Where's the mustard-colored shirt and wrist calculator?We caught up with Rainn Wilson, as in "the guy who plays Dwight Schrute on The Office," last week to talk about the part-time Central Oregonian's upcoming philosophical lecture at the Old Stone Church on Thursday. Here's what he had to say about his hit TV show, his cerebral website and his new projects, especially his script centered on a "down-and-out ninja."
tSW: The title of your talk here in Bend is "Art and Faith," can you tell me more about what you'll be talking about?
Rainn Wilson: It's essentially just talking about some of the ideas behind the website that I helped create called Soul Pancake (www.soulpancake.com). It has to do with stuff that really intrigues me and turns me on. When I was in high school I took a great books course. We spent a couple of years just debating the great books, the philosophers, books of the Bible, religious thinkers, fiction writers and the ideas that underpinned their work and came to realize that there are only a handful of life's big questions. There's no place on the Internet that deals with life's big questions. As I became more famous and well-known, I wanted to just make a place to be able to dig into life's big questions and specifically for me, the links between creativity and spirituality, which for most cultures in the world are quite obvious...our culture kind of compartmentalizes these things.
Why do you think that is?
Because we're f***ed up.
Is that the short answer?
So where did you get the idea for Soul Pancake?
Well, Soul Pancake kind of mirrors my own story. I grew up religious - a member of the Baha'i faith-and I left all religion and became a total atheist and just an artist and I just didn't' want God; I didn't want morality or any of that stuff in my life. I dove into theater and art and music and all that became my religion. Then, I kind of found my way back to my religious faith and found ways of being creative and being an artist and an actor and creative and spiritual all at the same time.
Was giving a lecture like this something you thought you'd be doing ten years ago?
No, not at all. I spent the first 15 years of my acting career just trying to pay the bills and get the next job. I've done stuff for the Baha'i community and volunteering and all that, but celebrity and success have opened a lot of doors. I just love turning people on to stuff that's a little outside of the box.
The Office has been a success for coming on five years now, have you adjusted to that fame? I mean, how many times can you put up with having someone yell "it's Dwight Schrute!"?
It's not something you really ever adjust to. Well, maybe it is if you're Miley Cyrus and you go through puberty and then become famous, but I didn't get well known until I was in my late 30s. It's very, very weird, but I just try to stay as grounded as possible.
It is weird, because Dwight's character has become a part of American culture. The other day I heard someone say, "You totally Shruted that up." And I knew exactly what they meant.
Well that was from an episode, or a series of episodes, when Andy's character first came and he was trying to sabotage Dwight. And he told Michael, "Oh you really Schruted that."
Oh, right. Then Michael saw him for what he is.
Yeah. Man, I hope I don't Schrute up this talk.
What you're doing here in Bend is a lot different than your Dwight character, but do you ever feel that people just look at you and expect you to talk about bears or something?
Well, most comedic actors in Hollywood aren't talking about philosophy and creativity. They're talking about the next sketch comedy video they're going to do on FunnyorDie.com and that's cool, but you know, I went to acting school in Greenwich Village and spent years doing experimental theater and classical theater, so I kind of come at it from a different place. I wasn't doing standup and sketch comedy and stuff like that, which is cool - I'm not knocking it. I just have a different life story.
Has the success of the Office exceeded your expectations from when you first started on the show?
Oh, by far. Who would have thought? When we started everyone was like, 'Oh, that's an instant failure. You'll never be as good as the English show.' Now we've done 100 episodes and it shows around the world and we have millions of devoted fans. It's beyond a dream come true.
The Office probably keeps you pretty busy, but you're also writing and acting in film, right?
I just wrapped two movies this summer, Monsters vs. Aliens and Transformers. I've also got things I'm developing and scripts I'm writing and films I'm trying to do. I'm writing this script for Jason Reitman (Juno) called Bonzai Shadowhands about a down-and-out ninja. So that's been an interesting ride. And I'm also writing a script called Renaissance Men, about these losers that work at a Renaissance fair. I've got some other projects cooking as well.
Sounds like you're a busy guy.
Yeah, that's the problem. That's why I come to Central Oregon - to try and get less busy.
Do you get outdoors a lot when you're up here?
Well, I'm not that outdoorsy, but I love being out in nature and doing day hikes and having a picnic outside just looking at the mountains. I don't need to be naked in a kayak on a glacier or anything like that.
Rainn Wilson: Art and Faith
7:30pm Thursday, June 25. Old Stone Church, 157 NW Franklin Ave. Free.