way it's been in my career, even with all the film work. I like to be surprised by things."
He can't say much, but Spader does offer one last spin on California's almost terrifying self-confidence.
“I think he's misinterpreted – a lot.”