Josh Groban is a world-famous singer, but he has also been making a name for himself as an actor. He’s been a guest star on the TV series “The Office” and “Glee.” And he’s had a supporting role in the 2011 movie “Crazy, Stupid, Love.” To promote his 2013 album, “All That Echoes,” Groban appeared in a select number of U.S. movie theaters on February 4, 2013, for a one-night-only event in which he performed a concert that was simulcast to movie theaters from the Allen Room in New York City.
One of Groban’s most memorable acting roles was on the U.S. version of “The Office,” as Walter Bernard Jr., the younger brother of Andy Bernard (played by Ed Helms), the regional manager of Dunder Mifflin’s branch in Scranton, Pennsylvania. The U.S. version of “The Office” comedy series is ending its eight-year run with a series finale that will be televised in March 2013. Back in October 2011, Groban did an interview with reporters via a telephone conference call to talk about his first guest-starring role in “The Office.” Here is what he said:
Prior to coming onto “The Office,” were you a big fan of the show?
I have been, yeah, ever since it was an English show in fact I loved the DVDs of the British version and then when it came to America, like everybody, we watched it and just thought what a brilliant job they did bringing it overseas and kind of making it it’s own hilarious entity. So, yeah, I’ve been watching it every season and when I got the call to be on it, I was really, really thrilled.
Can you talk about what type of guy Andy’s brother is as compared to Andy and what you liked about him?
Yeah. Andy, he’s the first-born which is usually I think probably the favorite son but for whatever reason being the second born somehow I kind of stole his name from him. He was originally going to be Walter Jr. but they made me Walter Jr. and he kind of wound up being a little bit more of the happy-go-lucky, very successful, almost kind of fell up in a way.
Of course he likes to sing, he’s been very successful in business and he kind of can do no wrong in the eyes of his parents and I think that this episode kind of shows some of that naivety and it also kind of really shows a little bit of the back story as to why Andy kind of grew up to be attempting to be a bit of the overachiever that he tries to be.
What started your interest in acting?
When I was really young I was very interested in theater, so I think the first thing that got me interested in acting was the idea that I had hoped to be a theater actor at one point. I was really fascinated with classical theater, with Shakespeare and I loved improv.
When I was in eighth and ninth grade … I joined an improv troop in L.A. called L.A. Connection Comedy Theater, and just kind of started getting into those comedy sports and flexing that muscle a little bit and eventually went on to a wonderful arts high school called Los Angeles County High School for the Arts. And studied theater there and then before I was signed to my record label I was a freshman at Carnegie Mellon for musical theater.
So acting was definitely at least half of what I wanted to accomplish in the arts. And when the music took over and I started recording, it was an amazing fork in the road. It was something I would never turn back on and something I continue to do 100 percent. But the fact that the acting and actually for me just selfishly it’s great that the comedy specifically is coming into it has been a really wonderful surprise and a nice kind of natural transition for me.
Obviously, Andy is a very musical fellow. Will we be seeing any singing from you in this episode of “The Office”?
I think that this episode definitely shows a bit of the competitive … you know, Andy’s always had that thing where he’s got. If he’s got a guitar, if there’s any kind of opportunity for him to sing on “The Office,” he will. And I think this episode definitely shows where that kind of get-it-in-when-I-can mentality comes from.
I think this episode shows a tremendous musical rivalry in the family, not only between Andy and my character, Walter Jr., but also the patriarch. Our father, played by Stephen Collins, is quite musical and has quite a voice as well. So I think the whole kind of musical tapestry of the Bernard family comes to light in this episode for sure.
“The Office” producers have mentioned that Walter Jr. is sort of this naïve, happy-go-lucky sort of guy. Is he aware of the rivalry that Andy feels or is it sort of one-sided do you think?
I think that Walter Jr. loves Andy to death. I think for the most part I would tend to guess that he’s a bit ignorant to the fact that Andy is competitive or feeling kind of left out. I think Walter Jr. just thinks the world of his older brother, looks up to him even though he’s been more successful and always can’t wait to see him.
That said subconsciously I think there’s always a bit of a rivalry going on in a family whether you choose to admit it or not and most of that rivalry I think is sparked by the dad who tends to kind of favor Walter Jr. more than Andy. But I think if Walter Jr. could, he would give Andy as much praise as he could.
“The Office” has obviously got an amazing ensemble cast. If you got to do more episodes, who you’d like to work with more? Obviously, you worked with Ed Helms who’s amazingly hysterical.
Well, the really cool thing about this particular episode was that it’s such an ensemble episode. You know, it’s the Schrute Farm Garden Party so everybody was there. And just as a fan of the show showing up at Schrute Farms and kind of walking on set and seeing everybody that I love from the show gathered in one place was really an amazing just kind of pinch-me moment for me.
