Jenna Fischer Talks About "Blades of Glory"

Jenna Fischer in "Blades of Glory.". © Paramount Pictures

Fans of the TV series The Office know Jenna Fischer as Pam Beesly, the receptionist for Dunder-Mifflin whose love life provides the show with one of its most entertaining storylines. During her time off from the popular series, Fischer had the opportunity to work with Will Ferrell and Jon Heder in the ice skating comedy movie Blades of Glory. Fischer plays Katie, the wallflower sister of Ferrell and Heder's main pairs skating competition, Stranz and Fairchild Van Waldenberg (played by the real life husband and wife team of Will Arnett and Amy Poehler).

Being the Film’s Straight Woman: “It was very not fair because it was like my job was basically to not laugh throughout this whole film,” said Fischer. “That was my job. Somehow I got stuck with that job. Like the receiver of funny, I am the funny receptacle I guess. ‘Throw your funny here.’ It was great. I laughed a lot - particularly off camera I laughed a lot making this movie. It was like getting to go to a top comedy show every day for my job. Also [it was] like a master class in comedy. Believe me, I learned so much from Amy Poehler. She is brilliant, super smart and very funny, and I literally took mental notes on how to be funnier. I would go home at night and try out her brand of comedy on my husband and friends. I picked up like two comedy tricks from her. I was like in study mode.”

So what were the tricks she picked up? “She does a great straight man,” explained Fischer. “She does a really, really great straight man where she can pimp you into doing a bit.

She has this great improv technique, but she has a great way of making suggestions that are really, really good in comparison to other people I've been around. That's such boring comedy speak but she's very good at it - especially with Will Ferrell. She can get him to do the most ridiculous stuff. She's really good.”

The Need for a Grounded Character in This Sort of Over-the-Top Comedy: Fischer’s character is important in helping to keep Blades of Glory accessible to an audience. “I think it’s always good that there be somebody in the film that the audience can relate to,” said Fischer. “They sort of see the film through that person's eyes. I definitely felt like the only sane person in an insane asylum. You're running around going, ‘No, I'm not crazy,’ but everyone doesn't believe you because they're crazy. It was like that sort of thing. It was surreal. I think the coach, Craig T Nelson, is not too crazy. He sort of has that frustration of having to work with the lunatics.”

Working with Two Directors: Josh Gordon and Will Speck, the guys responsible for the popular GEICO caveman commercials, made their feature film directing debuts with Blades of Glory. Fischer called working with the twosome kind of cool. “I mean it was like a blessing and a curse in the way that like there were always one set of eyes on your performance. Usually a director has to take in both the camera technicality of making a movie and the performance element of making a movie. In this case there were 2 guys so they could just divide and conquer.

They would confer and then Josh would go talk to the crew and Will would come talk to the actors. You just couldn't get away with anything. All these eyes were on your performance so in that way it kind of elevated you because every take was someone was watching your acting. But in another way you were like, ‘Man, I just want to phone it in for once. Just one take, concentrate on the camera, don’t concentrate on me.’ Yeah. It was cool. It was nice. For a big movie like this I think it was helpful.”

Behind the Scenes of the Groping Scene: Asked how many takes it took to get it right, Fischer joked, “It's not takes, it's number of hours. That was a 12-hour day. That was 12 hours of Will Ferrell massaging my boobs. Like around hour 7 you're like, ‘Man, my boobs don't need any more action for like a few months.’ I can tell you.

Like my husband, I was like slapping his hands away for 2 weeks. Like, ‘They're done. No more.’ That was a lot. I mean that's a full 2 minutes on screen of him touching my boobs, so that was like a whole day of that.”

