Season 8 of “The Office” had to set a lot of new parts in motion: The show installed a new CEO in James Spader and promoted Ed Helms‘ Andy to branch manager, all while continuing to serve the 16 other members of the cast.
So it’s no surprise to hear executive producer and cast member Paul Lieberstein say that this season has felt like “we’re creating a new show a little bit.”
“We’ve been kind of re-figuring out how the office works,” Lieberstein tells Zap2it. A good amount of that re-invention has involved incorporating Spader’s style into the show.
“He’s a very exacting, careful, studied actor. He builds a performance very methodically, whereas we’re from a much looser, improv-comedy school,” Lieberstein says. “The way the two are working together has been great, I think. It’s been a good marriage.”
The early part of the season has focused heavily on Andy getting accustomed to his job as branch manager and making halting progress in his relationship with Spader’s Robert California. Andy has been doing everything he can to play the nice guy, both with Robert and his Scranton colleagues, but that may not last forever.
“We may start to see some of Andy’s anger problems come back, but in a way that may really benefit him,” Lieberstein says.
Lieberstein also says Andy will get at least slightly more comfortable around Robert, but both guys will have to deal with a new element: Nelly Bertrum (Catherine Tate), who will return in February as a special projects manager for Sabre.
“Her character is one that grasps very strongly onto something without a lot of thought and runs with it,” Lieberstein says. “She doesn’t have a lot of skills, but she has a lot of drive.”
Nelly will bring several people from Scranton, including Dwight (Rainn Wilson), to Florida to help with the launch of the Sabre Store, the company’s badly planned and executed version of the Apple Store.
If that sounds like a bad idea to you, you and Lieberstein are on the same page. “[Nelly] follows it through with equally bad management,” he says. “We play that out as an arc — they’re down there for about six episodes. Then late in the season, Catherine Tate will come back up to Scranton.”
One thing that won’t be a major thing when the season picks up Thursday (Jan. 12)? The birth of Pam (Jenna Fischer) and Jim’s (John Krasinski) second child. Fischer has returned from her real-life maternity leave, Lieberstein says, but the show won’t make a big deal about the new baby.
“People don’t care so much,” Lieberstein says with a laugh. “The rest of the office does not seem as moved by the addition of a baby. [Pam] comes back with very little fanfare.”
“The Office” airs its first new episode of 2012 at 9 p.m. ET Thursday on NBC.