For some actors, getting out from under your biggest and best-known role can be difficult after that project ends. Sometime it’s as simple as hearing an infamous line from that movie or TV show from adoring fans on the street. But other times it can actually impact your career and typecast you into a certain kind of character.
For Jenna Fischer, who played Pam on The Office, the enduring success the show has seen on TV and streaming services has certainly been a blessing. But being known as Office Pam has apparently impacted her career in at least one particularly negative way.
As Deadline detailed, the subject came up on the ‘Office Ladies’ podcast, which features Fisher and fellow Office alum Angela Kinsey. As Fischer described it, she had been cast as Matt LeBlanc’s wife in a sitcom called Man With A Plan. But when it came to audience testing, the people watching apparently couldn’t see her as anything but Pam. And LeBlanc as, of course, his also wildly popular character, Joey, from Friends.
“They said — this is a literal quote, they said, ‘I don’t believe Pam would marry Joey. The chemistry doesn’t work between these two,’” Fischer told her Office Ladies co-host Angela Kinsey. “That was the feedback they got.”
“They could only see you as Pam and Joey?” asked Kinsey, who played Angela Martin on The Office.
“Yeah,” Fischer said. “So it wasn’t working for them that we got married and had a family.”
As Fischer told it, she actually found out in a pretty horrible way as well: just before upfronts in New York to introduce the show to the public.
“The first thing I said was, ‘Is [Man with a Plan] not getting picked up?’ And they said, ‘It’s worse than that, hun.’ And I was like, ‘What’s worse than that?’ They said, ‘It’s getting picked up, but without you.’ And I was like, ‘Wow, I guess I’ll unpack my suitcase.’”
Without Fischer, Man With A Plan ran for four seasons on CBS. And despite Fischer playing the role in the pilot, Liza Snyder was opposite LeBlanc during that run. It was disappointing to say the least, and Fischer hadn’t really detailed what went wrong on the show until now. But after nine seasons as one of the most notable secretaries (and love stories) on television, apparently fans just couldn’t see her as anything but Pam at that point in time.