B.J. Novak Tried to Convince James Gandolfini to Play 'The Office' Boss After Steve Carell's Exit

Carell played Michael Scott on The Office for seven seasons before his exit in 2011

If B.J. Novak had his way, a true boss may have joined The Office.

During his appearance on Thursday's episode of Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen, the actor, 42, responded to recent reports that late Sopranos star James Gandolfini was in talks to play the next boss on The Office after Steve Carell's exit in 2011. Carell, 59, had played Michael Scott on the beloved NBC sitcom since 2005.

"I was at the meeting with James Gandolfini where we tried to convince him to join the show," Novak recalled. "And he was a big comedy fan — his favorite movie was The Rocker starring Rainn Wilson, so he was shy and intrigued."

"He's my favorite actor of all time in anything, so I just thought it would be great because, to me, The Sopranos was actually the biggest influence on The Office because of the way that comedy and drama and character were all completely indistinguishable," he continued.

James Gandolfini, Michael Scott
Piyal Hosain/Fotos International/Getty; Mitchell Haaseth/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty

"In fact, the way Michael Scott will say something very serious but mispronounce a word, I feel, is a direct descendent of the Tony Soprano sense of humor," Novak said. "So I thought he would have been an incredible replacement — I really, really wanted to work with him."

After Andy Cohen asked if it seemed like Gandolfini wanted to take the gig, Novak shared a bit of wisdom he received from the revered actor.

"I did [feel like he wanted it]," Novak said. "It was interesting, we suggested sort of a white collar character to play against type, and he said something I'll never forget — he said, 'I feel as an actor, whoever comes out at 3 a.m., that's who you should be playing. And at 3 a.m. what comes out of me is a blue collar guy.'"

"I thought that was so interesting," Novak added.

BJ Novak
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Sopranos stars Michael Imperioli and Steve Schirripa shared The Office story on an episode of their podcast, Talking Sopranos, in July. The duo played Christopher Moltisanti and Bobby Baccalieri, respectively, alongside Gandolfini's lead Tony Soprano on the HBO series.

Schirripa claimed Gandolfini was offered the role before James Spader joined The Office in Carell's place and said his late costar was "going to take it," as it was several years after The Sopranos concluded.

"I think before James Spader and after Carell, they offered [Gandolfini], I want to say, $4 million to play him for the season — and HBO paid him $3 million not to do it," he said after Imperioli brought up the topic with guest Ricky Gervais, who created the original British version of The Office.

"That's a fact," Schirripa added, noting that Gandolfini had a deal with HBO for the miniseries, The Night Of. (Following his death in 2013, John Turturro replaced Gandolfini on the show, which premiered in 2016.)

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