Steve Carell is very aware that Donald Trump’s book Think Like a Billionaire sat on Michael Scott’s bookshelf in The Office for years. “Oh yeah,” he says, knowingly, at the tail end of our interview about his new film Last Flag Flying.
“Michael Scott read Trump’s book about being a businessman,” Carell says. “It was a how-to book about how to be a titan of business. So that completely fits the narrative.”
The unlikely connection between Michael Scott and Donald Trump first began during the credits sequence of a season one episode of The Office.
“I think the main difference between me and Donald Trump is that I get no pleasure out of saying the words, ‘You’re fired,’” Michael said into the camera as the credits rolled at the end of an early episode. “I think if I had a catchphrase, it would be, ‘You’re hired, and you can work here as long as you want.’ But that’s unrealistic, so…”
During the 2016 campaign, websites like BuzzFeed and BroBible began publishing “Who said it?” quizzes that compared quotes between the two men. For instance, it was Michael, not Trump, who said, "My whole life I believed that America was No. 1, that was the saying. Not America is No. 2."
Not a day goes by when someone on Twitter doesn’t compare Trump’s various broken promises to the infamous “Scott’s Tots” episode of The Office in which Michael realizes that he cannot actually pay college tuition for a group of underprivileged students as he vowed to do 10 years earlier. Instead, he offers them laptop batteries.
And just this past week, Michael Schur, who wrote for the The Office before creating Parks and Recreation and The Good Place, drew this parallel between Trump and Michael on Twitter.
“I don’t even want to get into that,” Carell says when I ask him if Michael would have voted for Trump. “I think Michael Scott is someone who just wanted to get ahead the best he could. And learn from what he perceived to be a master of business.”
“You have to keep in mind, at that point, it had nothing to do with politics,” he adds. When I suggest that some people might be projecting our current political moment onto the sitcom, which ended its run in 2013, Carell replies, with deadpan sarcasm, “You think?”
Of course, this is not the question Carell gets asked most about The Office these days. “Are you going to ask me about a reunion?” he inquires warily when the subject of the show first comes up. Despite his best efforts to thwart the question, we end up going down that road anyway.
“No, I doubt it,” he says of the chances for a return to Dunder Mifflin. “I just don’t think it’s a great idea. People who love the show love it because of what it was. And if you try to bring it back, it won’t be that. It won’t be exactly the same.”
“People want it to be exactly the same and it won’t be,” he continues, echoing an argument made not long ago by Friends alum Matt LeBlanc. “And ultimately I think fans would be disappointed because it isn’t exactly what they remember it being. So, I don’t know, I don’t think it’s a great idea.”