“The Office” executive producer Paul Lieberstein likens Andy Bernard (Ed Helms) being the new branch manager at Dunder Mifflin Scranton to a potentially great quarterback in football who knows next to nothing about the rules of the game.
“There’s an arm there … it’s just, you’ve got to figure it out,” Lieberstein says. “He didn’t start with competency. And probably for the first game or two, he’s a little distracted by the cheerleaders.”
Helms hopes that Andy’s on-the-job learning curve, and the fact that there’s an intimidating new boss — James Spader‘s Robert California — above him make for good comedy this season.
“Andy’s leadership is a little bit of an open question, and that’s what I’m really excited to flesh out,” Helms said Tuesday (Sept. 27) on a conference call with reports. “And it was really fun in that opening episode to kind of see a little bit of that backbone and see a little bit of a poignant turn about what might be ahead.”
Granted, the thing Andy stood up for at the end of last week’s season premiere was pretty minor — an extra half-day added to a long weekend that the staff gets every year anyway. But he’s got to start somewhere.
“I’m really excited about [how he stood up] because it sort of makes Andy’s leadership more plausible in a way and also kind of shows you a lot of where Andy still has to go and where he has to travel,” Helms says.
While he’s learning to be a boss, Andy will also have to figure out how to handle his fitful relationship with Erin (Ellie Kemper), who’s clearly interested in him again.
“There’s always been something kind of charming about watching them try to connect and try to communicate,” Helms says. “Of course now, with Andy’s new boss position, there’s a power dynamic that comes into play which just makes all of that tension and awkwardness that much more difficult.”
Things will come to a head in the show’s Halloween episode. Lieberstein says Erin will be perplexed at why Andy has been a little cool toward her. “And her Halloween costume is just preposterously adorable this year,” Helms adds. “So it just makes it that much weirder.”
“The Office” airs at 9 p.m. ET Thursday on NBC.