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Rainn Wilson on weight gain for new role: I thought, 'the fatter you are, the better it is'

Fans who only know Rainn Wilson from his "Office" alter-ego, Dwight Schrute, will be in for a surprise when they see him in his new role. On "Backstrom," Wilson plays a boorish detective with a distinctly different look.

Part of that new look comes from his titular character Det. Backstrom's noticeably bigger waistline. When Wilson stopped by TODAY on Thursday, he explained that the weight gain wasn't exactly required for the role.

"I didn't have to gain weight," the actor said when Al Roker mused about the matter. "But I gained weight, America. Ok?"

But while it wasn't required of him, Wilson said it simply seemed right for the character he described as "complex and rich and interesting," as well as "schlubby."

"It's this weird thing that your brain does when you're playing a role — that you know the fatter you are, the better it is for the role," he explained. "So all of the sudden, it's like I'm there in your green room, and there's a Danish — om-nom-nom! … 'Should I go jogging this morning? No, I don't think I really need to. I'm fine. I exercised last week.'"

Today

And that's how he built his Backstrom body, a body he'll be showing off shirtless in upcoming episodes.

"I think Fox really did not want women to watch the show, basically," he joked of the scenes. "No. Me, without a shirt, is just a very funny, funny thing."

To help the star stay on track with his dietary goals, Roker offered him a red velvet birthday cake.

Al Roker presents Rainn Wilson with a red velvet birthday cake even brooding Backstrom would love.Today

Wilson turned 49 on Tuesday.

"Backstrom" premieres Thursday at 9 p.m. on FOX.

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