Fischer explained the approach to the scene. “The first take is like he said, ‘Okay Jenna, you're married and I'm married and no funny business. Anything that makes you uncomfortable I want you to tell me. I just want you to feel comfortable.’ I said, ‘Okay, let’s just go for it and make it funny.’ He's like, ‘Yeah.’ So we just went for it and as soon as they yelled cut, his hands came off like he was touching a hot iron. He was so respectful. But then around hour 8 it's so normal that they yelled cut and we are discussing the scene with the director and I said, ‘Yeah, dude, your hands are still on my boobs.’ And that was cool, but when we went to lunch and he was still squeezing my boobs and then that night at my car... I haven't been in a lot of films, but he said that was normal - but I'm still not sure. I'm not positive that that was right. He said that was okay and he suggested to promote the film he should play with my boobs. I think that's cool, right? That's how it's done. That's what he said. Yeah.”

And the Kiss with Jon Heder: “Yeah, that kiss with Jon... In the script it just said they kissed. It didn't say they kissed the grossest kiss you've ever seen. It just says, ‘They kiss.’ We sort of felt our two characters that was their first kiss in life. They were older and not experienced and we thought, ‘What must that look like?’ In rehearsal he said, ‘Okay, I'm going to keep my mouth closed but I'm going to keep kissing you with a closed mouth and I want you to tongue kiss me and tongue kiss my face.’ I was like, ‘All right…’ That's what we did. I was so excited because I really didn't know Jon very well and he was so game. He was just so up for just really being crazy. That was like five hours of frenching his lips, I guess.”

Page 2: On The Office and Pam and Jim's Relationship

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The Craziness of Being on The Office with Steve Carell and Starring in a Movie with Will Ferrell and Jon Heder: “It's pretty cool. The bar was set pretty high for me in terms of quality of people and quality of comedy. To go on The Office and be working with really some of the funniest people in the business - writers and otherwise… I couldn't believe on my break I got to work with basically the other most funny people in Hollywood.

It was pretty insane. Yeah, I spend a lot of my life laughing. It's pretty cool.

When I met my husband [Slither writer/director James Gunn], I fell in love with him for his sense of humor. He said the only down side to my success is it's harder to make me laugh at home. He said, ‘I really have to step it up because you're with comedy geniuses all day.’ He's like, ‘You used to think I was so funny. You thought I was the funniest man alive.’ He really has to step it up now because I spend my days with Steve Carell and Will Ferrell. [My husband and I] hung out last night and we laughed for a half an hour. We had this one bit that we did for like half an hour. It was incredibly funny to me. He can still hold his own. He shouldn't worry.”

And Speaking of The Office…: Can the show still maintain its high standards if the ‘will they or won’t they’ romantic storyline between Fischer as Pam and John Krasinski as Jim is resolved?

“You know, there's a lot of things they said we couldn't do with The Office,” replied Fischer. “Early on people said things like, ‘Another British import? They all failed. Your show's not going to make it.’ We've had all these hurdles and I feel like we're going to break the mold on the relationship curse.

I really do.

I feel like the most important thing is that we just stay true to the characters. I don't think they're going to force us to be apart any longer than is natural and they're not going to force us to be together any longer than is natural. I think that if you really love these people and being that it's a character-driven comedy not a gag-driven comedy, as long as you're really invested in the people, we will overcome all of those sort of pitfalls and burdens of other shows. I have complete faith in our writers and in the show.

I don't know if Jim and Pam are ultimately meant to be together. I say this to producers all the time: ‘Sometimes that person helps you become the person that you're supposed to be to meet the person you're supposed to marry.’ Maybe that's our story. And if that's our story, that's still a beautiful story to tell. So if we're still on the air in 10 years and you're just not feeling Jim and Pam anymore, that's all right. I think we're open to letting it be that way. We're not committed to end this series as a wedding between Jim and Pam and a baby, you know? It's more of like a real life story.”

This Season’s Finale: At the time of the Blades of Glory press junket Fischer was getting ready to film the season’s finale.

Fischer says fans won’t be disappointed. “You know, we just filmed our 50th episode directed by Harold Ramis and that's the episode before the finale. There's a lot that happens in that episode that leads into a big finale. There’s a huge Michael/Jan storyline that is just really awesome in the finale, but there's a lot of Jim/Pam stuff as well. But I can say that one thing is that their arc for Pam this season is that she's trying to find her own voice and trying to get what she wants, and that is going to continue. Pam really is going to come out of her shell in the last few remaining episodes of the season and that was really exciting.”

