Congratulations. You are on a hit show. Your faces are on the cover of Entertainment Weekly (special collector's issue no less). People are quoting your lines. Everywhere you go people tell you they love you. You get invited to A-parties. Free flat screens. The first new Prius off the line. iPhones. You are currently "America's Guests."
But with sweeping success come a number of traps. You seem like a wonderful cast, lovely folks, and my guess is you know and intend to avoid most of this stuff already...but it never hurts to have a reminder. And I offer these selfishly. I love your show. I don't want to see anything screw it up.
Enjoy every single minute of being on a hit series. Never take it for granted. Not for one second. Yet always remember: these people who love you? They love you in context. They love the character, not you. And to that end...
Do not quit the show to launch your big-time movie career. You are not the next Will Ferrell despite what the CAA agent trying to poach you says. Jenna, do not fall for these standard agent statements. "I can get you in a room with Spielberg." "I can get you in a room with Scorsese," and their typical closer: "I can get you in a room with the Pope".
Supporting cast members: do not quit the show to star in your own vehicle. You will forever be more popular in this supporting role than you will starring in your own cancelled-after-three-episodes series. The TV landscape is littered with Joeys and Bob Pattersons and Hello Larrys.
Do not count lines. EVER. Do not complain that so-and-so has more to do than you. Be happy you're there. Not to discount your talent but there by the grace of God you're on The Office and not Caveman.
Don't hold up the studio or producers for gigantic raises. It's disruptive and these days you could find yourself out on your ear. You could fill Madison Square Garden with former Law & Order cast members. The show will go on without you...or even all of you.
If you do features during your hiatuses never treat The Office as just an imposition. ALWAYS put it first. It is the reason you have movies, it is the reason you're not working in a real office.
DON'T PHONE IT IN.
You've been given a huge gift. Appreciate it. Yeah, after awhile it might seem old hat still playing the same character week after week, but it's your job to make it seem fresh. And having to find a way to make your character interesting in episode 200 should be your biggest worry in life.
Just know this: the crew NEVER phones it in. The writers NEVER phone it in. And speaking of writers -- I know this is a gray area because some writers are also in the cast and there is some ad-libbing -- but never think you can write the show better than the writers. You may come up with a great line or bit but that's very different from sitting down at your computer and staring at the tyranny of the blank screen. Show them respect. They don't get the magazine covers and glory. James Lipton will never host Inside the Writer's Studio.
Be on time. Don't make 100 people wait for you just because you can. Not every phone call has to be taken right now. And you can hold your water for two more minutes until the director gets the take. (Actors pee more than any human being on earth.) You may be saying, "We don't do any of that," and if so, great! But as the years go by this bad behavior may begin to creep in. Don't let it. You can approve tile samples later.
Awards are evil. They destroy cast unity, they cause resentment, jealousy, and disharmony. Don't hate your former best friend just because he/she won an Emmy and all you have is a shitty People's Choice Award.
And finally: You will probably be identified the rest of your life with this show. Don't shy away from that. Embrace it. I'm not saying you can't go on to do many great things in exciting new directions but today, this minute, you're on a Superbowl winning team. Wear the ring proudly. So very few ever get one.
Have another undefeated season!
You can read more from Ken at kenlevine.blogspot.com.