The Office was an Emmy-winning show when it first aired on NBC and thanks to licensing deals with Netflix, the show has found a breath of new life. Though the show has been off the air for six years by now, it remains one of the most popular things to binge on the streaming giant. Even then, NBC executives have no intention of rebooting the property for a new generation, especially with the introduction of its own streaming service in Peacock.
That's why The Office star Leslie David Baker is taking the matter into his own hands. In the shadows, Baker and his business partner Sardar Khan have started to develop a spin-off series titled Uncle Stan. Hoping to fund the production of a pilot episode through Kickstarter, the series follows Baker's character — the fan-favorite Stanley Hudson — after he's lived in retirement for the better part of the decade.
We recently had the chance to catch up with Baker and chat all things The Office, crowdfunding through Kickstarter, and more. Keep scrolling to read our full chat or check it out in the video above. If you're interested in helping fund the Kickstarter, you can see more information here.
Keeping Busy in Quarantine
ComicBook.com: You've been a little bit busy over the past few weeks. In particular, first and foremost, how's quarantine going besides the whole busy-ness?
Leslie David Baker: Oh gosh. Quarantine. This is something unprecedented. I have not been inside of a grocery store since the last of February, first part of January. I was doing Comic Cons and in-person appearances at hockey games and soccer games and things of that sort. I literally hadn't had a chance to do anything and then I came back from a visit to a University of Florida, and the next thing I knew they were like, "Everything's getting locked down, shut down." And here I am at home!
I haven't spent this much time in my house since I bought it.prevnext
You go to comic conventions, of course. I don't want to call it craziest, but has there been a single moment where you're just like, "Wow, this person's certainly a fan of The Office!"
I don't know if it was favorite, but it was most interesting. People would walk up and they have...this one woman walked up and she pulled her dress up and showed her calf and, first of all, her calf was bigger than mine and with my face tattooed on it. And people will come up and have my face tattooed on various parts of their body. That's been interesting.
When I was in New York at a play, I was gonna go see Kinky Boots as a matter of fact, and this guy put his leg up on the top of the chair, and right before the show started, and he pulled his pants leg up and said, "I'm a big fan of The Office and Dunder-Mifflin!" And he pulled it up and on the back of his calf, there was The Office Dunder-Mifflin. There's something about the calf, I guess, that's an ideal place for us to be, so I am spending a lot of time, and the show's spending a lot of time on the calves of people.
That's amazing. No one has showed me a tattoo of me yet, which I'm very thankful for!
Soon! Soon! Soon. Soon.prevnext
Uncle Stan Inspiration
You 'spent the past few weeks...obviously you've pry been working on it way longer than the past few weeks...but, Uncle Stan is live on Kickstarter now, so let's kinda start at the very beginning. Tell us a logline or an elevator pitch of what Uncle Stan is.
Let me, before I do that, tell you that the reason why I came up with the idea that we should do Uncle Stan, is that going to the different ComiCons and in-person appearances, people kept asking about the character Stanley. Well, what do you think he's doing now? Where is he? Is he still living in Florida? What kind of life is he having? What's retirement like for him? And that made me say, "Hmm, people wanna know about this character "and his life ever after."
And when you retire, that means you go somewhere else and get tired of doing that. Now Stanley has retired and gotten tired of his Florida retirement apparently. And his nephew, Lucky has called him, and it's his favorite nephew who is recently widowed with two small children. And his nephew owns a motorcycle repair shop and his late wife owned the florist shop next door. Now, Lucky is a widower with two small children, a motorcycle repair shop, and a florist shop and he knows nothing about how to coordinate these two businesses and isn't sure about what to do with this flower shop. So who does he call? He calls his favorite uncle, and says, "Help."
And of course, by then Stanley has been retired now for seven years because The Office went off in 2013. It's now 2020. And a lot of things have happened during this retirement. One of the things that we will incorporate in the scripts, of course we can't help, but the pandemic, the political upheaval and unrest that's going on, so these are the types of things that can also be included and will be included in scripts. Stanley hops on a plane and flies to California to help his nephew out. He's leaving his life behind in Florida, but he's also got a fiance. And he doesn't discuss as well as he should the fact that he's suddenly uprooting and moving to California, and then that's where the series starts off.
