Bob Odenkirk on Why He Thinks Steve Carell Beat Him Out for the Role of “The Office”'s Michael Scott

The 'Better Call Saul' star appeared as a character suspiciously similar to Steve Carell's in the show's final season

<p>Mitchell Haaseth/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images</p> Steve Carell and Bob Odenkirk in

Mitchell Haaseth/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images

Steve Carell and Bob Odenkirk in 'The Office'

Bob Odenkirk may have been passed over for the role of Michael Scott in favor of Steve Carell, but it seems his audition may have served as something of a test run for his eventual guest appearance on The Office.

The Better Call Saul star stopped by the Office Ladies podcast on July 9 to talk about his 2013 guest appearance on The Office and his career more broadly with hosts Jenna Fischer, 50, and Angela Kinsey, 53.

“I am, in a strange way, a very earnest person for a person in comedy,” Odenkirk, 61, said of his shift to dramatic roles. “I am oddly earnest, and … it's one of the reasons I think Steve Carell is a better, you know — is the one who got the role.”

It’s no secret that Odenkirk was an early frontrunner for the role of bumbling boss Michael Scott on the hit NBC sitcom, but the part ultimately went to Carell, earning him six Emmy nominations for outstanding lead actor in a comedy.

<p>Amanda Edwards/Getty </p> Bob Odenkirk in 2024

Amanda Edwards/Getty

Bob Odenkirk in 2024

Related: 'The Office' Cast: Where Are They Now?

“There were other parts that I think I was up for that Steve got, and it's because he's better at being genuinely fun,” Odenkirk continued. “I think I bring with me a little bit too much earnest seriousness, and it's just kinda there. And there's nothing I can do about it except play other roles where it's helpful to have that. And, you know, you just don't believe me as a purely light character.”

“You just are looking for the darkness, and that's actually great in drama. That's a plus, you know? But in comedy, it's not a plus,” he added.

As Fischer has noted before, she and Odenkirk prepped for their Office auditions together and even did one screen test with him playing Michael and her playing Pam, the role she ultimately landed.

Odenkirk did eventually make an appearance on the show in its ninth and final season. In the episode “Moving On,” he played the manager of a Philadelphia real estate company where Fischer’s character interviewed for a job — a character who was eerily similar to Carell’s.

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“The idea was, Pam's gonna go in for an interview at this real estate office,” Fischer recalled, “And they thought it would be really funny if it was like her life was gonna repeat itself now in Philadelphia. And her boss is basically Michael Scott.”

Odenkirk said that the guest spot was an opportunity to “show people what I would have done” had he landed the role.

“Although, I do think that what I was doing was more a tribute to Steve because that's what I was supposed to be doing,” he added. “My character was meant to be very much a version of what Steve had invented when he played the character.”

Jenna Fischer and Bob Odenkirk in 'The Office'
Jenna Fischer and Bob Odenkirk in 'The Office'

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But one of Fischer and Odenkirk’s scenes in the episode was also something of an homage to their original audition together. As Fischer has previously mentioned, Odenkirk brought his guitar to their screen test and improvised a song about her character. When she learned that the Breaking Bad star would be appearing with her in the show’s final season, she said, “I told [showrunner Greg Daniels] … ‘You have to tell Bob to bring his guitar.’ ”

According to Fischer, the song Odenkirk performed on the show — singing Pam’s résumé to her as he strummed — was very similar to the one he improvised during their audition.

“I don't remember all that much except that I had the greatest time,” Odenkirk said of his time on The Office.

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