‘Office’ politics not for Brits only

Worthy of attention: Steve Carell

Best part about working in TV? “In terms of being a working actor, there’s no downside. You strive your whole career just to be employed.”

Hardest part about working in TV? “I don’t think there is a hard part. I believe anyone who complains about the hours or the recognition they get are just complainers.”

Favorite scene this past season? “There was a scene that was written in the stage directions. It read, ‘And now follows the longest, most uncomfortable pause in network history.’ It was three to five minutes of me just standing there and everyone filing out in disgust.”

Favorite shows? “Watching a lot of ‘Little Bear’ and ‘Dora the Explorer’ (with his kids). My wife and I watch ‘Extreme Makeover: Home Edition’ because nothing else is on and we’re in tears by the end.”

Steve Carell purposely didn’t watch more than the pilot of the British smash hit “The Office” before he signed on to play the lead in the American version.

Knowing he couldn’t — and wouldn’t want to — re-create Ricky Gervais’ critically praised turn as the slightly off-center and bemusing boss, Carell felt that the less he watched of Gervais, the better.

He recalls, “I had a lot of actor friends who said, ‘It’s already been done. How could it be improved upon?’ ”

Well, Carell has now developed his own following and despite being on so soon after such a formidable act, the U.S. version of “The Office” on NBC has earned a renewal for season two.

Gervais’ character on the British version is one of the great buffoons in TV history, and Carell is following in that tradition, but with a focus on his character’s more despicable tendencies. He plans to keep him mean — at least for the time being.

“I think that the more you dig, maybe the more loveable the guy will become,” but, he goes on, “I didn’t want to wear the character’s pathos on his sleeve.”

On graduating to lead status in his own sitcom, Carell says he realizes he’s more responsible for the skein’s success and failure, but that additional burden is helpful from an acting standpoint. The extra dialogue is actually an advantage versus preparing for a smaller role.

“The hardest thing to do is to have two lines on a sitcom,” he says. “All you do is think about is those two lines for a week. How can they come out naturally when you run them 8,000 times in your head?”

Carell is perhaps best known for his role as a spoof reporter on “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart.” Though he never had any desire to pursue journalism seriously, he was consistently struck by real-life journalists who would compliment him on his work.

“I think they lived vicariously through us,” he says in utter bemusement. “They knew they couldn’t ask the things that we did.”

Though he enjoyed the show’s political edge, he found the requisite interviews with nutcases to be increasingly difficult.

“There’s nothing clever or witty about making fun of someone who could be clinically insane,” he says. “I always put the impetus on myself to be the idiot. If I was making more fun of myself, it was a bit more palatable for me.”

Breaking out on the bigscreen in “Anchorman” and the upcoming “Bewitched,” Carell isn’t picky about which arena suits him best: “Any medium in which I get hired and paid.”

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