Ben Silverman hopes "The Office" isn't just a place where TV stars are promoted to movie stars.
The NBC hit began to thrive soon after Steve Carell broke out in summer 2005's "The 40 Year Old Virgin." Silverman, an executive producer of the show, believes the movie's fortunes rose with those of "The Office" -- and vice versa.
Also Read: John Slattery Sets Us Straight on "Mad Men"
This summer, he says, it's happening again. Ed Helms stars in the record-breaking "The Hangover 2." Ellie Kemper stars in the hit "Bridesmaids." Phyllis Smith is a key player in the upcoming "Bad Teacher." All continue the cavalcade of "Office" stars balancing film and TV careers.
"We have an amazing cast, but also the writers and producers have really great eyes," Silverman told TheWrap. "It's one of the most incredible examples of where TV and film stars co-exist."
Silverman, the former co-chairman NBC Entertainment and Universal Media Studio and now head of the multimedia studio Electus, believes "The Office" is another "Saturday Night Live" -- a place where movies and television elevate each another.
Next season, the cast's star power will be tested more than ever. With Carell's exit last season, NBC will find out whether viewers tuned in mostly for the ensemble or for Colorado-bound Michael Scott.
This Emmy season, meanwhile, is the last one in which voters can nominate Carell, who has five consecutive best comedy lead actor nominations but no wins. Voters could also seize on his exit to give the show its second Emmy for best comedy. We talked to Silverman (right) about how Dunder Mifflin landed its boss and where it will go without him.
Given Carell's eventual movie stardom, wasn't it a coup to get him for "The Office"?
He was, at the time, committed to another television show where he was not even the primary lead. So I think he was still thinking about a television life. "40 Year Old Virgin" was not really in the makings as we were in conversation, and I think both things helped each other. [Editor's Note: The other show was the short-lived 2004 sitcom "Come to Papa," starring eventual "Marriage Ref" Tom Papa.]
How do you think the show will do without him?
The show is so strong. Our final episodes without him were as strong as our episodes with him. The show's called "The Office," not Archie Bunker's place. It's one of the most true ensembles on television. We have a lot of characters, as many characters as a drama, and servicing them all is hard work. You want to find opportunities.
What can you tell us about next season?
I think the audience is going to love what we've got coming up. Some of the additions we're making to the ensemble and some of the storylines are just hysterical. ... I'm really excited about the suspense of what the dynamics of the office are going to be, and how the characters evolve. And obviously it's really fun coming off a summer where [so many in the cast] are in the hottest movies.
So: Who's the new boss?
We're looking at a number of situations and obviously teased a lot out in our finale.
Can anyone replace Carell?
I don't think you're looking for -- it's not dependent on any one player, so there's no replacement conversations. There's just continual analysis that we do every season -- no different than the last season or the season before -- of how we progress the love affairs and the story lines. As in every office, people are looking for promotions and new jobs.
Will we see Carell come back for guest appearances?
I would just say stay tuned. Obviously he's one of our partners and friends, and invested in the show. So he may appear. We'll just have to see what his trip to Colorado looks like.