Who's Robert Ray Shafer? You have a lot to learn about this town, sweetie.

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What line of work you in, Bob?

It's a warm September morning in Southern California, and as I park my car on a side street near Aroma Cafe in Studio City, I can't believe my luck that I'm actually going to have breakfast with arguably the most iconic secondary character on The Office. A week ago, Robert Ray Shafer sent a message to The Office-isms Facebook page letting us know he has a new movie coming out and that he'd be willing to do an email or phone interview about his time on The Office with us if we liked. 

Our entire admin team went into Threat Level: Midnight mode at the possibility that we might get to learn more about him and the show we all love from such a beloved character. I messaged him back, offering to meet him in the Los Angeles area, since I live locally, and by some stroke of dumb luck, he actually agreed. Not only did he agree to meet me, he said we could grab a bite at a cafe he likes, and then head over to the Church nearby where he and Phyllis got married.

As I walk up to the Cafe late on a Monday morning, I'm surprised to see a line out the door. I wait in the queue for a moment, unsure if he might already have a table, and through a gap in the crowd, I see him: Bob Vance, in the flesh, casually waiting on a bench to the side of the restaurant, doing his tenure on the show proud by wearing a Vance Refrigeration sweatshirt and a The Office baseball cap. He stands, a towering 6'5" and exuding the casual, confident masculinity his character Bob had on The Office, greets me warmly, and jokes that he didn't realize this cafe was becoming so trendy. He says he takes his aunt here when she's in town and that they have really good coffee and pastries. I am awestruck, and trying not to morph into a screaming fangirl puddle, but his demeanor instantly sets me at ease and we quickly fall into effortless conversation.

The night before, I had watched the movie he had sent me via private link "Dick Dickster" set to release on digital media outlets such as iTunes November 13th, 2018. Shafer starred, wrote, cast and produced the indy mockumentary comedy flick that centers on his title character, Dick Dickster, a debauched Hollywood director whose first scene immediately sets the tone for a comedic wild ride through some pretty hot-button topics currently gracing news headlines. Namely: sexual harassment in Hollywood. 

Dick Dickster promo photo

Me: I noticed the film isn't afraid to poke fun at the Harvey Weinsteins of Hollywood, was that your intention or is the current press just a PR bonus given your films release timing? 
Robert Ray Shafer: It's always been there, sexual harassment in Hollywood, none of this is new. It's just that people are finally talking about it. Dick Dickster is a mishmash of the worst kind of Hollywood men that exist in real life. He's Woody Allen, Roman Polanski, Bill Cosby, and Harvey Weinstein all rolled into one awful character. And he gets what's coming to him in the end. 

Me: Hilariously! The ending was probably my favorite scene. 
RRS: (Laughs) It was a lot of fun [without giving too much away] to spend days listening to various fart noises deciding which would be the ones I used for that scene in the film. The joke there was more about making the audience uncomfortable with how long they went on, those noises.  There's another scene where we used that kind of lengthy joke involving urine. What makes it funnier is just as the audience is thinking "When is this going to stop?" we lean into it, making it last longer and longer and in the screenings I've hosted, the audience laughter just get louder and louder as it goes. 

Me: Although raunchier than anything we saw on The Office, I felt a lot of similarities to it watching Dick Dickster. Can you speak to that?
RRS: The Office was network television, and could only go so far in terms of the jokes. And I enjoy working in the mockumentary style because it feels more realistic. It also has the talking heads everybody knows from The Office. And a very talented group of actors. 

Me: Would you say the mockumentary medium is more or less difficult than traditional filming?
RRS: Oh easier, definitely easier. But in some ways it takes adjusting because you have to be more on your game. Like on The Office, we had to stay in character constantly because we didn't know where the cameras were. We had to be ready, and fast, to give those looks and keep the flow of the scene going. 

Me: Did that leave room for improvising?
RRS: Very little. You have to keep in mind that The Office was network television, which means every line in the script had to be approved by NBC as appropriate for broadcast audiences. There was a lot less improv that actually made it into the show than what people would expect. Most of the improv came from long filming days when guys like Steve and John and Rainn would switch things up to try to get each other to break. 

Me: What was it like working on a network show?
RRS: It's a real job. Just like anything else. I can remember overhearing minor arguments about times to be on set and things like that. Someone has a film or interview and can't be there until 9am but the shooting schedule needs everyone to be there by 8am or it costs the network a lot of money. It's hard work and long hours. And it's not as glamorous as people might think. But everyone got along very well. It was fun.

