Jim Halpert may have medaled in the „Office Olympics“ episode, but my gosh, the dude sucks at ping pong.
On the latest episode of the Jenna Fischer and Angela Kinsey chatted about the Season 4 episode, „The Deposition.“ In it, Michael is deposed as a witness in Jan’s case against Dunder Mifflin, so he leaves the office for the day and his unsupervised employees proceed to hold a series of ping pong tournaments.
Spoiler alert: Jim loses repeatedly.
Fans of Fischer and Kinsey’s podcast wrote in to ask all about the ping pong scenes in the episode. Were John Krasinski and Craig Robinson really playing? Was CGI involved at all? What inspired the plot line? Fear not: All your burning Office ping pong questions have been answered.
After a fascinating deep dive on the history of ping pong, Fischer and Kinsey got right into it.
Were the warehouse shots CGI?
„Jim and Darryl are playing ping pong in the warehouse,“ Fischer recalled. „Pam explains that the warehouse got a ping pong table, Jim comes down to play Darryl, and she sometimes brings him juice. That’s what’s going on.“
Kinsey proceeded to explain that there was a noteworthy debate about these ping pong games and whether they should make the ball CGI or have the actors really play.
„They decided to let you guys really play. And they talked about it in the commentary that this was kind of a disaster because you can’t have continuity. Like they couldn’t be sure that, you know, Craig as Darryl would hit it the same way every time or that John would hit it back the same way,“ Kinsey said. „And this little scene that you guys had at that beginning establishing ping pong game took like four hours.“
„It was such a debacle. It was so insane,“ Fischer added, reminding Kinsey that the balls also made so much noise during filming. „It would ping and pong on the table through our dialog.“
What inspired the ping pong playing?
If you’re wondering how Jim and Darryl wound up playing table tennis in the warehouse, you can thank the writer’s room
Kinsey and Fischer revealed that the ping pong storyline was by our the show’s writers who got a ping pong table down in the warehouse and started playing all the time.
„Not only did they have a ping pong table in the warehouse, but the writers had made a ping pong table. Lee [Eisenberg] and Gene [Stupnitsky] had made this ping pong table just using a regular table — kind of like what Pam does in the conference room,“ Kinsey said. „Well the writers had done that before they got the actual ping pong table. So this is all inspired, like that Call of Duty storyline, by what was happening in our actual writers room.“
Were cast members that bad at ping pong?
Though certain actors like Craig Robinson and Rainn Wilson were allowed to let their ping pong skills loose in this episode, not everyone on the cast had the chance to show their real athletic abilities.
Jim, for instance, was horrible at ping pong in the episode. But John Krasinski knows how to work a paddle IRL.
„I know that John is actually good at ping pong and he had to pretend to be not as good as he was,“ Kinsey said. And Fischer also touched on her and Mindy Kaling’s performance, saying, „Mindy and I were not great at ping pong, but we weren’t that bad at ping pong, so we were pretending to be that bad.“
The cast also played games while waiting for camera and scene setups throughout the day. „This was a really fun day of shooting, actually, because we had this toy which then stayed in the warehouse,“ Fischer said.
„And there are a lot of deleted scenes of all the other office members playing ping pong that didn’t make it in,“ Kinsey added. „Phyllis and Stanley play at the makeshift ping pong table up in the conference room. Meredith has a turn. I yell off camera, ‚I’m next.‘ So it’s like everyone is getting in there to play ping pong.“
The final match
Though Krasinski and Robinson were actually playing ping pong in their warehouse scenes, the episode did rely on the help of a little CGI.
„This episode ends with an epic ping pong match between Dwight and Mose, who has left Schrute Farms. I believe for the first time we’re seeing him off the farm. They are playing ping pong in the warehouse,“ Fischer explains.
„This was all CGI,“ Kinsey said, noting that Rainn Wilson and Mike Schur weren’t really that good at the game. „I think by this time they had learned how hard it was to actually film actors playing ping pong. So that was CGI.“
„Yeah, those guys were just moving their arms and they put the ball in digitally in post,“ Fischer added.
So there you have it, folks. Be sure to listen to the full podcast episode for more behind-the-scenes stories about filming „The Deposition,“ cast members‘ real-life jury duty experiences, and the that temporarily shut down the show.