Aziz Ansari hired for ‘Office’ spinoff

Details beginning to leak about new series

Details are finally starting to emerge on NBC’s highly anticipated “The Office” spinoff — including the show’s first cast hire, Aziz Ansari of MTV’s sketch comedy “Human Giant.”

Producers are mum on Ansari’s role, but he’ll be part of a larger ensemble that executive producers Greg Daniels and Michael Schur are putting together.

Ansari has sealed a one-year talent hold with Universal Media Studios as part of his deal to join the cast, the studio confirmed.

“We met him pretty early on and thought he was very funny,” Daniels said. “We loved his work in ‘Human Giant,’ which I’m a huge fan of, as is Mike, and we have a good character for him.”

Beyond that, the network, studio and producers continue to keep the new show under wraps and won’t yet comment on show specifics. Still, it’s looking more likely that the show may not be a spinoff in the traditional sense.

Despite early speculation that at least one “Office” character will segue to the new show, that’s unlikely at this point.

Instead, the show could potentially be a “planted spinoff,” in which characters are first introduced on “The Office” before moving on to the new series (think “Mork & Mindy,” which morphed from one episode of “Happy Days”). It’s just as possible that the show won’t be a spinoff at all (which could impact who’s involved with the show), but a wholly separate series in the same comedic vein as “The Office.”

In recent weeks Daniels and Schur have been busy mapping out the show, which is set to bow this winter in the plum Thursday night 9:30 p.m. timeslot behind “The Office.”

The two have narrowed the show’s premise down to a handful of ideas but haven’t yet zoomed in on a specific concept.

“We’re focusing on making the best show we can make as a companion to ‘The Office,'” Schur said. “We’re trying to come up with the best concept and hire the funniest writers. In the next couple of weeks, we’ll be making the final move to one specific idea.”

The new show has already started putting together a writing team, including “Everybody Loves Raymond” alum Tucker Cawley, “Late Night With Conan O’Brien” vet Dan Goor and “South Park” scribe Alan Yang.

The producers said they’re excited about the message they hope Ansari’s casting — the first bit of news to trickle out about the new series — sends to the comedy community and “Office” fans.

“We’re meeting with a lot of cool people,” Daniels said. “We’re trying to see how the pieces all fit together.”

A rising star on the standup circuit, Ansari has earned raves, including best standup at the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival, for his irony-laced takes on life. Ansari’s targets include everything from the singing ice cream scoopers at Coldstone Creamery to racism and homophobia.

In addition to serving as a writer, exec producer and performer on “Human Giant,” Ansari also guested as a racist fruit vendor on HBO’s “Flight of the Conchords” — and recently opened for the Conchords on a series of concert dates.

Comedian, who’s repped by 3 Arts and UTA, is currently in Albuquerque filming scenes for the upcoming Seth Rogen feature “Observe and Report.” He’ll also be seen alongside Paul Rudd and Jason Segel in “I Love You, Man.”

Separately, Universal Media Studios has sealed a talent deal with thesp Rashida Jones, who appeared as John Krasinski’s love interest on “The Office” before moving on to star in Fox’s short-lived “Unhitched.” Insiders said it’s unclear yet what Jones may do at the studio, although a return to “The Office” is not out of the question.

In other “Office” news, the critically acclaimed laffer has just added three new names to its scribe staff: “Freaks and Geeks” creator Paul Feig, “Everybody Loves Raymond” and “New Adventures of Old Christine” vet Aaron Shure and “Saturday Night Live” writer Charlie Grandy. In addition, Paul Lieberstein, who doubles as Toby on the show, has been elevated to executive producer.

(Cynthia Littleton contributed to this report.)

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