There is, of course, one major drawback to appearing on a hit sitcom: Once the show’s over, it’s nearly impossible to get people to think of you as anybody other than that character you played every week for years.
Case in point: John Krasinski.
He won acclaim as Jim, the lovable smart ass in the U.S. remake of The Office, but after the show ended, he found it difficult to convince producers to let him do something that was un-Jim-like. That was especially true when he pushed to direct and star in A Quiet Place, the intense new horror film in which he and real-life wife Emily Blunt play a married couple trying to remain alive after an alien invasion (and which hits theaters on Friday). As Krasinksi admitted recently to Vulture, “I mean, if I’d read that the dude from The Office wanted to direct a horror movie, I’d go, ‘Whoa, that’s a huge swing.’”
Lucky for him, A Quiet Place is quite good, bolstering his résumé as a movie star and director. But where does that put him among other cast members and writers on The Office?
To figure it out, I put together a non-scientific ranking of the Top 18 post-Office careers. (To keep things interesting, we’re including performers from the original U.K. series as well as the U.S. remake.) What makes lists like this hard is determining what constitutes a “successful” career. Some actors focused on theater, while others wrote books. Some created their own television series, while a lucky few landed a franchise. But as the rankings demonstrate, both Office programs boasted a deep, talented roster that went on to great heights after their show called it quits.
18. Zach Woods
Role on The Office (U.S.): Socially awkward Gabe Lewis
His Post-Office Career: In a few short years, the 33-year-old actor has become a reliable comedy utility player, doing great work in Veep and in several Paul Feig films, including Spy and The Heat. He’s now probably best known as Jared, the ultra-positive CFO on Silicon Valley. As Woods himself acknowledged, Jared is like a weird, funny mirror image of his former Office character: Where Gabe was a maniacal schemer, Jared is a good, kind person who just wants to help the team.
17. B.J. Novak
Role on The Office (U.S.): Ryan Howard, a temp who will ultimately become vice president of sales
His Post-Office Career: From the start of The Office, Novak wasn’t just part of the ensemble but also a writer, producer and occasional director. Since the show ended, he’s gone on to be an executive producer of costar Mindy Kaling’s series The Mindy Project and has acted in The Newsroom, Saving Mr. Banks and The Founder. Novak also has written the books One More Thing and The Book With No Pictures. But the 38-year-old stand-up seems to have aspirations beyond Hollywood: He has a company that develops smartphone apps, and he’s talked about running for mayor of L.A.
16. Phyllis Smith
Role on The Office (U.S.): Kindly Dunder Mifflin sales rep Phyllis Vance
Her Post-Office Career: Smith’s casting was a total fluke. Famously, she was an assistant to Allison Jones, the casting director of the U.S. version of The Office, reading lines with actors who were auditioning for the sitcom. But Ken Kwapis, the veteran TV director who was going to helm the pilot, and executive producer Greg Daniels liked her so much they decided she had to be on the show. Smith parlayed that into a major role in the R-rated 2011 comedy Bad Teacher as Cameron Diaz’s goody-goody friend. But her biggest film thus far has been Inside Out, in which she voiced Sadness, winning an Annie Award — the Oscars for animated films — for Outstanding Achievement in Voice Acting, beating out (among others) her costar Amy Poehler.
15. Jenna Fischer
Role on The Office (U.S.): Sweet, funny Dunder Mifflin receptionist Pam Beesly
Her Post-Office Career: Fischer consistently popped up in movies during and after The Office, probably most memorably as the June Carter Cash-esque Darlene in the musical biopic spoof Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story. She’s alternated between comedy (Blades of Glory) and drama (the Michael Douglas character study Solitary Man), and in recent years she’s played supportive moms in Brad’s Status and The 15:17 to Paris. Last month, she premiered her biggest TV project since The Office, the ABC divorce comedy Splitting Up Together.
