NBC meets with thesps to fill vacancy

Could the new boss at “The Office” be HBO’s favorite crime boss?

James Gandolfini, who played Tony Soprano on the hit drama “The Sopranos,” met with producers for the NBC sitcom recently to talk about joining the series in some capacity, sources say, but the actor — an “Office” fan, it turns out — wasn’t interested.

Of course, Gandolfini is hardly the only actor who has met with “Office” minders. Former “Boston Legal” star James Spader is in negotiations for a role next season — but not to step in for the star of the series’ first seven seasons, Steve Carell. The show also has to replace Kathy Bates, who will not be back next season because she’s returning in the lead role on another NBC series, “Harry’s Law.” Bates appeared in multiple episodes last season as the CEO of Sabre, parent company to Dunder Mifflin.

Given the buzz “Office” generated from high-profile guest stars last season from Will Ferrell to Jim Carrey, it’s no wonder the show’s producers are looking to lure a big name like Gandolfini, even just for a Bates-sized part. While best known for his Emmy-winning role on “Sopranos,” Gandolfini is interested in comedy as well. He’s attached to exec produce a half-hour comedy in development at HBO called “Taxi 22″ in which he’s reportedly considering starring, playing a politically incorrect cabbie. In addition to the occasional movie role, Gandolfini has stayed close to HBO since “Sopranos” ended in 2007, appearing most recently in the original movie “Cinema Verite” in addition to appearing in various documentaries on the network.

While Spader is not a done deal yet, he has always been considered a possibility to join “Office” after appearing in the series’ season finale as one of the job applicants seeking to replace Carell’s character, Michael Scott. However, as with Bates, the role would not be a series regular.

NBC declined comment, as did reps for Gandolfini and Spader.

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