News Column

Ellie Kemper calls herself 'unreasonably lucky'

May 11, 2013



Grew up --Ladue

High school --John Burroughs (Jon Hamm once taught her drama there)

Played --Erin Hannon, 2009-2013

Kemper, who graduated from Princeton University, got her start writing and doing improv comedy; she had lived in New York and worked on shows including "Late Night With Conan O'Brien" (where she met her future husband) before being cast in "The Office." Kemper appeared in the mega-hit "Bridesmaids" and turned up this season on pal Mindy Kaling's "Mindy Project." For the last three years, "The Office" was a family affair for Kemper; her younger sister, Carrie, wrote for the show.

Kemper writes:

The assignment is a 300-600 word essay on what "The Office" has meant to me over the years. The writer is a horribly sentimental, unreasonably lucky, and forever grateful fan of and actress on "The Office." I need 6 million words.

"The Office" is a television show that will go down in history as one of the best television shows in the history of television shows. As someone who works in show business and, for the most part, does not understand business, I do my best to try and figure out exactly what made this model work. And I keep coming back to the same thing: We, as viewers, connect to what is real.

How much more real could "The Office" get? Who were these barely made-up, balding, beautiful characters, and how could I get them into my closet-sized apartment more than just once a week? I had never seen anything like it on TV before. There weren't really punch lines. There weren't really hairstyles. There were lots of extremely uncomfortable, deeply funny, and sincerely sweet moments where I just sat there, cringing, laughing, or crying, until the moment ended. I loved those moments, and I loved those people.

I knew Jim (or, I knew a guy like Jim). I understood Pam (or, I thought I was some version of Pam). Having just started working with a temp agency in New York, I knew bosses like Michael Scott (in some form), and having an older brother who bears an uncanny resemblance to Mose Schrute, I knew Mose (minus the beets). These characters weren't far-off or remote or out of reach. I already knew them.

"The Office" was not mean, or cynical, or pessimistic. It rooted itself in a firm sense of hope. The workers of Dunder Mifflin fought with each other, annoyed each other, and helped each other. They were a family, and like all good families, at the core of everything was a very good heart.

On May 4, the fabulous city of Scranton welcomed the cast and crew of "The Office" for a final farewell party. I try to explain how it felt, and I come up short -- 10,000 fans celebrating the end of a television show was a remarkable thing. Everyone was just happy. I'm not sure people make television like this anymore. I think "The Office" was an incredibly healing show.

Greg Daniels is the man to thank for all of this. He gathered a group of abnormally smart, funny, and weird people, and he led them as they all designed, wrote, and performed what we saw in our living rooms every Thursday night. When I met them in person, they proved to be every bit as smart, funny, and weird in real life. That is another key piece in all of this. From Steve Carell to Jenna Fischer to Phyllis Smith to Ken Kwapis to Rusty Mahmood to Carrie Kemper, this group of people was a gracious and generous bunch.

I don't pretend to think that I will ever get to work on a show as special as this again.


(c)2013 the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

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