The Original British Show: Fischer was a huge fan of the British series. Asked if she watched it prior to taking the role of Pam, Fischer replied, “Obsessively - and not even know they were making an American version.

I watched the British version and I actually stood up in my living room and said, ‘Why don't we make stuff like this in America?. This is brilliant TV. This is why I became an actor. This is exactly what I want to do. I'm never, ever going to get to be able to do anything this awesome.’ Then two weeks later they called me and said, ‘We'd like you to audition for the American version of a show called The Office.’ I almost peed my pants. I was terrified because I thought I didn’t want to be in the schlocky sitcom version of The Office.

Actually, my first audition for the show, in some ways they were auditioning for me because I would not have participated in that sitcom version of the show. I immediately knew that Greg Daniels was right on because my audition was... I just went in in character and they interviewed me for 10 minutes, completely improv. I decided that Pam Beesly is not a good interview. She's not going to help a documentarian make a great documentary and that was my take on the character. When they liked that idea, I was like, ‘Oh this is a fun show to work on.’ They liked my twist and I liked that they liked my twist.”

Working with Harold Ramis: “Harold Ramis… Oh man, this year we worked with JJ Abrams, Harold Ramis directed three episodes, and Joss Whedon. Great, so great. Harold Ramis is hilarious. We just pick his brain constantly. We ask him all about starting out in comedy and what was that like and all the people he's worked with. That guy is amazing. I can't believe that I just spent all last week hanging out with Harold Ramis. It's so weird.”

Page 3: Horrible Office Jobs and Her Next Movie with John C Reilly

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Jenna Fischer’s No Stranger to Office Jobs: The popular actress says she’s had her fair share of boring office jobs. “Oh, more than I can say. That was how I earned my money as a struggling actor. I worked in various investment firms, medical facilities. I transcribed press tours. I transcribed the Television Critics Association Press Tour. That was my first job in LA. I sat in a hot little hotel room typing away listening to stuff, listening to actors be witty.

It was awful.”

When the tables were turned and she was being interviewed for The Office during the Television Critics Association Press Tour, she really felt for the people who handled her old job. “I so wanted to send a huge fruit basket to all the transcribers saying been there and know what you're going through. It's smelly in there. They put like 12 people in a room this size with computers and you just sit and type away all day. It was brutal.

Actually at that press tour, I pretended to be sick one day when they had this Saturday Night Live party afterwards with all these SNL folks. I feigned sickness starting in the morning and I even sneaked into the bathroom and put a little yellow makeup under my eyes to make them look sunken in. I started coughing. I had this whole plan so I could leave at 5:00, so I could leave early. Then I went to my car, I changed into other clothes, put on makeup, I walked over to one of the limo drivers who had driven one of the stars to the show.

I said, ‘Dude, could you just like drop me off at the front door?’ He dropped me off at the front door, I walked down the red carpet right into the SNL party and ran right into my boss. He fired me on the spot.”

Up Next – A Movie with John C Reilly: “I get to full on co-star in this movie with him and get to be like the girl, you know, that is holding her own hopefully with him because he's pretty amazing.

It's basically a take-off on Walk the Line. It's a fictional music biopic and just sort of satires the crazy world of musicians. I play like a June Carter Cash to his Johnny Cash. I'm sort of that one woman who believes in him and stands by him through his drug abuse and his hits and his pitfalls. It spans from the ‘50s to the present. It's just like a crazy comedy. Judd Apatow is producing and Jake Kasdan is directing.”

Fischer will even get to do a little singing. “Yeah, I sing a duet. A country duet with John. I have not actually recorded my voice yet. I'm still in training. Who knows if I will be actually singing in this film. I'll be doing my own acting in the film though, for sure.”