Brian Baumgartner is slowly introducing 'The Office' to his 6-year-old: 'I showed her the chili'

·6-min read
Brian Baumgartner on being a girl dad and getting recognized while out with his daughter. (Photo: Courtesy photo; designed by Quinn Lemmers)
Brian Baumgartner on being a girl dad, and getting recognized while out with his daughter. (Photo: Courtesy photo; designed by Quinn Lemmers)

Welcome to So Mini Ways, Yahoo Life's parenting series on the joys and challenges of childrearing.

It's easy to pinpoint being cast as inept Dunder Mifflin accountant (and Scrantonicity frontman) Kevin Malone on The Office as the biggest game changer in actor Brian Baumgartner's career. Nearly a decade after the beloved sitcom's 2013 finale, the funnyman keeps Office culture thriving with his Dundie-worthy podcasts (first, with last year's An Oral History of The Office, and now iHeartRadio's The Office Deep Dive, where he welcomes former co-stars and show super-fans like Billie Eilish). And in October, the Daytime Emmy winner will be releasing a book inspired by the show: Welcome to Dunder Mifflin: The Ultimate Oral History of The Office.

The biggest game changer for Baumgartner's personal life, however, has been fatherhood. In 2015, he and wife Celeste became parents to daughter Brylee Bea, now 6. Here, the actor and avid golfer opens up about being a girl dad, trying to explain his Office stardom to a 6-year-old and how he's a little bit like Kevin off-screen.

The Office obviously continues to be a big part of your life; you have the podcast and a book coming out. At 6, does your daughter have any understanding of that world?

She is slowly becoming aware that life with me is a little bit different than other dads. It more comes out in fairly innocent and innocuous questions that I think she suspects some of the answers, but doesn't say, like, "Why does that guy want to be your friend?" meaning a stranger on the street? Or, "Why does that guy want his picture taken with you? Is it because you're famous?" She's started using words like, "Is it because of The Office?" She's aware of it as an entity now and certainly has heard it discussed around me.

And I don't know what the right thing is, by the way — I really don't — but I have started to have conversations with her, wanting her to at least understand why dad goes away sometimes, like what exactly I'm doing. Thinking back, my dad was a doctor. I don't know how much I was aware of what he was doing either, so I don't even know how important that is. But I play golf and sometimes I play golf on television [in celebrity tournaments and sports specials] and I travel away to play golf... I don't want my kid to just think I'm leaving all the time going to play golf; it's that I'm going to play golf on television because that's something that I need to do for my work.

As she learns more and asks more questions, I just want to be there for her, to answer. I've shown her a few things now — but even the concept of a cartoon is a very difficult thing to understand. I'm one of the voices, Walter the bear, on this new animated show, Trash Truck on Netflix, and there's 30-something episodes. And so having to explain to her that the bear was me, this is a complicated idea, right? When they're watching Aladdin or whatever, they're not thinking about who the person is who voices [him]. "Aladdin is Aladdin, what do you mean?" I think that actually, she began to understand more about the "world of pretend" — I think that's what she calls it — and starting to understand other things that I'm doing.

Obviously, she wasn't born when The Office was going, so she wasn't specifically living through that, but she's seen clips. I showed her the [chili scene] because chili is discussed a lot around me. It's not uncommon for someone to [ask me about it] when she's around. She's watched the animated show Trash Truck and a couple of the other things that I've done as well, but she's not into episodes, really, of any television show or movie that I've done at this point.

Kevin is obviously a bumbling character. Have you had a stereotypical Kevin moment as a dad?

I bumble all the time [laughs] — let's be clear about that. Nothing specifically, although I was — this is fairly recent — at a family gathering. I was holding a bunch of meatball sandwiches on a big platter. I was walking through a bunch of people and a dog had left a hard ball. I stepped fully on that ball — like 100 percent — and had the moment in my head: I'm going down. And there were a bunch of people around [laughs], and the room sort of stopped. And then someone started laughing and was like, "We almost just witnessed the chili in real life," which I don't think I would ever have lived down. But I don't think anything's actually been fully executed.

What kind of dad are you: strict, a pushover, somewhere in between?

This sounds terrible... I wanted a boy so bad. I wanted a boy. I'm very into sports. I saw that stereotypical [moment of] football in the backyard with this boy. And I'm telling you, having a girl was the best, best, best thing ever. I love being a girl dad. I would truly not trade it for anything. I'm a little bit on the older side of dads, and I think if I had a boy, I don't know that I could survive it. There's so much energy. Boys will come over [for playdates] and they just run into walls, especially like when they're 4 or 5 years old. I'm like, "What are you doing?" My daughter is not that way in any way.

What are the things you like to do with her? Is she into golf, or are there other family activities you enjoy?

The number one thing is swimming; we swim together almost every single day. We live near the ocean, so it doesn't matter [what] body of water, whether it's a lake or a spring or the ocean or a pool or anything, she loves to do that, and I love to do that with her as well. I didn't want to push the golf thing too early, but we have gone out and she enjoys hitting balls around and being on the putting green. And she's really enjoying soccer.

You mentioned being an older dad. Do you wish you'd started sooner, or are you grateful for the benefit of having more of your own lived experience?

I certainly don't regret or wish anything different in that regard. If I had had a boy [laughs], I will be honest: I think I'm wiser and probably less patient for that sort of nonsense. But she's truly, objectively, a really easy, great kid, so I have no complaints about that. I feel like everything happened at just exactly the right time and we really enjoy each other... Particularly over the last 18 months, [I've been] around a lot, which is great for me. I can pick her up from school and drop her off at school and have that afternoon time. When I'm here, we'll swim together in the afternoon, and that's really valuable for both of us.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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