Here is our conversation, in anticipation of this week's all-new episode The Incentive, airing Thursday at 9:00 pm.
How has the response been from last Thursday's Office Season 8 debut? I was a little bit surprised, myself...
Ellie Kemper: What were you surprised about?
Ed Helms took me completely off guard. I really didn't think that was the direction the show was headed. That came in from left field for some of us...
Ellie Kemper: That's right! Exactly. We keep them guessing. I went to an episode screening with the cast and crew, so of course, there, the response was positive, since everyone there made it. I have been reading online. I think it went over...Pretty well? I don't know. My family liked it. I keep forgetting that people didn't know that Ed Helms was going to be the boss. We've been taping since July. Of course, people have only just seen it now. How do you feel? Are you happy about it?
I love Ed Helms. I thought the show was quite different in tone from previous seasons. It was fresh. Which is what you need when you reach the 8th season of any show.
Ellie Kemper: I agree with you. Having Ed Helms in there now? It changes the dynamics of it. In a great way, but in a way that is completely different.
And you have James Spader adding this heavy, ominous weight in the corner. It's easy to forget some of the truly evil dudes he's played, and that obviously lingers around Robert California. I just recently watched The New Kids, from way back in the 80s, where he plays this bleached blonde badass bully who is tormenting these new kids in town. He is so honestly scary in that. He throws a pit bull in his friend's face to save his own life!
Ellie Kemper: Oh, my gosh! I haven't seen that one yet...But I had the same experience with him. I just watched Sex, Lies, and Videotape a couple of months ago. Then I saw him the next day. I was like, "Oh, my gosh!" He is such an amazing actor.
He has such an imposing presence. It certainly gives this new season a very dark edge. It's gripping in a way the show has never been. His presence is uneasy for the audience.
Ellie Kemper: I completely agree. He has a fantastic energy that can't be explained.
How do you think Andy's new promotion is going to change or affect his relationship with Erin on the show?
Ellie Kemper: Without revealing too much, at the end of last season, Erin and Andy were not together. They tried to get back together, and their overtures were rejected. I think that in this scenario, Andy is the boss. Erin is his direct assistant. Without revealing too much, I think we are going to focus more on Erin's independent life, as a workingwoman. It's so funny to me that Erin has had two boyfriends over the course of two seasons. That is a lot for anyone to have. Erin doesn't seem to be this overly romantic person to have had two. I hope that we are going to focus on different parts of Erin. Perhaps her orphan childhood. I don't know. I want to see that. I am not a writer. But I will suggest that. I want to know. I want to see a show where Erin goes back to one of her old foster homes. I am not laughing about the fact that she has lived in a foster home. But I do wonder how this woman was created. I would like to explore that. When we go to see Shrute Farms, it explains so much about Dwight. I would like for a similar thing to happen with Erin. Whenever you go to someone's parent's house, or their childhood town, you learn a lot about that person. I think it would be a lot of fun.
There were raves about your hair from the group of people I watched the show with. I know you went a little darker this season, but everyone thought your hair looked so fetching, and lovely...
Ellie Kemper: That is an enormous complement. I am going to tell the woman that does my hair that you said that. That is so nice of you. That makes me really happy!