Where we end up, the sky's the limit.
Right. That's great. Do you have your leather outfit picked out yet for the motorcycle stuff or not?
Not. As it starts, Stanley arrives at the airport and his nephew Lucky picks him up in a motorcycle with a sidecar, and there's a floral tribute that he's out to drop off as he's on his way to pick Uncle Stanley up from the airport so you can imagine Uncle Stanley walks out the airport, and he sees this little sidecar on this motorcycle and he's got his suitcase and he's like, the look on his face is, "What the heck is this? "And why is there a floral spread here?" And the craziness starts from there.
What possessed us to go on to Kickstarter to try to get the public involved in this, is that the public has already been involved in orchestrating and helping formulate the story, because at the ComiCons and the personal appearances, as I've said, they kept bringing up the question of "What happens? "What happens to Stanley after?" This is Stanley ever after, Stanley 2.0 or 2.20 What's going on? They have been tremendous in helping ask the question, and they're helping us to find the answers. Hopefully, this will incorporate his past and his present and we'll see about his future.prevnext
The Kickstarter, as I understand it, is that just for a pilot episode? You guys are just lookin' to set that up right now?
This is for the pilot episode, yes.
Since you've launched it, have any networks or platforms or anyone reached out to you about it?
Yes they have. They are in anticipation of the pilot. But they've reached out and we'll see who's the lucky network that ends up with us.
As you know, the original show, The Office is going back to NBC as of 2021, so it would be fantastic to be able to remain at home with the network. So that you could see the original and the ever after. So we'll see what happens.
Now, how far along in development are you for the series? Do you just have the treatment for it? Do you actually have a pilot script done? Do you have some writers onboard or where are you at with it?
There is a pilot script and we do have writers, and we're just chuggin' away. There are some days we look at our script and we're in the process of looking at it and revising it and all that. So we'll see where we go from here.
That's amazing, that's amazing. Where's a story like this come from, I guess? Are you drawing from any personal inspiration?
Personal inspiration and some things that some of the people that I've run into at ComiCon said that they would like to see and some of it is just plain old-fashioned creativity, a what-if. Originally Stanley was said to have retired in Florida to carve wooden ducks. Well, we all know that you can't make a whole life of that and certainly from 2013 to 2020, he's been doing woodwork in Florida and listening to old disco music. Well if you know any senior citizens, you know that they have lives. They have love lives, they have business endeavors, they have hobbies, wishes, hopes, dreams, ambitions, things that they want to do now that they are in a position to be able to do that.
Stanley is no exception to that. He has a life, he's always had a life. He's multi-dimensional. He's not just the office curmudgeon. We had an opportunity to see a glimpse into his family relationships while he was at The Office. But as with any other human being, you know that after a person leaves the office at 5:30 in the evening, they go home and they have a whole life that you often aren't privy to. The original show was just a snapshot into that character and our goal is to expound on that character's life.prevnext
All right, absolutely. Would you say Uncle Stan is closest to Florida Stanley than the Stanley we see in the offices of Dunder-Mifflin, or is Uncle Stan a further evolution of the character?
I think Uncle Stanley is gonna be an evolution, a hybrid if you will, between office Stanley and Florida Stanley, and the Stanley that we haven't gotten to see yet. Again, he's gonna be interacting with his nephew, who we don't know anything about, and his two small children. And we've seen how Stanley interacted with his daughter, but we've never had a glimpse of him interacting with smaller children. We haven't seen that nurturing side of Stanley or the comedic side of Stanley as it pertains to other people's children. That'll be interesting to see.
Have, crew-wise — now, obviously Greg [Daniels] is off doing his own thing and Mike [Schur] is doing his own thing — have you talked to any of the other writers, maybe? Or even crews, people who directed the episodes about potentially coming back and helping develop or film?
You know, we're gonna issue invitations to some people and see and we're gonna bring in a lot of new people and get the creative juices going. Our goal is to have some writers who are older. There are a lot of writers out here who are in their 50s, 60s and 70s who have not had an opportunity to continue their craft. Because there is ages in the arena of writing. The WGA will tell you that that's been an issue that a lot of writers have complained about as they've gotten older.
