Frazer Harrison/Getty Images
St. Louis woman: Jenna Fischer made her way from Missouri to Hollywood in a beat-up Mazda hatchback.
St. Louis woman: Jenna Fischer made her way from Missouri to Hollywood in a beat-up Mazda hatchback. Frazer Harrison/Getty Images
Jenna Fischer is probably best known for her role on NBC's comedy series The Office. She plays Pam, the receptionist — one of the show's most recognizably real characters.
If you've ever worked in a clerical position in an alienating office, you'll relate to what Pam goes through. In this interview, Fischer tells Terry Gross about creating all those pained looks and knowing smiles — and about how her five years as an office temp helped to prepare her for the role.
Fischer also costarred in the film comedies Blades of Glory and Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story. And in the new film The Promotion, opening in select cities June 6, Fischer plays a Chicago nurse married to a supermarket assistant manager — who's competing for a promotion to store manager at the chain's newest property.
Fischer tells Terry Gross that she went into the audition "trying to look like a struggling nurse from Chicago" — only to hear later that producers didn't think she had enough Hollywood-style glamour. So she went in for a callback, tarted up in a low-cut blouse, tan body makeup and false eyelashes (courtesy of the hair-and-makeup crew from Blades of Glory). "I looked like a prostitute," she says, but she gave the same performance in that second audition. She got the part.
Glamour isn't all Hollywood execs look for in candidates, she says. Famous faces, blown up larger-than-life-size on movie posters, help sell tickets. Luckily, Fischer says, "The Office has given me a famous face, and I can compete" nowadays in ways that were harder earlier in her career.
Fischer talks to Fresh Air about her abortive career as a member of an all-girl singing group (which turned out to be a front for a high-priced call-girl ring), and about her very first screen role — in a sex-education film made especially for just-released mental-health patients.