Jenna Fischer was so iconic as Pam Beesly that she struggled to get work after
Jenna Fischer said that she was let go from a show alongside Matt LeBlanc because test audiences couldn’t get past her as Pam Beesly.
Play a role well in Hollywood and you run the risk of always being typecast a certain way. Hugh Grant as the bumbling but loveable Englishman next door, Helena Bonham Carter as the kooky, always dark character, JLo as the sweet girl next door… you get the gist.
Some actors/actresses play a character so well though, that sometimes that’s all people associate them with. I’m sure you can think of a few examples without my help but such is the case with Jenna Fischer who was so iconic as Pam Beesly that she found it hard to get work after the show ended.
Speaking to her Office co-star Angela Kinsey (who played Angela Martin on the series) on their Office Ladies podcast, Jenna revealed that she once lost out on a job opposite Matt LeBlanc because viewers couldn’t get past either of them as their former characters… Jenna as Pam and Matt as Joey on Friends.
Brought on board to shoot a pilot for Man with a Plan, a show headlined by LeBlanc, she was initially cast to play his on-screen wife but she was later fired because test audiences just didn’t buy it.
“I got hired, I shot the pilot,” Fischer said. “While I was there, the network said they wanted more scenes with me. I was like, ‘I am nailing it!’ More scenes means you’re doing a good job. Well, I guess after we finished it, they showed it to focus groups.”
“And they didn’t like you?” Kinsey questioned.
It wasn’t so much that they didn’t like her, but more that they didn’t believe Pam Beesly would end up with Joey Tribbiani, LeBlanc’s always-single, and seriously smooth ladies man character in Friends.
“They said – this is a literal quote – they said, ‘I don’t believe Pam would marry Joey. The chemistry doesn’t work between those two,’” Fischer told her former co-star. “That was the feedback they got.”
Audiences could only see them as Pam and Joey as Kinsey pointed out, to which Jenna replied, “Yeah. So it wasn’t working for them that we got married and had a family”.
Originally, network executives were very keen to shoot more scenes between the two but things quickly changed after hearing the audience’s feedback. That must be pretty frustrating as an actress, but what was even more so was how Fischer found out she didn’t get the gig. Only given a few days’ notice, she was just about to leave for New York to film the rest of the show’s season when her reps broke the news to her.
“The first thing I said was, ‘Is [Man with a Plan] not getting picked up?’ And they said, ‘It’s worse than that, hun.’ And I was like, ‘What’s worse than that?’ They said, ‘It’s getting picked up, but without you.’ And I was like, ‘Wow, I guess I’ll unpack my suitcase.’”
In the end, Liza Snyder was cast as LeBlanc’s onscreen wife with Man with a Plan running for four seasons from 2016 to 2020 on CBS.
Previously speaking about what it’s like to be known as ‘Pam from The Office’, Jenna told Parade that the role really was “a dream come true”.
“It’s weird to be so well-known for the character of Pam. People will come up to me in the grocery store and call me Pam. But it’s only opened doors for me, and it’s given me a lot of freedom.
“What I wanted when I came to Los Angeles to be an actress was to land on a long-running ensemble comedy show where I got to play a defining role. My dream came true. I can’t believe it. I go back and watch old episodes of The Office, and I can’t believe that’s me.”
That’s not to say that post-The Office life has been easy though. “I still audition for things. Sometimes I’m offered things, but if there’s a role that’s different from the work I’ve done, I have to go fight for it and I have to audition…There’s no finish line in this business,” the actress admitted.
Feature image via @msjennafischer