But one thing about is if you are in your 60s and 70s, you have a wisdom that should not be put to pasture. It's very vital, it's very needed. It's very funny. They still have a lot of humor left. And there are 20-year-olds who can come in and bring in contemporary things. If you get the 20-year-olds and mix them with the 60 and 70-year-old writers, then you're going to have a great say, succotash of a delight we have. It'll be a very tasty, tasty and entertaining project.
That's great, that's great. Obviously, we want to see it on a network or Netflix or Peacock or what have you. Is there any opportunity to say, it's just like a self-produced web series at all?
No, no. We're not a web series. We are, our aim is to be on network television.prevnext
Cast Easter Eggs
We talked about crew that obviously everyone's gonna ask about cast. Have you had any preliminary discussions with any co-stars about cameos or Easter eggs or anything like that?
The goal of our show is to not do a bunch of stunt casting as the original Office didn't do a bunch of stunt casting. Which was part of the charm and the joy of the show is that we didn't rely upon a bunch of movie stars to make series. We want to continue the story of Stanley's journey as Uncle Stan. As I said, we will invite actors in to audition for various roles as we come up with them and it should be interesting to focus on some newcomers, a lot of newcomers to add to the series. To make it interesting.
As you know that when we started doing The Office, a lot of us were unknown. You had a number of people who were in their 20s that this was their first full-time television gig. And then there were some of us who'd been around for a minute or two that had made guest star appearances on a variety of different shows and people knew our faces, but didn't know our names. I know I, for example, I had done a few Malcolm in the Middles and some Guardians and things like Judging Amy, those types of series as a guest star. So, it wasn't that I was unknown, it's just that I was seen but they were like, "His face looks familiar. "He's done commercials. "He's done this." But doing The Office gave the viewing audience a chance to see me on a regular basis. And I would like to give that opportunity to some new actors.prevnext
Absolutely. As I understand it, you're on your way to your...it wasn't your first audition, maybe you can correct me if I'm wrong...but you're on your way to a call back meeting and you get stuck in traffic. That kind of puts you in the perfect mood for the role, right?
Yes! That was the callbacks for The Office. I had gone to and done the preliminary audition, and then I had a call back from The Office but then I got a call for another audition earlier. I got to the call back for The Office, looked around the room, and there were a bunch of people there, it was about 50 people there, maybe 75. I went, "Oh my gosh!" I said, "I've got plenty of time "to zip over to Hollywood for this other audition "and zip back over to Culver City," for this callback. I said, "I'll get there in plenty of time."
I got there, got on the car and zipped over there, got there in no time flat. Coming back, I ran into every senior citizen who was out driving and there were school buses letting kids out and there were railroad crossings and I'm like, "I didn't even know there was a railroad crossing." And by the time I got back, I came tearing through the door and I ran to the bathroom, because you know what happens when you sit in traffic in L.A.
You're like, "Uh let me hurry up and find a bathroom." And as I was coming out the bathroom, the casting director said, "Leslie, oh thank you. We'll be just a few more minutes. Thank you so much for being so patient and waiting! They sent you in the restroom." And I'm like, "Thank you. "No problem."
And she didn't know that I had just run back in the door from being in the traffic. So I was kinda rumpled and sweaty and disheveled that day. When I sat down to do the callback audition, I had memorized the script that I needed, the sides, because I was doin' that on the way driving back, and I sat down and I read with Phyllis Smith, who ultimately became Phyllis Vance on the series. And Greg Daniels had said, "Well, just after you finish what's in the script, just keep going with the scene." And he wanted to see us to ad-lib and improv and all that.
I did that and I noticed that the people who were doing the auditions, the producers and all that, Greg, they were laughing to themselves. And I started talking about how I got caught in traffic and I was like, "Oh my God! What is going on?" And Phyllis and I, we went on and did this, we went on for about, oh, two, three, four minutes. And afterwards I walked out and Allison Jones came out and said, "Okay that was a good audition, good audition!"
