Angela Kinsey of “The Office” visits NU, discusses female representation in media


Samuel Kim and Kate Win

Angela Kinsey, clad in a striped black and white sweater, skinny jeans and beige boots, strode onto the stage at Blackman Auditorium Tuesday night. As she eased into her chair, she realized it was too far from the table in front of her.

“Short girl probs [problems],” she said as she laughed and scooted her chair closer to the table.

The event, hosted by the Council for University Programs, started at 7 p.m., but students were already lined up at the entrance by 6 p.m. They chatted among themselves and anticipated the chance to see Kinsey, who played Angela Martin on NBC’s “The Office.”

“I know [of] Angela from The Office…I’m really excited to see her,” fifth-year psychology major Devon Carleton said.

As soon as the doors opened, people rushed into the rows and completely filled the auditorium within minutes. Once the lights dimmed and Kinsey appeared on stage, many audience members cheered and straightened up in their seats.

Media and screen studies assistant teaching professor Kristopher Cannon moderated the discussion.

Kinsey began by saying that she didn’t find herself too similar to the character she played in “The Office,” Angela Martin.

“I don’t think I’m that much like my character, except I do have two cats…and basically I love animals,” Kinsey said.

However, one way Kinsey said she is similar to her character is that she often has a bored expression on her face, even when she is feeling happy.

“I have a total resting [expletive] face all the time. And I’ll be incredibly happy. I was in Vegas at a wedding and I was in the elevator and I guess I was doing this,” she said, as she demonstrated a bored, angry expression. “This elderly man got in and said, ‘Oh it’s going to be okay.’ And I saw my face in the mirrored walls of the elevator and I’m like, ‘Oh,’ and that’s my happy face now, I guess.”

Kinsey was amiable throughout the talk, as demonstrated by her eagerness to answer all the questions students had to ask.

One student, during the question and answer period after her talk, asked Kinsey which character other than Angela she would like to play in “The Office”.

“I would love, love to play Creed,” Kinsey said. “I mean, talk about the best non-sequiturs and the whole scene can be going on and there’s nothing more fun as an actor than being the person who just cruises through, drops the magic and cruises out, with just one line.”

Kinsey also spoke about some of her fondest memories of the show.

“I loved acting with Jenna [Fischer],” she said, referring to the actress who played Pam, the receptionist. “There would be so many moments where we would try so hard not to laugh, but then we would look at each other and burst out laughing. One time, we had to reshoot a scene a bunch of times because Jenna and I could not stop laughing.”

Many students were pleasantly surprised by Kinsey’s warm demeanor, which contrasts sharply with the character she plays in the show.

“Tonight, I learned that Angela is a very caring and respectful person,” said Lana Lamar, a fourth-year communication studies and media and screen studies combined major. “It was also so different watching her smile and laugh the whole time, and hearing her keep cracking jokes. She never did those things in ‘The Office’ so I enjoyed seeing who she really is.”

Though Kinsey kept the audience smiling and laughing the whole night with behind-the-scenes stories and interesting details about the rest of the cast, she also made sure to address more serious issues. One such topic was women’s roles and representations in the media and film industry.

“As far as what’s happening in Hollywood where women are stepping forward as writers and directors, we just had our first cinematographer ever nominated for an Oscar,” Kinsey said, referring to Rachel Morrison and her movie “Mudbound.”

Kinsey said women like Morrison and Mindy Kaling — another actor on “The Office” and writer of “The Mindy Project” — are so empowering.

“There were many times when you would walk into a writers’ room and it would be all men and maybe one gal, and that is definitely changing,” Kinsey said.  

One attendee, second-year theatre major Somaiya Rowland, said she was inspired by Kinsey emboldening more women to write.

“I am a theatre major and do a fair bit of writing on my own, so it was amazing to hear her views on it,” Rowland said. “I think that fear of being seen as the [expletive] makes a lot of women squelch their creativity, and I love that she just had us demand involvement and challenge ourselves.”

Toward the end of her talk, Kinsey said to the attendees, “Don’t take no. And why not you?”

Rowland was among many students who were encouraged by this.

“Angela telling us we need to ask ourselves ‘why not me’ was such an inspiring way to build confidence and forward momentum,” she said.

Before Kinsey left the stage, she gave some behind-the-screen information about the season five episode, “Stress Relief.” In one scene, Angela Martin clutches her cat, Bandit, while the office is on fire. All the employees are running around, and when another employee, Oscar, climbs up into the ceiling, Angela Martin shrieks, “Save Bandit!” and tosses the cat into the ceiling.

“The crew told me, ‘You’re going to take the cat, swing it back, and when you get up [to a certain point], you’re going to stop,” Kinsey said.

Kinsey said that right after this, she was to move out of the frame, so a stunt double could gently put the cat into the ceiling. Someone was hiding up in the rafters to catch the cat, while another person with a fake cat was going to throw it out the other side.

To make sure nothing went wrong with the scene, Kinsey said the cast “rehearsed [it] like a choreographed dance” to get it in one take, and that “everyone was screaming and running,” but also having a great deal of fun.

Unfortunately, things didn’t go as planned.

“The stunt double tosses the cat up, and it… it comes out the other side — the real cat,” Kinsey said. “I don’t know if the guy missed it, I really don’t know. Then, the dude up in there with the fake cat throws that down the other side too. So, two cats came out, and it was total mayhem.”

The producers cut the part where the fake cat fell out, and audience members were both mortified and amused to realize that it was the real cat accidentally falling out of the ceiling.

Some audience members said this was their favorite part of the night.

“I’ve always wondered if the cat in the ‘Save Bandit’ scene was real, and now I know that it was a real cat that fell out of the ceiling,” Lamar said.

The conversation with Kinsey was both greatly entertaining for attendees and very inspirational, empowering them to follow their passions and dreams despite difficulties.

“It was a wonderful opportunity to hear and active artist speak on her experiences,” Rowland said. “It was also such a bonding experience for those of us in the audience to relive and appreciate a show we all love so much.”