When Jenna Fischer was a little girl, she loved watching the hit NBC sitcom "Cheers" with her family and fantasizing about how much fun it would be to work as a member of a TV comedy ensemble like that. As luck would have it, that dream came true for her when she landed the plum role of Pam Beesly (later Halpert) on "The Office," the long-running comedy that finishes its nine-year run on the Peacock network with a one-hour finale on Thursday, May 16.
On that same night, when NBC begins an hour-long special that immediately precedes the final "Office" episode, Fischer will be making her New York theater debut in a much-anticipated work by A-list playwright Neil LaBute, a career milestone any actress would covet -- and she knows she never would have gotten it without the years she put in at Dunder Mifflin, the fictional Scranton, Pa., paper company where Pam plugged away and eventually found love with her colleague and soul mate, Jim Halpert ( John Krasinski).
"'The Office' made all my dreams come true," the actress tells Zap2it. "When I moved to Los Angeles to be an actress, all I wanted to do was to be part of a group of people on a really funny show that I truly loved. And it came true. That's a really powerful thing, to be a little girl and wish for this thing and then have it happen. I got to be on the 'Cheers' of my generation. John and I got to be Sam and Diane, which is what I wanted more than anything."
Fischer's endearing performance netted her an Emmy nomination as outstanding supporting actress in a comedy series in 2007. She lost to Jaime Pressly of "My Name Is Earl," but the romantic saga of Jim and Pam -- or "Jam," as fans called them -- made her and Krasinski overnight stars.
Nevertheless, both actors -- who also were producers during this final season of the show -- were fully on board when series creator and executive producer Greg Daniels proposed the recent and very risky storyline that put their TV marriage in jeopardy when Jim took a new job in Philadelphia that left Pam parenting their two little kids on her own.
"It turned out to be a really difficult season to shoot, because it's never easy to have turmoil between Jim and Pam, much less Jenna and me, and some of the scenes felt a little bizarre to play all that negative stuff," Krasinski says. "But I think one of the things people have always admired about the Jim and Pam relationship is that it's stuff they can connect to."
"We had never touched Jim and Pam's relationship, and to be honest, some people had complained online about how 'nothing ever happens' with them," Daniels explains. "There was a lot of drama in the early years of the show about the relationship, and then, when they got together, that drama disappeared. They were soul mates, and they had earned their happiness together. But I also felt that a lot of the people who got invested in that relationship had gotten married themselves and then passed into this other phase of being later in their lives, so I thought it might be interesting for them to see less of a fairy-tale treatment of this marriage."
Daniels won't give up many details about this last episode, apart from how he's currently begging for more running time since at the moment he's working with a two-hour rough cut, not including commercials.
"There's a lot of closure in the finale," he reveals. "We are wrapping up some important arcs. There will be some scenes at a wedding and a chance for fans to directly ask questions of the characters."
As fans hope for the best for the Halperts, both Fischer and Krasinski freely acknowledge that they expect "The Office" to be a once-in-a-lifetime professional experience.
"Everything else that happens now is gravy," Fischer says. "If 'The Office' is the only thing that I am remembered for, that's still the greatest gift of my life. I hope that I will go on to play other roles that are interesting and move people and are creatively satisfying to me. I think theater might be a good fit for me for a while, because I know that I am not going to ever find another TV show like this. I honestly don't think lightning strikes twice with something like this."
"I was a waiter before this," Krasinski says. " 'The Office' has given me every opportunity I've ever had, along with a pile of experiences and moments and friends that have changed my life forever. To say it's been transformative is an understatement. You can go from the basics, in that every job I've ever gotten was because of this show, to the more existential conversation that I never would have met my wife (actress Emily Blunt) had I not gotten this show. I never would have been in L.A., and she never would have known who I was.
"You can go pretty deep with this and realize that for all of us, in one way or another, this will be the most important thing we were ever a part of."
Photo/Video credit: NBC