What happens when an actor’s on-screen performance is so well-known and beloved that it becomes almost impossible to separate the character from the actor? Sometimes fans scream the character’s iconic catchphrases at them in public, but in the case of “The Office” star Jenna Fischer, it cost her a starring role.
In the latest episode of her podcast “Office Ladies,” co-hosted by fellow “Office” alum Angela Kinsey, Fischer — who famously played Pam Beesly on the hit NBC series for nine seasons — revealed she was cast to star opposite “Friends” star Matt LeBlanc in his CBS sitcom, “Man With A Plan.”
Fischer said she filmed the pilot episode and other scenes for the series, but when the network tested the show with focus groups, audiences could not separate Fischer from her beloved Pam character or LeBlanc from his popular character, Joey Tribbiani.
“They said, this is a literal quote, they said, ‘I don’t believe Pam would marry Joey. The chemistry doesn’t work between these two,’” Fischer, 47, told Kinsey. “That was the feedback they got.”
“They could only see you as Pam and Joey?” asked Kinsey, who played Angela Martin on the NBC series.
“Yeah,” Fischer said. “So it wasn’t working for them that we got married and had a family.”
Fischer shared with listeners that she learned she was fired from the series as she was packing for a trip for the show to premiere to the public at the CBS Upfronts.
“The first thing I said was, ‘Is it not getting picked up?’ And they said, ‘It’s worse than that, hun,"’ she explained. "And I was like, ‘What’s worse than that?’ They said, ‘It’s getting picked up, but without you.’ And I was like, ‘Wow, I guess I’ll unpack my suitcase.’”
Fischer starred in the pilot episode for “Man With A Plan,” which ran for four seasons from 2016 to 2020. Ultimately, Liza Snyder replaced her to star opposite LeBlanc's character Adam Burns as his wife, Andi.
"My whole career, I never played a guy in a relationship. I never played a dad," LeBlanc told Watch! magazine of his decision to join the project, that he also executive produced. "I thought, nobody's getting any younger. This is what my life is now."