14. Lucy Davis
Role on The Office (U.K.): Sweet, funny Wernham Hogg receptionist Dawn Tinsley
Her Post-Office Career: Davis had done British series prior to The Office, but the BBC sitcom helped launch a film career. She was one of the main characters in the 2004 zombie horror-comedy Shaun of the Dead and appeared in Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties. She still does television — she was a regular on the short-lived Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip — but she enjoyed one of her most prominent roles in a while as the opinionated, funny Etta Candy in last year’s blockbuster Wonder Woman. Next up: Davis will be part of the highly anticipated Netflix series The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, based on the comic books that previously gave us the more squeaky-clean show Sabrina the Teenage Witch.
13. Mackenzie Crook
Role on The Office (U.K.): Weirdo salesman Gareth Keenan
His Post-Office Career: Around the time that the U.K. Office was winding down, Keenan’s film career got revving, landing a recurring role in the first three Pirates of the Caribbean movies as the comic-relief role of the clueless pirate Ragetti. Since then, he’s done a little bit of everything, including Game of Thrones and a 2007 stage production of The Seagull, alongside Kristin Scott Thomas, Carey Mulligan and Chiwetel Ejiofor, which went from London to Broadway. More recently, he created the BAFTA-winning BBC series Detectorists, which stars him and Toby Jones. Still, The Office remains his most iconic project. “If I go out into town I can probably guarantee you that one person will stop me and say ‘I love The Office,’” Crook said in 2017. “I am constantly reminded of it.”
12. Rainn Wilson
Role on The Office (U.S.): Weirdo salesman Dwight Schrute
His Post-Office Career: Wilson had been getting steady work for years before The Office — he was the intern on Six Feet Under — but the NBC series raised his profile, making him a favorite to play big-screen oddballs. He was the crass best friend in My Super Ex-Girlfriend and the convenience-store employee in Juno. (“This is one doodle that can’t be undid, home skillet.”) Eventually, the three-time Emmy nominee got starring roles: He was in Super, a dark indie about self-made superheroes (who actually didn’t have any superpowers), and The Rocker, about a talentless musician looking for a second shot at stardom.
And in 2015, he wrote a memoir, The Bassoon King: My Life in Art, Faith and Idiocy, which featured a foreword from Dwight. “He’s such a huge part of who I am and how people know me,” Wilson explained at the time of including Dwight’s voice in the book. “…a lot of the book is for Office fans. I want them to buy the book and enjoy the book, so I wanted to bring him in. I thought it was very funny for him to write the introduction and also hate the book. It made me chuckle.”
11. Craig Robinson
Role on The Office (U.S.): Darryl Philbin, warehouse foreman
His Post-Office Career: After getting his big break on the NBC sitcom, Robinson has been an ace supporting actor in comedies like Pineapple Express, Hot Tub Time Machine and This Is the End. But he’s also branched out, earning great reviews for the under-the-radar 2016 indie drama Morris From America. Still Robinson’s forte is laughs: He’s currently starring in the Fox sitcom Ghosted alongside Adam Scott.
10. Ralph Ineson
Role on The Office (U.K.): Asshole sales rep Finchy
His Post-Office Career: A fixture on British television, Ineson found a new level of stardom thanks to The Office and his portrayal of the truly loathsome Chris Finch. From there, he played the wizard Amycus Carrow in the Harry Potter movies and the reaver Dagmer Cleftjaw in Game of Thrones. Some of his best reviews, though, came from 2015’s The Witch, a superb period horror movie in which he played a scarily religious New Englander in the 17th century whose family is being tormented by an evil force in the nearby woods. Currently, he plays an abusive boyfriend in Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One.
9. Ellie Kemper
Role on The Office (U.S.): Bubbly receptionist Erin Hannon, who takes over for Pam
Her Post-Office Career: Kemper is the master of conveying exuberant, naïve optimism, stealing scenes in Bridesmaids and 21 Jump Street. Not surprisingly, she does lots of voice work — you can hear her in The Secret Life of Pets and The Lego Batman Movie — but her biggest post-Office role has been as the sheltered, quite possibly insane main character of the Emmy-nominated Netflix series Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.
