The Atlanta Fan: Interview with 'The Office' Star Brian Baumgartner

Brian has a podcast that consists of a mix of NFL Draft talk and some other sports.
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Brian Baumgartner played the lovable Kevin Malone, one of the many colorful characters of ‘The Office.’ Although the show last aired eight years ago, the sitcom has seen a resurgence of interest in recent months on streaming services.

And with the quarantine fueling this rediscovery, a new generation of fans is being born for the show, which is part of the reason why Baumgartner has launched a podcast ‘An Oral History of the Office’ on Spotify. His discussions with the cast and the crew of the show provide a deep dive into the series and its 201 episodes.

But while ‘The Office’ is seeing a resurgence, not many know that Baumgartner is a huge fan of all things Atlanta and the University of Georgia. This past weekend’s NFL Draft was a special moment for Baumgartner as the Atlanta Falcons took Florida tight end, Kyle Pitts, in the first round.

“I followed the draft. Yes, I think that their pick was exactly who they should have taken. I think he's a special talent and player and will be interesting to see how that plays out,” Baumgartner told SI.com.

“I knew him quite a bit. I grew up in Atlanta, I was a huge Georgia fan- I did not go to college there. But starting when I was a very small child, I used to go to Athens every Saturday for the home games and watch the University of Georgia. So I'm still a big University of Georgia fan. I can't say that I rooted for Kyle Pitts because of that connection in the SEC. Might have rooted against him quite a bit.”

This means Baumgartner now has to cheer for a Gator. No conflicts here cheering for a former Gator on Sundays.

“That won’t be a problem,” Baumgartner said with a laugh.

‘The Office’ had memorable characters, including the goofy and inept Michael Scott as the boss of Dunder Mifflin, a small paper supplier in Scranton, PA. Joining Scott and the slightly-bumbling Malone was a cast of colorful employees such as Jim Halpert (John Krasinski), a practical joker, and his nemesis Dwight Schrute, an uptight yet quirky Dwight Schrute (Rainn Wilson).

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Sports were an integral part of several episodes of ‘The Office,’ none more so than in the first season when the office played the warehouse in a lunchtime basketball game. Your character, Kevin Malone, was left off the team.

“I think we’d cover the spread. I think if Kevin is playing, we’d cover the spread,” Baumgartner said before discussing that episode from the first season’s very funny (and ironic) ending.

“And you know, that was people talk about improvisation on the show how much was improv or whatever. I mean, I guess that whole moment in a way was improvised. I mean, it was, it was based off [improv]. I mean, boys with a ball around, right? And anyone knows when there's a ball, like, you have to bounce it, you have to shoot it. So, any time while we were shooting down in the warehouse that they would call cut, I would stand up, grab a ball and start shooting hoops,” Baumgartner said.

“A number of people noticed that I could actually shoot and did so in my sports coat and work shoes. We decided to swing the camera around and see Kevin and watch him shoot. And I just… I don't want to call it lucky because I do have a shot.

“But yeah, once they've turned around, I hit 13 in a row unedited and I'm tremendously proud of that.”

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In that episode, the character of Jim Halpert takes a shot to the face from Roy Anderson in the warehouse. Turns out the moment was a real bit of action from playing basketball.

“I'm not going to remember exactly - I haven't told that story in a while. But when there is the elbow between Roy and Jim, I guess there was a stunt error and John was actually bleeding. Or you know, John Krasinski playing Jim was really bleeding,” Baumgartner said.

“That was real, and I believe the tape that they used was the one where he actually got smacked. So that was real. So, maybe they were going at it a little hard.”

The character of Malone that Baumgartner played was well-established as a prolific gambler. In today’s era of betting, it is a sure thing that Dunder Mifflin would have to set up some serious web blockers to keep Malone from laying his daily wagers.

“Yeah, I think I don't know how they got work done as it was. But yeah, now down in the accounting department, I'm not sure Kevin would have gotten anything done with all of the betting websites. I mean when we started shooting the show, this was pre-Facebook. Myspace was the big social media site. That seems like a long time ago,” Baumgartner said.

And I think another thing about why the show has lived on…many shows you see, and hairstyles are kind of funky, or the words that they use are kind of different. And, you know, it's like why people talk about ‘The Office’ not seeming dated, and another discovery that I had in terms of talking with people is you don't ever see a documentary shot -and this is a faux documentary. You don't watch a documentary and think that's dated, right? You watch ‘The Last Dance’ or whatever? No, that's just about the Chicago Bulls in the 90s. Like, it can't be dated, that's how it was.

A huge Falcons and Georgia football fan, Baumgartner couldn’t necessarily blend in his own sports fandom into the character of Malone. But his starring role on the biggest sitcom of this century has had certain benefits.

“I love sports. Having been on the show that was so successful is and playing golf myself is getting to know so many retired athletes and current athletes who are fans of the show. Me being able to golf with, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz and Greg Maddux, who I rooted for back in Atlanta for the Braves when I was growing up…and who started to get good once I left,” Baumgartner said.

“But for me being able to forge those relationships because of the show. That's a kind of an extra special gift that the show has given me personally.

Baumgartner went to SMU and not his beloved Georgia for college. On ‘The Office,’ Baumgartner revealed that Malone went to Penn Foster College. So his college football rooting interests likely lie with Penn State.

“I’m sitting here in my home office and one of the things that I ‘borrowed’ from the set from NBC is a college diploma. It is from Penn Foster College. I don't know if [Kevin] has a bachelor's,” Baumgartner said.

“This is what it says ‘Kevin Malone. awarded an associate of science degree for the completion of the program – accounting.’ I don't really know what that means. But apparently, there was a completion of some program at Penn Foster college that enables him to be an accountant.”

It certainly adds up now. And for Baumgartner, he’s hoping that his beloved Georgia will get back on track this fall.

Anyway, you know, he was J.T. Daniels was injured early on, they just didn't have a quarterback. And their defense was great again, mostly, as always,” Baumgartner said.

“And I think there'll be back this year. I'm excited. I mean, they broke my heart, losing to Alabama, the way that they did a few years ago that I don't know how we will recover from that. But I'm excited about the program. Kirby [Smart] is doing an amazing job. And I think we'll be there every year. I think, you know, I think we'll be back.”

Check out Baumgartner's critically acclaimed podcast 'An Oral History of the Office' on Spotify.

Link: An Oral History of The Office | Podcast on Spotify

Photo credit: Brian Baumgartner

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