And so it was fun to have some scenes from some of the various actors with John and Mindy and everybody. But then also just kind of sit back when there were scenes where I was just background and just watching them do their improv and watching them do their scenes together and seeing firsthand how brilliantly they all play off of each other which it’s so easy to see that they’ve been together a really, really long time because they basically are all one big comedy improv troop.
And they’ve got that kind of shorthand together and when the camera is rolling some of it’s script and some of it they just go off and it was really wonderful to see. If the character develops, it would be a great joy to have scenes with any of them. They’re all really so brilliant to watch.
You’ve guest starred on other television shows such as “Ally McBeal” and “Glee.” What other TV shows would you want to guest star on if given the chance?
I would love to play somebody really bad on “Breaking Bad.” I think that would be a really fun thing for me. I would love to play a drug dealer or something. That would be really, really fun. I’ve been completely obsessed with that series. And I don’t know. There’s so much great comedy out there, it would be wonderful. Doing the comedy thing has been so much fun. “30 Rock” is another kind of legendary show.
But to be perfectly honest if I had a wish list in my head, if anybody were to say to me, “Just quick off the top of your head what’s a show that you would love to be on,” I really would’ve just pulled out “The Office,” because it has consistently been so smart and so funny and such an ensemble-based show and such an improv-based show that not only am I a fan of the show just watching it on TV but I knew going into it that just the experience on set would be one that would be a lot of fun and I was absolutely right.
How would you describe your overall experience on “The Office,” and who’s your favorite character?
I think it’s a testament to how much fun everybody had and how great everybody is because of how long we were on set. I was there shooting for two days and it was 14, 15 hours a day, Ut’s a long day and it was on location where they film Schrute Farms. And it was very hot, and everybody was having to wear clothes that were kind of thicker because it was supposed to be more of a winter thing.
The situation was ripe for a really uncomfortable day but the fact that everybody on set is so funny and so humble. I mean you get a cast like that that’s been together a really, really long time and as a newbie, as somebody kind of walking on for the first time, you don’t know what to expect. I’m coming from the music world. I don’t know a lot of the people on set and really anything could’ve happened.
But everybody was so, so nice and so much fun to hang out with that, and I’ve been in filming worlds where everybody just kind of does their own thing and everybody just kind of sticks to themselves and they just do their job and there’s not a lot of camaraderie on set. And this couldn’t have been farther from that. Everybody had a wonderful time. And as far as a favorite, it’s impossible to say. It was amazing to watch every one of them in action and I hope to come back sometime soon.
You’re one of the few people who’s been out to Schrute Farms. Can you talk to us a little bit about that experience?
Yeah. I was very, very honored. I did not take it lightly for sure when - I was actually kind of surprised they didn’t put a blindfold on me on the van ride over because it feels like one of those very kind of top secret TV land locations. As a fan of the show it was really, really fun to see and also it was great to see that the actual house, I mean the Schrute Farms house, everything you see on the show, none of that feels like a set when you’re there. I mean it’s all - it’s a beautiful piece of land and what they’ve done, the prop department and the people who have created that house and everything, it’s to the detail.
To be able to walk in and just kind of look closely at all of the Schrute portraits on the walls and the pictures from his childhood and the oil painting of his grandfather next to the Kiss poster, like they haven’t left any stone unturned as far as his character and what that property means to his character. And so just as a fan of the show, it was really, really cool to see that.
As a fan of “The Office,” you clearly followed the search for Michael Scott’s replacement. What did you think when the job went to Andy?
I thought it was awesome. I mean Ed [Helms] has an incredible way with his comedic acting style that I think is so right for that position and so right for this show because his nuances as a comedian are really spot on and he’s so funny and I think that his character is a natural fit to come on after Michael Scott. I think that Andy’s character really kind of means well and cares about the job and cares about people and just really wants to do well by everybody whether he’s able to do that or not.
And the cool thing about this episode is I think it really gives a great back story to the new manager. It really gives a great kind of understanding of what his family life must be like and why he kind of became who he is. And it was a lot of fun to be a part of that.
So you actually have a younger brother who actually has the same birthday as you.
That’s right. Yeah. We’ve got the same birthday four years apart, yeah.
How did you use that in the character?
That’s a really good question because I adore my brother to death. He is one of my favorite people on Earth and we’re best of friends and we’re both in the entertainment industry. I’m in the music business and he’s a film director and film editor. But the dynamic, especially when you’re exactly four years apart and you have to share a birthday from the age of 4 on, it was one of those things where when it was 10 and 14 a little bit awkward. After that, we were able to kind of settle into our ages and now we can go out and have a beer and just talk about anything.