8. Stephen Merchant
Role on The Office (U.K.): Co-creator, along with Ricky Gervais. Played Oggy, Gareth’s mate.
His Post-Office Career: Where Gervais was more front-and-center during The Office’s run, Merchant was seen as the behind-the-scenes guy, writing and directing the episodes with his partner. After The Office, the two men served as co-creators, co-writers and co–directors on Extras and Life’s Too Short. Merchant hasn’t been as prominent in front of the camera as Gervais, but he’s shown up in films like Hot Fuzz and Tooth Fairy, and he had a prominent role in last year’s Marvel movie Logan. Perhaps as a way to emerge from his more famous friend’s shadow, though, Merchant has also developed his own projects of late — most notably his 2011 stage show Hello Ladies, in which he talked about his failures at dating. It was eventually turned into a critically acclaimed but short-lived HBO series of the same name.
7. Ed Helms
Role on The Office (U.S.): Hotheaded Dunder Mifflin salesman Andy Bernard
His Post-Office Career: The other correspondent from The Daily Show to find stardom thanks to The Office, Helms also mirrors Steve Carell by landing a lucrative comedy film franchise — although, to be fair, his arrived before Carell’s. The Hangover movies, which began in 2009, have grossed more than $1.4 billion worldwide, capitalizing on Helms’ ordinary-nice-guy demeanor.
In subsequent years, he’s subverted that persona (as a drug kingpin in We’re the Millers) or milked it (the 2015 remake of Vacation, where he played the Chevy Chase role). His next big role is another familiar one: For years, he’s been tapped to play Frank Drebin, the boneheaded police detective portrayed by Leslie Nielsen in the original Police Squad! series and subsequent Naked Gun movies. These remakes are being done without the participation of the legendary Zucker/Abrahams/Zucker team, however, and David Zucker in particular isn’t pleased with the casting, saying in 2015, “I would want somebody who had never been in an comedy. Ed Helms is very well known for three of the biggest comedies ever.”
6. Mindy Kaling
Role on The Office (U.S.): Kelly Kapoor, the branch’s effervescent customer service rep
Her Post-Office Career: Kaling didn’t just appear on The Office, like Novak, she also wrote and directed episodes. (Before the show, she co-wrote and co-starred in Matt & Ben, a comedy play that invents a fictional scenario in which aspiring actors Matt Damon and Ben Affleck magically find the completed script for Good Will Hunting.) Outside of The Office, she’s acted in No Strings Attached and The Five-Year Engagement and was a voice in Inside Out, alongside Smith. But her greatest success since the NBC series has been with her sitcom The Mindy Project — which had a six-season run between Fox and Hulu — and her books, including the memoir Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? And last month, she had her largest film role, playing one of the celestial beings in A Wrinkle in Time.
5. John Krasinski
Role on The Office (U.S.): Sweet, lovable Jim Halpert
His Post-Office Career: Aside from Carell, Krasinski has had the most successful film career in the wake of the American Office, although he’s gone about it in a more roundabout way than his former onscreen boss. He mostly did supporting roles and cameos in big-budget films like Dreamgirls and The Holiday before crashing and burning with his own starring vehicle, the terrible 2007 rom-com License to Wed. He had more success in the 2009 indie Away We Go, alongside Maya Rudolph, but Krasinski had aspirations to direct, debuting his first film, the David Foster Wallace adaptation Brief Interviews With Hideous Men, at Sundance in 2009.
It wasn’t very good — and neither was his directorial follow-up, the saccharine 2016 family drama The Hollars. On the acting side, he starred in low-budget dramas (Nobody Walks) but then got buff to be part of Michael Bay’s real-life action-thriller 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi. In recent years, he might have been best known for voicing those Esurance TV commercials, but with the good reviews for A Quiet Place, he may finally have established himself as a viable director and leading man.
