Scranton digs “The Office,” and the cast and crew of the soon-to-end NBC comedy about the employees of a fictional local paper company definitely dig the northeastern Pennsylvania city too.
That was never more evident than at a parade, wrap party and concert with cast and crew of the long-running series on a warm, sunny Saturday, May 4, in downtown Scranton. And at the end of the day, the enthusiasm kicked up several notches with the surprise appearance by departed series star Steve Carell.
Cast members John Krasinski (Jim), Jenna Fischer (Pam), Rainn Wilson (Dwight), Ellie Kemper (Erin), Paul Lieberstein (Toby), Creed Bratton (Creed), Craig Robinson (Darryl), Kate Flannery (Meredith), Phyllis Smith (Phyllis), Oscar Nunez (Oscar), Brian Baumgartner (Kevin) and Andy Buckley (David Wallace), along with executive producer Greg Daniels and other production personnel, appeared genuinely touched and at times overwhelmed by the outpouring of adulation and affection from an estimated 10,000 fans who lined the Linden Street parade route and packed Lackawanna County Courthouse Square, where a temporary bandstand was set up.
Fischer could be seen tearing up several times during the day; Wilson wore a big smile on his face and was clearly jazzed by the whole scene; and Krasinski seemed in a state of disbelief.
“This is the most surreal thing I’ve ever been a part of — 100 percent,” Krasinski tells Zap2it. “Not only because of all the people and everything — which is just unbelievable that people would turn out for something like this — but also the idea that this many people went out of their way to come see us to just say hi or [for us] to sign something is just incredible. And Rainn said it: Every show gets to say that their fans are the best, but our fans actually kept us on the air. … We never would have existed if it wasn’t for these people.”
Onstage, The Scrantones, the local band who performed the show’s opening theme song, entertained the crowd with ’70s and ’80s favorites, while cast and crew danced, sang and engaged in merriment.
“This is the cherry on top of the whole ending of ‘The Office,'” Wilson says, “and it’s so fitting that we’d come back here to Scranton and celebrate with their die-hard fans. … This was fantastic.”
For Kemper, who joined the series in 2009 and missed a previous Scranton-hosted “Office” party, this marked her first visit to the Electric City. Her parents and sister, series writer Carrie Kemper, came along for the occasion.
“I feel like a Rolling Stone,” she says. “I’m sure this will never happen again. It’s such a special city and they could not be nicer to us. It’s just unbelievably cool to be welcomed like this.”
Earlier in the day, at a Q&A session at the University of Scranton, Daniels and members of the production team shared behind-the-scenes reminiscences and a few tidbits of “Office” trivia. For instance, a lot of the props used on the show came from Scranton and were contributed by actual Scranton residents; Wilson is terrified of heights, as revealed by a blow-by-blow breakdown of how the crew shot a scene in which Dwight attempts to ride a bicycle on a high wire; and the video used in the show’s opening credits was actually shot by Krasinski when he came to town to interview locals prior to filming the pilot.
“I was just excited to have a job,” Krasinski explains. “And I was so excited that I went and did that, just because I was a nerd and wanted to do that, and then it turned out to be the beginning of the show. And I remember saying to Greg, ‘That’s the coolest thing that’s ever happened.’ And then a whole lot cooler things happened.”
All along, Daniels says, the Los Angeles-based makers aimed to be respectful of their faux host city.
Later, at a farewell ceremony at nearby PNC Park, the cast and crew came out for one last appearance, Q&A session and “exit interview,” highlighted by the surprise introduction of Carell to a deafening roar from the ecstatic crowd.
“It’s so sad that it has to close,” Kemper says, “and a send-off like this, I can’t think of any other show that is able to do something like this. And I think we all say the same thing — we don’t fool ourselves — we will never be on a show this good again.”
Following an hour-long episode Thursday (May 9), the series finale of “The Office” airs May 16 on NBC.