“He’s my favorite actor of all time in anything, so I just thought it would [have been] great.”
B.J. Novak has revealed he “tried to convince” the late James Gandolfini to replace Steve Carell on “The Office.”
While appearing on Thursday’s episode of “Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen,” “The Office” star was asked by a caller about the report that NBC “wanted” Gandolfini to replace Carell as the boss of Dunder Mifflin following the actor’s departure from the show in 2011.
In response, Novak, 42, — who was also a writer and executive producer on “The Office” — shared that he was actually in the meeting in which they tried to get the late “Sopranos” star on board. Novak explained that he “really wanted to work with” Gandolfini, whom he called his “favorite actor of all time,” and explained why he believes he would have been an “incredible replacement.”
“I was at the meeting with James Gandolfini where we tried to convince him to join the show,” the Novak told the caller. “And he was a big comedy fan — his favorite movie was ‘The Rocker’ starring Rainn Wilson, so he was shy and intrigued.”
“He’s my favorite actor of all time in anything, so I just thought it would [have been] great because, to me, ‘The Sopranos’ was actually the biggest influence on ‘The Office’ because of the way that comedy and drama and character were all completely indistinguishable,” he added.
“In fact, the way [Carell’s character 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 explained. “So I thought he would have been an incredible replacement. I really, really wanted to work with him.”
When Andy Cohen asked if Novak felt like Gandolfini “wanted to do it,” Novak said, “I did. It was interesting, we suggested sort of a white-collar character for him to sort of play against type, and he said something I’ll never forget … He said, ‘I feel as an actor, whoever comes out at 3 a.m., that’s who you should be playing. And at 3 a.m. what comes out of me is a blue-collar guy.’ I thought that was so interesting.”
Actor James Spader ultimately replaced Carell, 59, who starred as Michael Scott from the show’s premiere in 2005 until the end of Season 7 in 2011.
Back in July, Gandolfini’s “Sopranos” co-stars Steve Schirripa and Michael Imperioli explained on an episode of their “Talking Sopranos” podcast that Gandolfini had been offered to be Carell’s replacement on the NBC sitcom, discussing the topic with British “Office” creator and star Ricky Gervais.
According to Schirripa, HBO — the network on which “The Sopranos” aired from 1997 to 2007 — paid Gandolfini to turn down the offer.
“I think before James Spader and after [Steve] Carell, they offered Jim [Gandolfini], I want to say, $4 million to play him for the season — and HBO paid him $3 million not to do it,” Schirripa claimed, per New York Post. “That’s a fact.”
“Jim [Gandolfini] was going do it because he hadn’t worked, and it was a number of years removed from when the show ended,” Schirripa added.
Schirripa also said Gandolfini “had a deal” with HBO as he was “developing” the crime drama “The Night Of.” While Gandolfini had been set to star, the Emmy winner passed away at the age of 51 in 2013 from a heart attack. Gandolfini was replaced by John Turturro and the miniseries went on to air in 2016.