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Rainn Wilson on strike life

On break from ”The Office,” he talks about hosting the Spirit Awards, working on a ninja project, avoiding MySpace, and more

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Rainn Wilson
Jim Cooper/AP Photo

The Office‘s assistant to the regional manager Rainn Wilson is finally getting a promotion to big boss man as this year’s host of Film Independent’s Spirit Awards (airing Feb. 23 on AMC and IFC channels). In the, er, spirit of things, Wilson spoke with EW last week about the new gig, his role opposite Ellen Page in Juno, and what he and his Dunder Mifflinites are up to during the strike.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Have you been to the Spirits before?
RAINN WILSON:
I haven’t. I went to the party once and got some free food, which is always nice. I’ve been doing my homework and watching previous Spirit Awards.

Sarah Silverman hosted last year. Are you nervous about pushing the envelope enough?
Well, I could never compete with Sarah Silverman. I will never be able to say the word vagina as many times as she can. I am nervous about it. I’m not a stand-up comic, and I told them at the beginning that if they’re just looking for jokes and for people to tell jokes, that’s not really what I do. At first I was like, ”Oh, there’s no way, I don’t want to be a host,” and then I thought, ”Well, it’s going to be hard to make this thing work and an interesting fun challenge,” so I decided to take it on. And we have a little strike going — I don’t know if you heard about that — so I got some free time.

I’m guessing they approached you, but were you like, ”I’m a guy with a background in theater”?
I have no idea why they approached me. I imagine they couldn’t afford Steve Carell, and were like, ”Well, let’s just get his sidekick.” I told them I’m not a stand-up and they were like, ”No, we want you because you do TV and indie films and [we] just wanted a different feel to the show.” I kind of came up with some ideas — they wanted to preshoot some sketches and stuff like that — and that seemed like a lot of fun, so I just thought to give it a shot.

So Juno is nominated for four awards and you’re hosting. Is that not a conflict of interest?
It is a conflict of interest. It is, absolutely, and I’m planning on fully rigging the awards ceremony so that Juno wins in every category, even ones that it’s not listed in. Best Documentary. Best Supporting Actor Rainn Wilson as Rollo, the convenience-store clerk.

What’s Ellen Page like?
She’s a she-bitch. She’s a wolverine on wheels. She’s like a Canada farm girl with, like, weird hippie parents. I think she’s just tremendous.

Do you feel slighted for not being nominated for an Indie Spirit? You are a very persuasive store clerk.
Um, thanks for noticing that, and yeah, I feel robbed.

But you and the Office cast did get some SAG noms, right?
Yeah, that’s great. I’m very excited about that. But [we] kind of got douched over by the Golden Globes. They love their Pushing Daisies and their Californication over there, those foreign journalists.

So the IFC had to get a waiver from the Writers Guild of America so that you would get some writers during the strike. Did you know going in that you’d get them?
When they first approached me, I was like, ”Well, I’ll do it if the WGA lets me do it, but I can’t do it otherwise.” And then I found out in late November, early December that they did get approval, so I actually get to hire some union writers to help me out. I’m going to hire the entire Office staff.

If the Academy doesn’t get a waiver, do you think the Oscars are going to blow?
Are they going to blow?

Yeah, you know, if everybody has to ad-lib. Or do you think they blow already?
Yeah, that’s good. I think the Oscars should be animated because animation writers don’t fall under the Writers Guild, so I think it should be entirely animated from beginning to end. It kind of sucks — I mean, think about all the valet parkers and the caterers in the L.A. area that are going to be unemployed if the Oscars don’t happen.

NEXT PAGE: ”Meredith is actually a prostitute now. Steve Carell is a pool shark. And John Krasinski has gone into international diplomacy.”

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How are you and your Office castmates doing? Are they experiencing strike fatigue?
RAINN WILSON: Yeah, it was a really lovely break, and it’s just turned into a living hell. I just spoke to Jenna [Fischer, who plays Pam on The Office] the other day and we are so ready to go back to work. I feel bad because they had so many amazing things planned for season 4 with Dwight and Angela, and I was so excited to film those. And we may not have a season 4! Period. That may be it. It’s a very real possibility.

Have you been out to the picket lines?
Oh yeah, I’ve been out three or four times. The Office writers are very active in the strike. I hope the people hold strong.

What’s everybody from The Office doing for entertainment? Have they become Netflix addicts, or engaged in other hobbies like competitive eating?
Well, I think Leslie [David Baker], who plays Stanley, has taken up rock climbing and Meredith is actually a prostitute now. Steve Carell is a pool shark. And John Krasinski has gone into international diplomacy. So people have stayed very active and are doing a lot of very interesting stuff. I’ve taken up spelunking. Do you know what that is?

I’ve heard the word, but I’m not sure what it actually is.
You don’t know what spelunking is and you’re a journalist?

My vocabulary is terrible, obviously.
I think so. You need like a vocabulary builder. There’s only one definition of spelunking and that’s cave exploration. It’s like that horror film where those cave creatures were eating those female spelunkers.

I’m not big on zombie films, to tell you the truth. Was that The Descent?
What? What are you? You call yourself a journalist and you’re not a big zombie-film-watcher?

What else are you doing during the strike? We all know about Shrute Space, of course, but are you on MySpace?
No. You know, I tried MySpace for about two or three weeks and I was getting about 3,000 friend requests a day, and people were getting really mad at me for not friending them and sending me nasty letters, and I was like, ”You know what, this is going to be a full-time job. I can’t handle this.”

How does Jenna do it?
I think she got her assistant to do it. She writes a lot of the blogs and stuff, but I think her assistant writes people back and friends people and manages it and the pictures and all of that stuff.

What else are you up to? A film titled The Rocker?
Yes. The Rocker comes out April 18. I think it’s really funny. I saw it. A former heavy metal drummer gets a chance at fame by joining his high school nephew’s rock band. It’s a sweet coming-of-age rock & roll comedy, kind of like Say Anything or School of Rock, a little bit like Almost Famous. It’s a terrific little film, really low-budget.

Are you hoping to get some beefier film roles on the heels of Juno and The Rocker?
Yeah, I mean it’s a little pricklier when you’re on a TV show, because you only have a two- or three-month period to try and fit a film in, which is easy if you’re Steve Carell, but it’s harder if you’re trying to get a film career going. But I don’t even know if we’re going to have a hiatus this year. I’ve been writing some and developing some movies and I’m excited to see what happens with those, but we need this goddamn strike over first. I’m writing a script for [Juno director] Jason Reitman, this ninja project, Bonsai Shadow Hands. I will be writing in it and acting in it and executive-producing it, and Jason will hopefully be directing and producing it. It’s about a down-and-out ninja living in the San Fernando Valley. I would play the titular character.