4. Michael Schur
Role on The Office (U.S.): Producer, writer and director — oh, and he played Dwight’s super-weird cousin Mose
His Post-Office Career: Schur worked on The Office and took its faux-documentary style to his next sitcom, Parks and Recreation, which he co-created. The beloved series about a group of coworkers in Pawnee, Indiana, ran seven seasons, establishing Schur’s sweetness-centric brand of comedy and giving Amy Poehler a post-Saturday Night Live career. In addition, Parks introduced the world to Aziz Ansari, Nick Offerman, Aubrey Plaza and Chris Pratt. (His influence was also felt on The Office: After deciding Kemper wasn’t right for a Parks part, Schur cast her as the receptionist Erin, helping to bolster her visibility.) Schur’s television success has only continued: In 2016, he premiered The Good Place, another acclaimed, smart NBC sitcom that got plenty of laughs from the notion that people being good to one another could make for a successful series.
3. Ricky Gervais
Role on The Office (U.K.): Gervais co-created the series and played the egotistical, deeply needy, deeply unfunny boss David Brent
His Post-Office Career: Before The Office, Gervais had tried his hand at music and radio before the show made his career. Since then, he’s done everything from hosting the Golden Globes to co-creating and starring in the BBC series Extras to becoming a worldwide stand-up performer. Despite his successes, though, none of his post-Office endeavors have been as monumental as that sitcom, which is both the blessing and the curse of dreaming up an incredibly influential series in which you played an indelible character.
Gervais has made movies, appeared on The Simpsons and debated the existence of God with noted Catholic Stephen Colbert on The Late Show, but deep down, perhaps he knows he’ll always be defined by The Office. In 2016, he resurrected his most famous character for David Brent: Life on the Road, in which the Wernham Hogg boss gives his hopeless music career one more try. “Brent allows you to laugh and smirk because he’s such a dork,” Gervais said at the time of his ongoing fascination with the character. “He says the wrong thing, but his heart’s in the right place. He’s just desperate. He wants to be one of the gang, be funny and be loved, like we all do.”
2. Steve Carell
Role on The Office (U.S.): Insufferable boss Michael Scott
His Post-Office Career: Even before The Office, Carell seemed poised for stardom. One of the breakout correspondents on The Daily Show (alongside his good friend Stephen Colbert), he’d had supporting roles in hit films like Bruce Almighty and Anchorman. But by playing Michael Scott — the showy, excruciating David Brent of the U.S. adaptation — helped make him a household name. From there, Carell’s film career exploded.
About five months after The Office debuted, The 40-Year-Old Virgin hit theaters, earning great reviews and becoming a surprise smash. For the next few years, Carell mixed dramatic indie fare (Little Miss Sunshine) with mainstream comedies (Get Smart, Evan Almighty) while snagging Golden Globe and Emmy nominations for The Office. By the time he left the sitcom, he was a certified movie star, voicing Gru in the popular Despicable Me movies and landing his first Oscar nomination in Foxcatcher. He still moves between serious and silly: He was excellent as Bobby Riggs in last year’s Battle of the Sexes and co-created the brilliantly dumb Rashida Jones cop-drama spoof Angie Tribeca.
1. Martin Freeman
Role on The Office (U.K.): Wisecracking sales rep Tim Canterbury
His Post-Office Career: When The Office ended its second season in November 2002, how many people would have predicted Martin Freeman would end up with the biggest career? Sure, as Tim he was the show’s sweet, soulful center. But the breadth and depth of the actor’s work since then has been impressive.
Most sitcom performers would kill to show off their dramatic side in a show like Sherlock, be the star of a blockbuster franchise such as The Hobbit, land fun roles in a cool series of movies directed by Edgar Wright or demonstrate a flawless American accent in an acclaimed series such as Fargo. Freeman has done all of the above, not to mention become a figure in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and one of the stars of a beloved holiday film (Love, Actually). He’s been a part of five films that have each made at least $950 million worldwide, and he’s won an Emmy and a BAFTA award.
When Freeman hosted Saturday Night Live in 2014 to promote The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, it wasn’t a surprise that he’d do an Office skit. But he’s the Office star who seems the most removed from it.