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Rainn Wilson shares what he struggled with while on ‘The Office’

TODAY's Jenna Bush Hager chatted with the actor about his new book and travel show.
/ Source: TODAY

Rainn Wilson has been on a personal path of spirituality.

TODAY’s Jenna Bush Hager sat down with “The Office” star during the “In Search of a ‘Soul Boom’” panel at the Aspen Ideas Festival in Colorado on Monday, June 26.

In April, the actor released his book titled “Soul Boom: Why We Need a Spiritual Revolution," about his journey on how embracing spirituality can help people navigate increasingly challenging times and global issues such as racism, sexism, materialism and climate change.

The opening of his book asks the question: Why is the actor who portrays Dwight Schrute writing a book on spirituality?

“There’s a number of different reasons,” Wilson said. “One, is I grew up a member of the Baha’i faith … people don’t know this but I have a secret inner Oprah.”

Rainn Wilson.
Rainn Wilson at Aspen Ideas Festival.NBC News

The second is he left his faith in his 20s as he moved to New York to study acting. But the move prompted “a kind of mental health crisis,” he said, so he spent many years reading all the holy books of all the major religions.

It eventually led him back to the Baha’i faith, which he said brought “a lot of meaning and a lot of solace.”

The actor has gone on a profound journey of discovering what makes him truly happy. It’s something that he struggled with while on “The Office,” he said.

The actor said that he was doing “a really deep dive into spirituality” during his time on the hit show and while founding his company SoulPancake, creating comedic projects for people to enjoy.

While he said he loved comedy since he was a child and started to act to “buy a house,” Wilson joked that he didn’t get into the profession to “bestow upon the little people some laughter to enliven their meaningless, petty little lives.”

“It was necessity, not virtue,” he said.

But then his perspective changed when people shared how much “The Office” meant to them and how the show helped them in some way. “But it’s been really gratifying. And as I’ve moved along in my life and gained a little bit more wisdom, I realized that to act in grace, to act in divine light is something that we all do more of.”

Being open about his struggles and journey, the actor now encourages people to be honest and vulnerable.

“As I’ve been on this book tour, people are like, ‘Wow, you’re just so open talking about your dysfunction and everything. I can’t believe how honest you are,’” he said. “And it’s like, ‘Well, yeah, isn’t that what we should do? Isn’t that what we can do as human beings? Can we just talk about our vulnerability and our struggle and stop pretending so much?”

He added, “How is the younger generation going to learn and heal if they don’t see the raw honesty” from the older generation?

Wilson followed up his book with a new Peacock series, “Rainn Wilson and the Geography of Bliss,” in which he visited countries like Ghana, Thailand, Bulgaria and Iceland, searching for the secrets to happiness.

“A lot of celebrities travel the world, sampling delicious foods. God bless them,” Wilson said. “I’m traveling the world looking for happiness, and kind of thriving human culture.”

Wilson, meanwhile, noted that he believes everyone has given gifts that can make the world a better place.

“So I’m on a constant mission to both make myself a better person and to try and make the world a better place using the qualities that God gave me: Storytelling, humor, service to others,” he said.

NBCUniversal News Group is the media partner of the Aspen Ideas Festival.