Why you should be following Hidetoshi Imura: The Office Cast Member Number One! Ze Best!

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In Japan, heart surgeon, number one. Steady hand.
One day, Yakuza boss need new heart. I do operation.
But, mistake! Yakuza boss die. Yakuza very mad.
I hide in fishing boat, come to America. No English, no food, no money.
Darryl give me job. Now I have house, American car, and new woman.
Darryl save life. My big secret: I kill Yakuza boss on purpose.
I good surgeon. Ze best!

It's a mild Sunday afternoon in Southern California and I've just pulled into the parking lot of a Japanese restaurant hoping I'm not about to be catfished by a cast member of my favorite show. Hidetoshi Imura, the Japanese warehouse worker The Office fans know as Hide (Hee-day), is supposed to be inside shooting a web series and waiting for my arrival.

You see, I run this fansite, its Facebook page, and discussion group, and for months prior to this moment I've been hearing other fans say that the real Hide is the best cast member to follow on Facebook and Instagram. Why? Because he actually follows you back. And responds to DMs, and even takes the time to like your posts, comment on your profile pictures, and wishes you a happy birthday on your Facebook wall. And I've been a skeptic. Because I've been running this website for a long time. And following the cast. And I've pestered all of them with DMs, tweets and facebook messages asking to interview them for this website since I live in the Los Angeles area. Understandably, I never receive any responses.

Mindy, you beautiful elusive flower... . .

Because The Office fandom is *massive*.  Our current following is a drop in the bucket compared with NBC's official The Office following, r/DunderMifflin on Reddit, and various cast member twitter accounts each with followers in the millions. We're small potatoes. And they are busy working actors with travel schedules, book tours, film projects and real interview opportunities with the likes of Conan O'Brien and Jimmy Fallon. I would guess they each receive hundreds of inquires like mine every week, asking to meet them and gushing about how much they're loved.

Imagine my surprise when I message Hide in the same manner I normally do, requesting an interview, and he responds telling me he's going to be filming a web series in Torrance on the following Sunday and that I can come by any time and talk with him between takes.

So here I sit in my car in a parking lot on Redondo Beach Blvd, clutching my steering wheel and trying not to get my hopes up. A lot of fans who have been enjoying Hide's social media activity online have been asking if the accounts are official. Or, if it's just some superfan pretending to be the actor who iconically spoke the line: "In Japan, Heart surgeon number one!" on camera with Craig Robinson. And who heckled Pam while she hesitated painting the mural on Dunder Mifflin's warehouse wall.

As I walk up to the door of the building, a woman exits and asks who I am. I tell her I'm Christine and that Hide said I could come by... but before I finish she says, "Oh Christine! Yes! We're expecting you, please come in! I am Hide's wife." And I immediately begin inwardly freaking out. This. is. actually. happening!

I enter the sprawling Japanese restaurant and see cameras, lighting, people rushing around with scripts in their hands, actors seated at a large Sushi bar dressed up in costume, and various others sitting in an area opposite where they're filming. Hide's wife directs me to a small table and asks me to wait. She says he's preparing for a scene at the moment and will come out to meet me when he's finished. Suddenly a man yells "All quiet on set!" and the chatter in the room comes to a halt. I quietly take my seat and watch another man snap a black and white clapperboard and shout "ACTION!"

About 3 takes and ten minutes later, the bustle in the room begins again and I look up to see Hidetoshi Imura, in the flesh, walking toward my table. He is wearing an American flag tie, a sleek black button up shirt and an enormous smile. I am instantly starstruck.

He greets me in his very strong, signature Japanese accent and I end up sputtering out some form of thanks for him actually allowing me to visit his set and meet him. He's not at all what you would expect a celebrity on set to be. He is apologetic for making me wait, he is extremely welcoming, and I never get the feeling he is trying to hurry through our meet and greet to get back to work.

We have a little trouble communicating since English is not his first language and the only Japanese I remember from being a 12 year old Air Force brat in Misawa is the basic hello, thank you and excuse me. His wife and his stunning co-star Awbrey Madison are both fluent and can help us communicate, but Hide prefers to speak for himself.

For the following interview, I will attempt to capture the essence of his words, and his responses are not *exact* quotes.