I went home, didn't think anything else about it and a couple of weeks later, got a call. The agent said, "You got it." I said, "Got what?" He said, "'The Office'." I went, "Oh!" And he said, "Well you've seen the show?" I said, "I've never seen the show before." He said, "Well it's a British show." And I went, "Oh, okay." And to this day, I've only seen one episode of the British version. And Ricky Gervais always busted my chops about that. 'Cause when I had first met him, I hadn't seen any of it. He was like, "You've seen that?" I'm like, "I haven't seen it yet!" but I said, "But I will, I will."prevnext
You mentioned earlier that people have tattoos of you, the show's been a large part of Netflix...it's one of the biggest things on Netflix. It's going to be one of the huge, most primary drivers in traffic when Peacock with NBC launches it. Was there a moment when the show was still on where you kind of had an epiphany of, "Wow, this show has made it. This is the real deal."
I think when we got nominated for our first Emmy, and then it was like, wow! This is really, this is fantastic. People are paying attention. And then when Steve Carell was nominated for a Golden Globe, that was an exciting night for all of us because we all got to go to the Globes and we were upstairs crammed in a little photo booth and celebrating as a photo of all of us crammed in this photo booth. I'm surprised we didn't rip the thing open.
We were there and I remember, we were on the couches dancing and it was me and Melora and Kate and Angela. We were all having a good time. So, yeah that was... And then you kinda go, "Wow. People like the show." Now, when eight and nine-year-olds come up and say that they watch the show I'm like, "Wow!" That's amazing. Mind-blowing.
Greg, obviously it's not his first rodeo. Before he had King of the Hill and such. How much ad-libbing was involved? Was Greg a stickler and made you guys stay to the script or was there a fair amount of improv and ad-libbing?
We got to do, I would say about 5 to 10-percent, because you're filming and you have a certain time limit that you have to squeeze in to make a 23 and a half, 24-minute show. But he would always let us film something and then one take, he would say, "And have fun." And when he would say, "And have fun," that meant that we would get to do something and inevitably when he would get into the editing suite, it was always like, "Oh yeah, I like this."
Then he would allow us to find and play with it and he told us from the very beginning to find our characters and he allowed us to experiment with them and that was very appreciated, subtle nuances that he allowed us to find with characters. Like Stanley's appreciation of the crossword puzzle. That wasn't anything that was ever scripted. It was just when we went into our very first conference room seeing, he said, "Bring in whatever props "you feel your character would bring."
To make them, to put some, basically meat on the bones of that character. And I dug around at a desk and I found an old crossword puzzle book. And I grabbed a pencil and that book and I had a line to deliver, or a couple of lines and I decided to deliver them and not look at, when I was talking to Michael Scott. I decided to just deliver the line without looking up from the crossword puzzle book. And Greg liked it and he liked what I did. He kept me there for nine seasons! So I think he was kinda tickled with some of the stuff I did. It was fun.
Now I think that moments even a Funko Pop. I think you have several of them selling like that.
Oh yeah! I think that the crossword puzzle and the pretzels are, that's just a thing to do.
Growing up, did you ever think you were going to get a toy of yourself?
I did not. That was not in my wildest imagination! That I would be a toy, a bobble head, a poster. Of course, memes were so... Not. When I came up, we didn't have laptops. We didn't have, computers were the size of an apartment building so...
Can you go one conversation with anyone on the street or in an interview or with asking you if you actually like pretzels in real life?
Uh, no. I cannot. Everybody wants to know if I eat pretzels in real life, what I like on my pretzel, and when I go to ComiCons and to in-person appearances, people want to feed me pretzels and if I eat a pretzel every time someone offers me one, I will have a waistline the size of a Buick. Not an automobile. An SUV!
And if you tell people, to find out more about Uncle Stan, all they have to do is go online and look under Uncle Stan the show. And things'll pop up and they'll find all about the Kickstarter and the campaign and all that, and we thank you for having us here. Or, having me here today to tell you about the new project. And hopefully you'll be able to turn us on on a T.V. station!
There you go, look at that. You are a little salesman, aren't ya?
I do what I can! You know, after selling reams of paper for nine years, it's gonna be reams of "Uncle Stan" from now on!
Cover photo by Chelsea Guglielmino/Getty Imagesprev