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November 21, 2014

Amy Ryan: The TV Squad Interview

by Joel Keller, posted Jun 9th 2009 11:19AM
Amy Ryan as Holly Flax on The OfficeThe last few years have been very good for Amy Ryan. She's had a recurring role in The Wire, nabbed an Oscar nomination for her role as a drug-addicted mother in Gone Baby Gone, co-starred in The Changeling and helped Matt Damon find WMDs in the upcoming Iraq-themed action pic Green Zone.

But if you show most people a picture of the veteran actor, who's also been nominated for Tonys for her stage work, they'll just go, "Oh, that's Holly." Ryan's role Holly Flax on The Office not only represented a soul mate for Steve Carell's Michael Scott, but she was surprisingly adept at channeling her inner dork for the role. She has no idea if she'll be back next year, but she I can't imagine Greg Daniels and his minions won't think of some way to work her in again.

Ryan recently wrapped up production of Phillip Seymour Hoffman's first directorial effort, Jack Goes Boating, and was taking a welcome break when I spoke to her in late May. But at least she did something nice for our mid-morning interview, as you'll see after the jump.

I guess ten o'clock's not that early, but you know.
...
No, I get up early. Around eight, usually.

What's your morning routine? Is it walking the dog, is it...?
Oh, I wish I had a dog. I read the Times online and just eat breakfast. I stay in my pajamas for a long while, actually. I got dressed for you this morning. (laughs) I'm fully dressed.

I do appreciate the effort. That's very nice of you.
I thought it was respectful.

Are you surprised the response Holly has gotten from fans of The Office, considering she was there for a relatively short time?
Yeah, I actually have been. I get people stopping me in the street. I think they blur the line between reality and (TV), they say "You have to go back to Michael. You broke his heart." You know, it's stuff like that that really makes me giggle.

But no, I didn't anticipate that at all. You know, the first time I went on, it was really just for the one episode and let's see how it goes. So I really didn't foresee this coming at all. But I can understand it. I mean, together they're such an insane match. You would never think he would find a soulmate.

Did you have to audition for this, or were you approached by Greg Daniels for the part?
I was approached by Greg Daniels. I had said to my agent after the Oscars, "If anything comes of all this surrounding me right now, I'd love to be on The Office." Right after the Oscars, I was being offered parts that were very similar to Gone Baby Gone: single mom, in trouble, using drugs. My idea and hope as an actress is to just keep people guessing. And if I can make the sharpest right turns as often as I can, that's one of my wants. I couldn't imagine anything further away from Gone Baby Gone than The Office. I'm such a huge fan of that show, it was a dream to be a part of that.

How did you get in touch with your inner doofus to do the role of Holly?
(laughing) I don't think it's so inner. That's the problem. It's really close to me. That's the real truth.

I will say one big great element that I was so grateful for was that the character of Holly really thought Michael was funny. Which is a great asset when you're acting opposite Steve Carell, that you can actually crack a smile. Because it's hard. It's really hard to keep a straight face around him. It was really helpful.

And you know, in terms of the dorkdom, I think they just wrote that in. Like anything with acting, there's that moment where, for me, it's terrifying. You're like. "I'm about to make the biggest ass of myself or have the best time of my life."

Name something that you do that you can imagine you and Holly having in common...
Oh God... yeah... see.... it's probably the bad impersonations. I used to think I was really good at them. And I think actually in the script, it never really said Holly would be bad at the impersonations, it's just that I was. So I think they started, then they latched onto that. I think I was actually supposed to come up with a pretty good Yoda, but...

What's your favorite bad impersonation?
Well, Liza Minnelli always turns into Carrol Channing, but I think everybody falls into that trap. (laughs)

Everybody I've talked to about The Office have all said that they're very open, and generous. Was that your experience when you came in?
Yes. Absolutely. It's kind of staggering. I think one of the key elements is they all still really love their jobs after what is it, five years now. All the crew, every cast member, you don't feel like someone's looking out for their own needs and looking for their own spin-off or anything like that that may happen.

And because it's still such an ensemble... I remember Rainn Wilson laughing at me one day. He's like "Yeah, you come be the guest star, and (in one scene) you have all the dialogue, in the next scene, you're an extra in the background." You know, it works for all of them, so I think it keeps you all humble, including Steve.

