It’s no secret that The Office has its fair share of superfans, but did you know one of those fans landed several cameos on the show?
On the latest episode of the Office Ladies podcast, former co-stars Jenna Fischer and Angela Kinsey chatted all about the Season 5 finale, “Company Picnic.” It’s a major episode that finds Michael and Holly reuniting after some time apart, the Dunder Mifflin team competing in a volleyball tournament, and Jim and Pam learning they’re going to be parents. It also features a very special background actor named Jennie Tan.
For those unfamiliar with Tan, she started a popular Office fansite called OfficeTally.com in February 2006. Over the course of The Office‘s nine seasons, OfficeTally served as a hub for exclusive interviews, thorough episode discussions, engaging chatroom opportunities for fans to speak with cast members, and more. The writers and actors of The Office were just as obsessed with OfficeTally as Tan was with the show; they formed a close relationship with Tan over the years and welcomed her to set six times. In addition to set visits, Tan appeared in two Office episodes: “Company Picnic,” which is the show’s 100th episode, and the series finale.
In 2020, Mashable spoke with Tan about the impact her fansite had on The Office as well as her experience on set. On the podcast, Fischer and Kinsey shared why her site was so important to them and how her appearance in “Company Picnic” was such a heartwarming way to celebrate the show’s 100-episode milestone.
Fischer explained that the cast and crew had become friends with Tan, so she was invited to spend the entire week with them and get an exclusive look at the finale.
“They asked her to be an extra, and she documented all five days of shooting this episode on OfficeTally.com,” Fischer said. “It is still there and she has tons of photos.”
“Jennie was sort of someone who made a community for The Office online before anyone was doing that — before social media,” Kinsey said. “She was there for the show, providing this community in our earliest days when we didn’t even know the future of the show, and it meant a lot to all of us.”
If you’re wondering what it was like to be a background performer on The Office, Tan has all the insight.
“Jennie said that when she first went to the wardrobe tent she was given an apron to wear, and [they] said she would be a grill cook. But then, about an hour later, production pulled her aside and made her a Buffalo branch employee. And then they winked and said, ‘You’re going to be part of a special branch.’ But she didn’t know what that meant yet,” Fischer said. “And get this: Jennie talked to a bunch of the background folks, and she said that most of them were not Office fans — that they had never seen the show, and that a few of them did not know who Steve Carell was. She said they were thrilled to be working on our show because we had a reputation for treating background performers very, very well, and for providing great food.”
If you haven’t watched “Company Picnic” in a while, it’s worth noting that during a performance in front of everyone at the picnic, Michael and Holly accidentally reveal that Dunder Mifflin’s Buffalo branch (the branch Tan’s character worked for) will be closing.
“There are two especially angry Buffalo branch employees. They were played by Brian Stack [a writer on Conan] and Marla Garlin,” Fischer said. “Well, also seated in the front row who was very upset about this branch closing is Jennie Tan. And she revealed that she was in the front row with a real-life husband and wife, couple Dan and Erin, who were booked together to play extras on this episode. They gave them two fake babies, and it’s really great. You can see Dan sitting next to Jennie. And when Brian Stack as the angry Buffalo man is yelling, he’s shushing his baby.”
When it came time to film The Office finale, Tan wrote to showrunner Greg Daniels and asked for a cameo, and he said yes immediately.
“When they announced that the series was going to end, I wrote Greg Daniels and said, ‘Is there any chance that I could come down, visit the set, and appear on the last episode?’ He wrote back in like five minutes and said, ‘I will give you lines.’ I didn’t ask for lines, so I was totally freaking out,” Tan told Mashable.
She said that she flew from Palo Alto to Burbank to film her scenes, in which she spoke during the memorable Q&A scene during the documentary panel.
Be sure to listen to the full podcast to hear more behind-the-scenes stories from filming “Company Picnic” and read our interview with Jennie Tan to learn more about OfficeTally and her role in the show.