So life after The Office begins for its principal cast, like Jenna Fischer, who had been with the show for the entirety of its nine-year run. For Fischer “life after” starts with her New York theater debut at the strictly limited engagement world premiere of Reasons to Be Happy, a play by Neil LaBute, which runs through the end of June at the Lucille Lortel Theatre. Fischer spoke to The Wrap about why she decided to make her stage debut after the end of the biggest success of her career and how she feels about taking on a totally different role than The Office‘s Pam Halpert.
Fischer admits that she couldn’t see herself doing another television show immediately after The Office. She explains, “My heart wouldn’t allow me to step into another television show. The Office was just such a special work environment that I would have felt disloyal or something. It’s like a relationship. How do you date again after you’ve had your heart broken? So I wanted a work experience that was totally different. I moved to a different city, I worked in front of a live audience on a stage with no cameras or set or anything to remind me of The Office.”
She feels that way in part because of how happy she was with her role in The Office finale. She says, “I loved how it was wrapped up. I felt like each character got their own moment in the last 15 minutes of the show. When we had the table read of the finale and I found out that Pam got the last sentence of show, I burst into tears. It meant so much to me.”
As for her character in Reasons to Be Happy, Fischer points out that one of the appealing parts of taking the character on was how different she is from her Office character. She says, “This character is a big departure from Pam, but it’s not a big departure from me. It’s another part of my personality that I get to draw from.” However, she doesn’t think the character is so different that her television fans won’t accept her new character, adding, “It doesn’t feel like such a departure from myself. It feels very natural and authentic. I can’t control how other people view my work. You’d have to ask an audience member if they’re able to see and accept that transformation. But if I’m going always be known as Pam, it was such a great role on a great show, that I’m okay with it.”
Nevertheless, she sees her theatrical turn as her way of “Managing my fears and insecurities.” She reveals, “It’s different when you’re going on the emotional journey of a character so many times a week. On a movie you go through the full journey over three months of filming. I tend to approach my work with a very open heart, so that can be taxing. I’m trying to figure out how to stay open while not allowing it to consume me when I’m off-stage.”