LOS ANGELES – Jenna Fischer wouldn’t mind being part of an “Office” reboot – if the right people were involved.
But she’s too busy working on a new sitcom, “Splitting Up Together,” to do more than listen to the rumors.
“The idea of an ‘Office’ revival is a great idea – I would be honored to come back in any way that I’m able,” she says. “I loved playing that character and, as long as Greg Daniels is the person in charge and the visionary behind it, I would absolutely be up for it.”
She took the new job, though, “to get some distance from ‘The Office.’” Fans had gotten so used to her as Pam, the receptionist, she was afraid she might get typecast.
“I’m a wife and mother now and I feel like I’m going to get to express this whole other part of my personality.”
Indeed, “Splitting Up Together” lets the 44-year-old mine her new life for plenty of humor.
In the new ABC series Fischer plays one-half of a divorced couple who decide to live in the same house and take turns parenting. Oliver Hudson plays her ex. In the early episodes, it’s clear they’re both to blame for the relationship’s deterioration.
Parenting, the real-life mother of two says, isn’t as strenuous as some television shows make it out to be. “Before I was a parent, I thought you white-knuckled your way through a lot of it. I have to say I love it. It’s my pleasure. Everybody just needs to have a moment where they can collect themselves.”
While “Splitting Up Together” is based on a Danish series (“I understand it’s more dramatic,” Fischer says), it isn’t revealing a new concept. Parents staying together for the sake of the children is often called “bird nesting,” Fischer says. “The children don’t have to move from place to place. The parents do.”
The reasons for the TV couple’s decision aren’t quite as noble (there’s a financial element at play) but it does get them into new domestic situations. (He learns to dance; she dates a much-younger man.)
“The things they’re learning about themselves and exploring as individuals are the things that ultimately are going to repair them and make them able to be a couple,” Fischer says. “You’re rooting for them to make those discoveries.”
Adds Hudson: “In movies or television, when we hear or see the word ‘divorce,’ it’s ‘War of the Roses.’ But this is different. There are very amicable divorces out there and we’re sort of exploring what it’s like to be separate, but not hate each other.”
Fischer is convinced the new series has a good chance of succeeding. "Nobody thought the American version of ‘The Office’ would ever do what it did," she says. "Splitting Up," at least, has the benefit of being surrounded by hit series.
When Fischer started on “The Office,” British creators Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant gave her and others plenty of advice how to “Americanize” it. “Greg was very good at holding on to the beauty and the reality that the British version gave us. He also created something that could go on for years and years.”
Before “The Office,” Fischer wondered if she’d ever make it in the business. She took a series of minimum wage jobs and landed as a transcriptionist at NBC.
Instead of finishing her shift at a press event, she pretended to be sick, changed clothes and “sneaked back into” a party for “Saturday Night Live.”
There, she met Molly Shannon and spilled her story – “I’ve been out here for about a year and I’m struggling. I don’t have an agent and I don’t have my SAG card. What am I doing and what do you have to say?”
Shannon grabbed her by the shoulders and said, “Never give up. That’s what you need to do. You need to never give up. It took me 10 years before I landed on ‘SNL.’ Nobody knew who I was and I just kept going. Then, everything changed after I got ‘SNL.’”
“As a young artist, struggling, I walked away from that and thought, ‘If it took Molly Shannon 10 years, who am I to be frustrated?’ I just held that in my brain and it really got me through my rough moments.”