What's a good example of an improvisation you did while on the show?
The last episode that was just on, it's a teeny thing, it's not even any great joke. But at the end of the show that we do for the company picnic, when we spill the beans that the branch is being closed, we just took a bow. (laughs) It just felt like, "Well we have to bow now."

The way they handled Michael and Holly in the finale was very mature; it wasn't like the usual sitcom "will they or won't they" situation.
I thought it was done really well too. I guess I agree with it too, because just to bring them back to break them up again is so frustrating, I think, for any viewer to watch. Whereas if you can keep bringing their attraction or their relationship to some other new, odd level, then it'll stay interesting.

Otherwise, I think people would tire of it pretty easily. I like that it's left open. Maybe they will see each other again, maybe they won't.

Have you had office jobs that you could relate back to when preparing to play Holly?
I never had another job, other than being an actor, since I got out of high school. Other than working at my aunt and uncle's ice cream place when I was a young teenager. So I don't know of that world.

So if there's a sitcom called Ice Cream Parlor down the road, you'll be set?

(laughing) I can make a mean soft serve. I can get all your sprinkles on it.

I think that would be perfect. You'd be the technical consultant.
(laughing) Could be.

Have they told you about what they might plan for Holly next year?
No, they keep that under wraps if they are indeed thinking of it. You don't know. There's no plan there.

You're not under contract or anything for any amount of episodes next year?
No, no.

What are you hoping for the character?
The viewer in me, the fan of the show, hopes they get together of course. But yeah, the actor in me would love it to be that there's still conflict along the way. Because that's where it's fun.

Are you thinking that this might be the type of role that could get you Emmy recognition, or do you not think about that stuff at all?
I think about it when people say "Oh, you could be nominated." You go, "oh really?" And then generally, I think these things go to (someone) like Carol Channing who's guest starring on 30 Rock. But whatever may come of it, I know from experience, if it does happen, those things are great fun.

But if Carol wins, you can go up and do your Liza Minnelli impression.
(laughing) Yeah. People'll think gosh, she does Carol Channing so well.

You've been in the business for a couple of decades now. How does it feel now to start to be in demand as much as you are?
It's nice. I welcome it. It just means access to working with people like Steve Carell and Phil Hoffman again. The stronger material comes forth. And it's stuff I always dreamed would happen, in terms of playing these kinds of characters and not just, you know, the episodic of the week. Which, at the time, I was so grateful for. It kept me in health insurance, and kept me living in New York. But like anything in life, I think you outgrow it. You want more. You want a richer experience. So this, the recognition did bring that, and I'm eternally grateful for it.

Any plans or thoughts about going back to the stage at this point?
Yeah. I mean, I don't have plans. I always have thoughts. Especially when I see theater that inspires me. Recently I just saw Our Town, which I thought was such a spectacular production. That gets my heart racing again. But I have no plans.

Is it just the immediate live experience of playing in front of an audience?
Yeah. It's that conversation in the dark with total strangers. And it's all in the palm of your hand, hopefully. You know, you're in control of it. It's quite a high.

I'd imagine, would you be willing to go back to do TV as well?
Oh yeah. I have no prejudice towards any of the mediums, as long as the (material is) good.

But it could be comedy or drama; it doesn't matter to you?
No, it doesn't matter. Doesn't matter. And I feel like The Office has really kind of cracked that door open of comedy (for me). Because for so long, people didn't think I had that within my wheelhouse. And now they know. And that feels good.

Well Amy, you can put your sweats back on. I think we're done.
(laughs) Thank you.

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StillBash

Thanks a ton Joel for the Interview. You see THIS is why I started reading TV Squad not the YouTube channel it has become in the recent weeks *sigh*

June 11 2009 at 8:49 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Tony DIMeo

I really hope she does win an emmy for her role on the office she deserves it more than anyone who was on 30 rock

June 10 2009 at 3:49 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Arclight

"She has no idea if she'll be back *l* next year"

June 09 2009 at 2:32 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Arclight's comment
Joel Keller

Had the sentence one way, and re-edited. Must have left that "I" behind. Fixed it. Thanks.

June 09 2009 at 3:11 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
scott

fun read, great interview, thanks!

June 09 2009 at 2:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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