But especially with him watching the ridiculously early success that I had and the fact that he kind of kept his own head and kept his own vision and kept his blinders on and really kicked butt in his own way in his own world, now we collaborate all the time. He’s going to be directing a music video for me. I’ve composed music for some of his films.
It’s a great thing but it is a perfect example of how when there is a right sibling situation how there can really be nothing but love there even though it might be a perfect opportunity for rivalry when it’s done. I’m really proud of the fact that my brother and I have done it right.
Do you have any other acting gigs in the works?
The complicated thing right now is that I’m actually tour. And when Mindy Kaling asked me about doing [“The Office”], she actually kind of direct messaged Twitter, tweeted me and I was shocked to hear from her and I said “Yeah, I would love to do the show. When are you thinking?”
And it just so happened that the exact week that they were taping this episode was the exact week out of an eight-month tour that I’m doing that I happen to be in the Los Angeles area. So it was 100 percent just serendipity that I happened to be in town when they were taping this episode and I’m so happy that the stars lined up for that. As far as other stuff, I can’t wait to get back into it and look at some more projects, but it’s got to wait until I finish these last remaining shows and I’ll be done with this tour around December 1 . So whether it’s on “The Office” or elsewhere, I really look forward to doing more.
Do you want to keep sort of an equal divide between the acting and singing, or do you want to sort of maybe invest more time into acting?
It’s been interesting for me to see kind of the acting path take shape in almost a very different way than the music path took shape. The music path was kind of fast and furious from day one. I was signed when I was 17. I was thrown into some really huge environments where it was very much sink or swim.
When the album came out there was this kind of really sudden explosion of fans and things like that ,and it kind of felt like I had to live up to the things that exploded around me in the music business and I had to kind of grow into my puppy paws a little bit in that world. The acting thing I think has been really fun because it’s something that I’ve done for so long and it’s something that I’m still relatively new at in a professional capacity.
So I feel so more than ready to dive into it. It’s something that has happened really naturally and kind of grassroots and it’s been fun to see it happen kind of slowly but surely. I think that right now the music is always going to be 100 percent to me but if there are fun if there are fun things for me to be a part of like this episode, I’ll always jump to the chance. It’s always a great thrill to do some more things.
Were you ever interested to do anything on Broadway or even opera?
I grew up just loving theater, and I think that I’ve got such a great kind of group of friends in the Broadway and West End community. Kike I said earlier, it’s what I originally started going to school for so I think my voice is really right for it. I think it would be one of the most amazing times in my life if I had a chance to do a Broadway run one day.
The thing about live theater and the thing about joining a cast and kind of starting a production somewhere is it just takes so much time. I wouldn’t want to do something that would be just kind of a gimmicky thing. I wouldn’t want to just do a month or anything just as a flash-in-the-pan thing. I’d really want to start it from scratch and want to get to know the material and I’d want to spend a good amount of time in the production.
So it’s the right role and it’s the right time but I think the nice thing about that style of singing and those kind of roles is in that world I still have some time left as far as some of the roles that I would want. I’m still relatively young when it comes to that. So to answer your question, I would 100 percent want to do that in the future and it’s just about the right time.
Is there any difference between working on a movie or a TV series?
Yes and no. It certainly can be. TV sometimes can be done very, very differently than film. In this particular case, it was still pretty much single camera so I would have to say that the way that they directed “Crazy, Stupid, Love.” the freedom we had to just kind of explore and have fun in the scene was actually very similar to the way that we shot “The Office.”
There’s a looseness to it. There’s kind of a handheld documentary film style to it that was very similar in my scenes at least. And so other than the size of the screen in this particular instance there weren’t a huge amount of differences. So but if I were to do a different type of TV show, I’m sure I could find plenty. But other than just the shooting style, no, it was actually pretty similar.
Are you dating anyone?
No, I’m not. No. Those are the two things that suck about being on the road is not a lot of time for film roles and not a lot of time to meet people. But thanks for asking.
What was it like to work with Tony Bennett on “Duets”?
Working with Tony Bennett was without a doubt one of the great honors of my career. He’s somebody that I’ve always looked up to. He’s somebody that not only for his interpretation skills but what he’s done for that style of music and for those songs but just as a vocalist. Having been able to share kind of some other fly-on-the-wall experiences, we never sang together but we did Oprah together at one point, and just watching him warm up, watching him at 8 in the morning show up for sound check impeccably dressed in a suit and where everybody else was marking their notes he was singing full out.
