Thursday, December 21, 2006

Why I love Jenna Fischer


Aside from the obvious reasons.

I never see her “acting”. She is the most natural of all the gifted cast members on THE OFFICE. And you can’t imagine how hard it is to play natural when there’s a camera trained on you. Look how awkward and self conscious those people who rob 7/11’s get when they realize there’s a surveillance camera. It’s just human nature.

And you don’t need a camera to feel uncomfortable. Just sense that someone is watching you. For added heebie-jeebies, imagine that someone can also come over and give you notes.

Stage actors find this particularly difficult. It’s hard to be natural when you have to project to the back row. And many talented stage actors can’t make the adjustment. Can you picture Nathan Lane guesting on THE OFFICE? His idea of “natural” is only eating the scenery and furniture and props but leaving the backdrop untouched.

But Jenna is a master. And for my money she has the hardest job. Try making “bored” funny or even interesting. Yet somehow she does. And in many ways I think she anchors the series. The others can push a little bit to be quirky and funny because they know Jenna is there, a rock, planted right in the middle, grounding the show.

When it comes time to award the Emmy for “best actress in a comedy”, how about breaking with tradition? For the first ever, how about giving it to the one actress who doesn’t MUG? Let the winner be… Jenna Fischer.

33 comments:

maven said...

Hey, Ken: Totally agree with you. The nuances in Pam as she painfully eyes Jim seems the most natural "un-acty" acting. She is every person who suffers in silence, but really knows so much about everyone else. The subtlety of the humor on "The Office" is epitomized in Pam. Kudos to Jenna for making it real!

Reno said...

Talk a little about Marsha Mason's Sherry on Frazier. I loved her and her banjo. Was the original plan to put her in six or more episodes? I thought it was brilliant of the producers/writers to introduce her outrageous eccentricity just when we thought the madhouse couldn't hold anymore. Sometimes an episode would come along that convinced me the writers were absolutely insane. Two that come to mind are the costume party (Ohhh!) and the radio drama. What a wonderful eleven years.

Jon said...

Absolutely on Jenna. It might be silly to bring up the Golden Globes, but Sarah Paulson gets a best supporting nomination and Jenna Fischer doesn't?

Pierre-Luc Allie said...

What does MUG mean?

Tony said...

pierre-luc:
"Main Entry: 2mug
Function: verb
Inflected Form(s): mugged; mug·ging
intransitive verb : to pose or make faces especially to attract attention or for a camera
transitive verb : PHOTOGRAPH"

From m-w.com.

Mr. Hollywood said...

THE OFFICE is a rare gem of a show and I'm amazed it's on network TV. It screams out HBO. And what an ensemble cast. I am the rare person who did not like the British version of the show. Ricky Gervais doesn't do anything for me. But the casting on this show is the best I've seen in years. And the writing. And the directing. Totally agree with you too on Jenna. Emmy time, hands down!

Cap'n Bob Napier said...

The polar opposite of Jenna, in my book, is Glenn Close. I can't bear to watch her. It's like she has a word balloon over her head saying, "Look at me pose, look at me mug."

Will Teullive said...

Ken,
Any thoughts on Rainn Wilson? I don't know the origin of his first name. I'm thinking maybe the parents were fond of the brown acid, orgies, and communes; but purely speculative on my part.

The guy is terrific as the ass-kissing, paranoid co-worker. Any nine to fiver knows a guy just like him.

Dave Williams said...

Boy, you nailed that one. Anybody who has ever watched the development of a comedy onstage or on camera knows that the toughest job in the building is the straight man or woman, the one around whom all the nuttiness flies while firmly tethered to the master. Most "best actor" awards for comedies should go to the one who isn't usually funny but makes funny inevitable.

JP said...

Yes agree, Pam is wonderful:)

DodgerGirl said...

Jenna is fantastic. I keep up with her MySpace blog, and she comes across just as down to earth and normal as Pam.

benson said...

off topic, but I noticed this on Yahoo Entertainment news...

Nancy Travis will star opposite Bill Engvall in the comedian's untitled half-hour pilot for TBS.

I believe, Ken, you've had praise for her work in the past.xpp

Anonymous said...

The best note I ever got in a small black box theatre was years ago when someone in the audience told me, "I always wanted to know what you were thinking and what you were going to do next."

That was the moment I knew I would never excel in theatre.

What's that famous story that spawned the line, "Do you know how hard it is to be Cary Grant," said by Cary Grant?

Mark

Pierre-Luc Allie said...

Thank you Tony

Anonymous said...

for anonymous "Mark" (now, there's an oxymoron): Cary Grant also said: "Everybody wants to be Cary Grant. Even I want to be Cary Grant."

Anonymous said...

Gee, wish I could remember the name of the gal who played the "Pam" part in the British version. Jenna is the only one in the US ensemble who plays the role as it was, for lack of a better word, created to be.
The NBC version of the show was destined to be the ugly American rip-off. But in fact took on a wonderful life all it’s own thanks to a gifted cast..Jenna included.

