While many of their classmates had already cleared campus, over a hundred students gathered in Stuart Theater on Tuesday to hear the words of wisdom of John Krasinski ’02, star of the hit NBC comedy “The Office.”
“Be confident,” Krasinski told the students, acknowledging that his words sound cliche. “But it’s so freaking true, it’s ridiculous.”
Many of the students, most of whom study theater, postponed their holiday travels in order to hear Krasinski share his insight into the world of professional acting, said Professor of Theatre, Speech and Dance John Emigh, who helped coordinate the event and once taught Krasinski. His visit was in conjunction with TSDA 1520: “Seminar in Theater Arts,” a pre-professional course for theater concentrators, Emigh said.
The actor regaled students with stories about his time at Brown, discussed his work on “The Office” and answered questions about his rise to fame.
“The Office” has been blessed with the “best writers on television” and great cast chemistry, Krasinski said. He also said the chemistry exists off screen. “We all sort of hang out and talk about everything. We all just have a blast,” Krasinski told The Herald.
Krasinski told The Herald, however, that if he were stranded on a desert island and could have just one other “Office” actor with him, he would choose Jenna Fischer, who plays his love interest Pam Beasley. “The story would be terrible if I didn’t choose her,” he said.
Krasinski also said that what he learned in his time at Brown was invaluable to his acting career now. “I had my brain expanded to a place that I don’t even remember,” Krasinski said.
Though he initially thought about playing basketball at Brown, Krasinski quickly became immersed in Brown’s acting scene instead. “I went and saw (the basketball team) practice and I was like, ‘You’re good. I’m going to leave it to you,’ ” he said.
When he decided the basketball court wouldn’t be his stage, Krasinski also saw another opportunity on campus. “Walking back from (the gym) I pulled down a tab from Out of Bounds.” Krasinski said he’ll never forget his audition for the campus sketch comedy team.
“There was some girl in my audition … who said, ‘You know you’re not going to get in, right?’ ” Krasinski, who was wearing a checkered shirt and preppy hat, said he apparently wasn’t “the type.”
But Krasinski made it into the group and now says the “weird confidence” that helped get him into Out of Bounds has carried him through much of his life.
Krasinski said he also gravitated toward Production Workshop while at Brown and usually spent low-key weekends relaxing with friends, discussing scripts.
He said one of his favorite campus productions in which he played a role was a stage adaptation of David Foster Wallace’s “Brief Interviews with Hideous Men”. He has since adapted the work to film for his directorial debut, to be released in 2009.
Krasinski, who attended the National Theater Institute after Brown, waited tables for three and a half years in New York City before getting his role on “The Office.”
The audience asked for details about and advice for navigating the audition process, which Krasinski called “freakishly difficult.” He told the students not to wear a jacket and tie to their auditions.
“People get weirded out if you look like you work for Merrill Lynch.”
After Krasinski answered students’ questions, two audience members took the stage. Jonathan Gordon ’11 and Justin O’Neill ’11, students from TSDA 0230: “Acting,” performed a scene from Craig Lucas’ film “The Dying Gaul” for Krasinski to critique.
Krasinski spoke briefly with Gordon and O’Neill after the scene. “Were we this good when we were here? I don’t think so,” he told the audience.
O’Neill said performing for Krasinski was “nerve-wracking,” but also very exciting.
In an e-mail to The Herald, Emigh described his former student as “unpretentious” and said Krasinski took time from his Thanksgiving holiday to come to Brown.
Krasinski stayed well after the event had officially ended in order to greet every student who piled around the stage wishing to speak with him.
Gordon Sayre ’12, who waited patiently to speak with the actor after the talk, said Krasinski seemed very “down-to-earth.”
Sayre said he enjoyed seeing someone from Brown succeed in acting, and that “it makes me think maybe I can do this, too.”
One student even asked Krasinski for a picture for his friend who had written Krasinski on three separate occasions to invite him go to prom with her.
The girl received no response from Krasinski, who told The Herald that he had never received the letters.
Krasinski may be used to prom invitations, having made People Magazine’s Sexiest Men Alive list twice. “I worked hard really for that one,” Krasinski told The Herald. “It’s funny to be thought of like that. … My friends give me a hard time.”