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Portrait of an Artist: Emma Brock

By Joy C. Ashford, Crimson Staff Writer

Michigan-born actress Emma Brock plays the iconic Michael Scott in “The Office! A Musical Parody,” playing at the Boston Center for the Arts from Nov. 5 through Dec. 1. The Harvard Crimson spoke with Brock about her acting career, the role of adaptation, and, of course, her love for “The Office.”

The Harvard Crimson: When did you know you wanted to be an actress?

Emma Brock: I got the actress bug very early on in my life. I was directing my neighbors in plays and organized my elementary school to do plays. I eventually went to Otterbein University and got my BFA in musical theater there. I’ve been in New York City since 2012 as a professional actress.

I love life — I love the chaos of it, and the spontaneity of it, and just how amazing it makes me feel.

THC: What does this adaptation of “The Office” in particular bring to a show that people already love and are familiar with?

EB: I think this whole show is a parody — the TV show, NBC’s “The Office,” is a parody of life. It’s taking real people, and parodying what their life would be like in this office. And then in the musical we’re heightening, even more, what you’ve seen on the TV show.

THC: Who is your personal favorite character?

EB: I’ve been a fan of “The Office” since it came out in 2007! I was in high school then, so a bunch of my high school friends and I would get dressed up and watch the office on TV as these dressed-up characters. So I have a picture of myself dressed as Pam. I think young Emma really resonated with Pam, and how shy she was, but then how she kind of blossomed into being this really outgoing, lovable mother.

THC: How does Michael Scott change when played by a woman? Does his sense of humor change?

EB: I lean into the comedy as much as possible — like, in no other musical would I get to say these offensive, sexist things to women, except I do get to say it, and I get to show how terrible it is to say these things, especially as a woman. It makes it really interesting, and I think it just brings it to light. It’s a parody; I’m truly just a woman in a suit, and that’s what makes it funny!

I think one of my favorites is — we get Jan Levinson, who comes into the office, and she has come in and said, “Michael, you can no longer say ‘that’s what she said’ jokes.” And how we make it a parody is we literally make a musical number out of it!

All of the characters in “The Office” join in and start saying “that’s what she said” jokes, and Michael is forced to keep it in the entire time! And they are doing everything that they can to make him say it — puns after puns, it’s really fun.

THC: Does Michael ever cross the line? Do you see yourself in the adaptation as bringing him back from the line, or just putting him out there, in all his glory, and letting viewers make up their own mind?

EB: I’ve been listening to the “Office Ladies” podcast lately, and they talk about how, in the British version, Ricky Gervais kind of just went full blown — whatever is funny, and inappropriate, say it. What they really wanted to do in the American TV show is make sure that Michael has a heart.

So what are those qualities of Michael that we just really hold on to, and feel like, "That’s me. I was that person”?

I think it’s that he wants everyone to love him in the end, and he loves everyone in his office. He really does do what he preaches. In the end, Jim and Pam love him, Dwight is his number one fan. We’re on his side when Jan and Michael break up. He’s a really good boss and a really good friend to these characters.

THC: So do you think if Michael makes a sexist joke, it’s redeemed because he has a heart? Or do you put it out there and say — it’s still a sexist joke, but we can call that out and still love him as a character?

EB: I think the latter on that. I think yes, that is still really inappropriate to say, and not ok, but we see the heart in him and that’s what makes a complete person. We see these mistakes, but we also see the love in people.

THC: Do you see any of yourself in Michael Scott?

At times, of course. When he falls in love with Holly, and how goofy and silly he can be with that relationship, I see myself in my early days doing that.

You find nuggets of him that you really connect with. My connecting to him is that he wants everyone to love him, and he loves to make a little joke!

—Staff writer Joy C. Ashford can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @joy_ashford.

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