I saw in him such a professionalism and such a fire that really made me realize that the real greats maintain such a humility for their craft and for what they do and never lose that desire to strive for greatness. And so that just as a fan and watching him from a side was always a thrill for me to see and then to be able to stand in the same room with him and to record in that way, we recorded with Phil Ramone and the way that Tony likes to record is without headphones. We had the monitors all kind of up in the ceiling and so his band was surrounding us and we were just standing there with two mics. It was so old-school and such a great kind of master-class way to do it. It was really, really fun.
And when he picked the song and asked me to sing it the way we sang it, I couldn’t have been happier. We had such a wonderful day in the studio and I’ll never forget it. And as far as 2012, I get off the road December 1. Our final shows are in South Africa. I’m going to take a good month and a half off and then I can’t wait to jump back in the studio. I don’t know at this point what the production situation is going to be like as far as producers, but we’re already looking for songs. I’ve already started writing a bunch, and I would like to have another album out by the end of the year.
Do you see any similarities between your character and yourself on “The Office” or your character and maybe Andy?
I can certainly relate. I mean there is definitely kind of moments where you can tell that people are like, “Oh, come on, Walter, why don’t you go out there and just sing a song? Come on!” I mean I think that to a certain extent I am kind of as shy in garden party situations about performing as my character is. And I think that to a certain extent I think any of us who have achieved a certain amount of success feel like we worked for it and then also feel like to a certain extent we were given wonderful opportunities and wonderful open doors to walk through.
I would say that I’m definitely a little bit more neurotic than Walter Jr. Walter Jr. seems to be like I said just kind of very go with the flow and life is grand, and I tend to be a bit more of an over-thinker than he is I think. But when somebody asked earlier about kind the thing about me and my brother, I’m sure that he and I will both get a really great laugh out of this episode because I think there’s at certain points in our lives some similarities between he and I and what happens with Ed Helms and [me].
What was it like getting to have Stephen Collins as your father and having Ed Helms as your brother?
It’s such a cool thing. Stephen Collins I’ve watched his work in the past and everybody’s seen him on “7th Heaven” and all those shows and he’s kind of like the ultimate dad. When you watch his other work he’s kind of like the dad you wish could be your side dad. No matter how great your family is, he’s just like you want him as your weekend dad. He’s a cool dude.
And when I met him off set there is something about him that is so kind of calm and collected but he’s got a really dry wit. Just hanging out with him and we were working out kind of our song harmonies and things like that. He’s got an amazing voice.
Not to give any spoilers, but I think people will kind of realize that the musical inspiration in the family started with him. There’s a little bit kind of a von Trapp family atmosphere in his world in the show. And just kind of watching him play guitar just off stage, off set, I was really very impressed at what kind of a Renaissance guy he was.
I definitely will treasure the family portrait that was taken on set. We got to take a picture where it was me and Ed and Stephen and all of us standing there — and Dee Wallace, of course, who plays our mom who is amazing. And, yeah, it’s a pretty cool family portrait. I’m definitely going to frame that and put it on my fireplace at some point.
So is there anything we should be aware of Stephen Collins besides that he’s a great talent?
It takes on to know one for sure. He’s one of the most charming guys I ever met and he does he’s got a great musical talent. I’m glad this is going to be able to showcase that for him a little bit. Just watching from sidelines a really great episode for him for sure.
Where does your main inspiration come from when you write?
Writing it kind of tends to come from half asleep, 2 in the morning bolts of just kind of unrest I mean a little bit. Whenever I sit down and try to do it as homework, it just doesn’t seem to be as fruitful.
But generally it comes from the fact that when life is throwing me an experience or an emotion or something that is stirring in me. I’m not a big journal guy. I’m not the type of person that can sit down and kind of Dear Diary it. The piano keys have always been my way of expressing it.
And I think when I started writing I had to realize that when I would sit down and just play, when I was feeling a certain way and I just felt like for whatever reason I needed to exercise that demon on the piano that that was writing, that I needed to try to focus that and hone that into coming up with cohesive melodies that represented how I felt.
And then coming up with the words to match that melody has always been kind of the more challenging part. And when I co-write I love working with really great lyrical writers to try and kind of match that feeling. But, no, it’s always sometimes really frustrating that when you get an inspiration for a melody it’s almost always in the shower or on an airplane and you just got to find a way to get it down anyway.
Do you prefer to sing or act?
Music I think will always be my number one. Singing is my life. It has absolutely been my inspiration from day one. From day one, even when I was doing theater, it was always kind of under the notion that it would be involving music whether it was classical or musical theater. It was always I think the combination of music and singing with the story and with the acting that inspired me.
And as I’ve grown into this recording career it’s been such an incredible way for me to kind of explore my inspirations growing up and to express myself. I think that I will always love doing acting jobs when I can, and it’s always a lot of fun for me, but the singing is always going to be number one.
For more info: Josh Groban website