We talk to native South Sider Leslie David Baker about his role as Stanley Hudson on NBC’s hit show The Office.
by Robert Buscemi

Photograph: Drew Reynolds

Leslie David Baker on the set of The Office

No one can say Leslie David Baker doesn’t come by his role on NBC’s hit show The Office honestly. Before moving to Los Angeles eight years ago, the native South Sider put his degrees from Loyola and Spertus College of Judaica to work for the City of Chicago’s Board of Education, Department of Health, and Office of Cable and Communications. Now he wrings those years of cubicle thralldom to play Stanley Hudson, a long-suffering Dunder Mifflin paper salesman. Chicago asked Baker to compare TV with reality.

Q: Have you ever encountered anyone in the corporate world like Michael Scott, your inept boss on The Office [played by Steve Carell]?
A: Oh, God, yes. I’ve encountered many Michaels.

Q: Why do you think that is?
A: Working for the City of Chicago, many times people were hired in a position of
political favoritism. They were not as qualified as they could have been.

Q: What was the stupidest thing you ever saw a coworker do in your nine-to-five days?
A: I was working at a psychiatric hospital, and this nurse took a patient home for the weekend with her.

Q: What about in show biz?
A: Sleep with a person over in makeup because he thought he could get a role in a film. The [makeup] person had a walkie-talkie on and apparently leaned against the button, and everybody could hear it over their walkie-talkies.

Q: How did you get cast as Stanley?
A: I got a call to audition for something called The Office. It was very crowded for the callback, and I had another audition scheduled, so I went to the other audition. [On the way] back, I ran into a whole bunch of traffic. [When I] came back in, they said, “Oh, Leslie! Thank you so much for waiting! You’ve been so patient! They said you were in the men’s room!” And by then I was kind of sweaty, my clothes were rumpled, and I was cranky. And the character was written the way I was feeling that day, and I just let ‘er rip. Two weeks later I got a call: “You got the pilot.” And, voilà, here I am.

Q: How does working on the show stack up to working nine to five?
A: I still have the nine-to-five experience without the nine-to-five responsibilities. In the nine-to-five world, you don’t have anybody who has your breakfast waiting for you in the morning, or lays out your wardrobe, or styles your hair.

Q: So you pulled it off?
A: I did, I did. Some mornings I wake up-I can’t believe it myself.