Bill Nesbitt

Anonymous said...

Another great anchoring force in the eye of the storm of zanies around her... was Ken's former muse, MTM, on The MTM Show.

Brian Berry said...

The UK 'Pam', was Dawn, and she was played by Lucy Davis, who is on the much maligned (on this blog, anyway) Studio 60 right now.

I thought she was terrific, especially in the Xmas special that ended the UK series.

Anonymous said...

Dear anonymous,

Thanks for the Cary Grant quote.

...and making me laugh.

Anonymous Mark
also former Creative Executive
...adding to the oxymoronic theme

Alexis said...

I had the joy of working with Jenna's husband, James Gunn, on Slither, which he wrote and directed. (I'm a 2nd AD.) Jenna appeared in a cameo in the movie, and was as pleasant to deal with, both personally and professionally, as you would hope. As was James. Despite night shooting in the middle of winter in the middle of nowhere, it was one of the most fun shoots of my career.

(I'm a regular reader, first time commenter - really enjoy your blog, Ken.)

Dwacon said...

She was rejected for the role of Sydney in "Alias."

Dumb move...

pseudonymous in NC said...

Yes, Lucy Davis was Dawn in the British version, and she was best known to the audience by her voice, not her face, as a member of the long-running BBC radio drama 'The Archers'.

Mike Barer said...

Is she from the Eddie Fisher family?

Allen Holt said...

Totally agreed about Jenna Fischer. Of all the things I love about The Office, I think I love her most of all. I have my doubts about her getting an Emmy nomination (as much as I think she deserves one) if only because her role isn't flashy and doesn't call attention to itself.

(Perhaps not coincidentally, Dawn was my favorite character on the BBC version. Hmm.)

David O'Hara said...

somebody mentioned Studio 60 again.

the Christmas espisode was one of the best shows i've seen in a long time. Played the ending three times. It is was what Christmas is suposed to be about. KUDOS to Arron Sorkin and the Gang. Damn good writing!

Brendan said...

David O'Hara -- I believe the person who mentioned Studio 60 was referring to the Christmas episode of the BBC "The Office" -- which was amazing, NOT the Studio 60 Christmas episode. Which stunk.

David Gans said...

The Christmas double episode of "The Office" was the best episode of a truly great series. Every episode is worth watching twice - so much subtle stuff going on.

John Eje Thelin said...

What makes Fischer's performance even better is when you see her as herself (she was on Letterman a few months ago) and realize she *isn't* playing herself, but is quite different from Pam. So it's not just a question of being comfortable in front of the camera, but of turning in a supremely naturalistic performance. I second the wish for an Emmy nod.

John Eje Thelin said...

What makes Fischer's performance even better is when you see her as herself (she was on Letterman a few months ago) and realize she *isn't* playing herself, but is quite different from Pam. So it's not just a question of being comfortable in front of the camera, but of turning in a supremely naturalistic performance. I second the wish for an Emmy nod.

Bill S said...

One actress who comes to my mind as a great re-actor was the late great Cathryn Damon on "Soap". Like Jenna Fischer, she was the calm, reasonable person in a sea of crazies, and anchored the show in much the same way. Damon never had any "Big" comic moments, but she was consistantly good in scene after scene. One of my favorite examples: ventriloquist Chuck is trying out his new "magic act" on the Campbells. The trick is that Bob (his dummy) can read minds. He proceeds to blindfold Bob, and asks Burt and Danny to hold up a random object, which Bob correctly identifies. Mary is the only one who picks up on why this ISN'T such an amazing trick, and Cathryn's bored, stunned look while watching this act is priceless.
She DID win an Emmy, but not until season 3, but it's good she won at some point.

So Mad at Your Crap US Plagiarism said...

Jenna's great, but Dawn & Tim >>>>> Jim & Pam. The US version is just so pale, weak and cartoony compared to the Merchant & Gervais'.

Dr. Leo Marvin said...

Jenna's great, but Dawn & Tim >>>>> Jim & Pam. The US version is just so pale, weak and cartoony compared to the Merchant & Gervais'.

Thanks for that. Pretty much what I wanted to say, so 'nuff said.

Thanks also for being about eight months late to the party. Until I saw your comment at the bottom of the scroll I was expecting that I'd be the dizzy joker seemingly just arrived by time machine. But thanks to your chronologically challenged intervention, I'm now following on only two days later. Apparently I'm nimbler than I thought.

Martin Gifford said...

I adore Jenna Fischer! I could gaze upon her forever and not get bored. She just seems to be a good soul. And physically beautiful. And a great actor.

I loved the UK series, but I actually think the US series is better because there's more story development. I love the romance between Pam and Jim. Jim's great too. All the cast is great. But UK Ricky G was freakishly great. I have never seen better acting. And he created the show.