The Office may have found a new boss: James Spader is negotiating with NBC to join the hit comedy next fall — but not merely as the manager of the Scranton branch.

The three-time Emmy winning Boston Legal star has been reportedly in the mix to replace Steve Carell for awhile, and even guest starred in the season finale as one of several celebrity contenders vying for the Dunder Mifflin manager gig (video below).

But producers have a different role in mind for Spader: CEO of Dunder Mifflin, replacing Kathy Bates, who sources say will exit the show to focus on season 2 of Harry’s Law. “In the finale, he kicked ass,” says a source close to the show. “He was so funny and had this weird energy. We didn’t want to pass it up.”

Whereas Bates functioned more like a guest star in the series, however, Spader would have a significant weekly presence on the show. The actor’s deal is not done and no scripts have been written for the upcoming eighth season, which goes into production in about a month. Yet if all goes according to plan, Spader’s character — named “Robert California” — will be introduced in the premiere as the new Office manager. He quickly decides the role is too small for him, and somehow talks corporate into appointing him as its new CEO.

Sources say California will have a strong impact on the rest of the Office staff, demonstrating a manipulative power and a somewhat creepy sexual vibe:

“Dwight has never come up against somebody equally powerful and diabolical. With Andy, he could be a real father figure and make life really hard for him once he senses he can manipulate him. Jim reads people really quickly, yet wasn’t sure what to make of this guy.”

As for who will take the role of manager, that’s still unclear. Spader’s hire leaves open the possibility of an internal candidate stepping into the post, or another new hire coming on board. Brit comedian Catherine Tate was reported as an early front-runner for the post. Movie star Will Ferrell filled in for a multi-episode arc during on the show during May sweeps that divided some fans.

The NBC hit has teased viewers and the media alike with a year-long guessing game over who will take the starring role on the show. When the show ended last month, felonious mysterious Creed Bratton was sitting in the manager seat thanks to his seniority with the company.

In the finale, Spader was interviewed by Jim Halpert (John Krasinski) along with the HR representative Toby — who’s also the show’s real-life executive producer Paul Lieberstein. “There is no such thing as a ‘product,'” Spader’s arrogant character lectured. “There is only sex. Everything is sex. You understand what I’m telling you is a universal truth.”

Gabe worried Spader might be “over qualified” for the gig. “Do I look like someone who would waste my own time?” Spader countered.

The Office has a long history of blending behind-the-scenes writers and on-air characters, and in the finale, you could take Spader’s scene for a real-life audition. Here’s the scene where Spader is “interviewed” by Lieberstein and Krasinski:

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