How did you get your start as an actor?

My actor friend had told me I should go to Los Angeles because there were too few Japanese actors in Hollywood. My first job was as an extra, a background role, on the film Memoirs of a Geisha.

What was it like auditioning for The Office?

They were looking for a new warehouse worker, a big Hispanic or Black guy. I was very scared, my heart was beating so fast because I didn't look like anyone else there. And when it was time to audition, I couldn't even say the whole line. 

Who was your favorite warehouse worker?

Darryl! Craig Robinson is still my friend. I like Glenn a lot too.

Are you still in touch with any other cast members?

Yes, they are all very nice and always say hi to me. 

Who do you have the fondest memories of on set?

B.J. Novak was always very nice to me. He was the one who told me I didn't have to worry about messing up the lines because it made the scenes funnier. He always told me I was good.

What are you up to these days?

This! (He laughs and gestures at the set around him, where they are filming Bear Tours, a workplace webseries eerily similar to The Office)

Do you have anything you'd like to say to The Office fans who love you?

I love you guys!

Here's a short video we streamed live from the set:

The room around us is starting to bustle again and although Hide doesn't seem to be in any hurry to end our meeting, I get the feeling I am holding up the set and decide to thank him and prepare to exit. He asks me to wait a moment and brings over a small blue gift bag. I am in shock. The gift, after all, was meeting him. This gesture of kindness is simply, well.... ze best. 

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This is a very good Japanese candy, and this is another, have you ever tried Hi-Chew? It's good! And this is something to remember Bear Tours. He pulls out a small door stop with a bear's head carved into it. I am beyond touched. Tears feel like they might spill out of me. I thank him profusely and ask if we can quickly take a few photos together. He beams at me and we snap a couple quick pics, with our thumbs out to honor his beloved The Office character and then gives me a quick hug. 

I collect my things and thank him and his wife and the people on set around us for letting me be part of their afternoon. But before I can leave, Hide asks me if I want his jacket and gestures over to a nearby chair. I look over and my jaw drops at the sight of an actual real-life Dunder Mifflin jacket directly from the set of The Office. It is even embroidered with "Season Six" on the left sleeve.

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No, I couldn't possibly, I tell him. It's too much, this is all too much, you are too kind. He laughs and says he wants me to have it and then reaches for it. He pulls some wadded tissue and candy wrappers from the pockets, apologizes for the "smell," I burst into (probably kind of insane) laughter and then he hands it to me. And somehow, while feeling completely speechless and awestruck by his generosity and charm, I stammer out a request that he sign it if it isn't too much trouble. Of course, he says and before I know it, I am clutching a legit piece of the show I love so much I've made it a part of my daily life for 7 years, signed by an actual cast member that I'm standing in front of. I can't help it, I hug him again. And he laughs and beams at me, thanking me for coming to visit him. 

By far, my most prized The Office possession

I realize at this point that they've begun getting the set ready for the next shots and I have stayed way longer than is probably polite so I begin to leave again, thanking them all, and to my surprise Hide follows me outside alone. As I walk to my car, he asks how long I've lived in Los Angeles and if I like it here, and if I ever eat Japanese food because this restaurant is very good and he says I should come back and try it sometime. I am completely dumbfounded by his hospitality and kindness. We chat outside my car for a few minutes, he hugs me one more time and even holds my door open as I climb into my car. I thank him again from the bottom of my heart for the most delightful experience a fan could ever hope for. And as I pull out of the lot, I notice he's still there on the asphalt behind me, waving and grinning as I drive away. I can't even. 

There's no way I could ever properly thank him. There aren't enough words in either of our native languages to express the gratitude I feel for not only his extremely amazing gifts, but his general demeanor, charm and warmth. While Hollywood gets a bad rap for it's narcissism and self-serving nature, there are many, many gems among working actors, and Hidetoshi Imura is the brightest and most incandescent of them all. 

Be sure to check out and subscribe to the Bear Tours YouTube Channel for more Hide. His character is as lovable as Michael Scott, the writing and shooting is as mundanely hilarious as The Office, and the overall tone is as charming as Hidetoshi Imura himself. Here's the first episode to get you started:

Please also follow him on >>> Facebook and >>> Instagram, you won't regret it :)

The Office Characters: Where Are They Now?

Five years after the documentary aired, we were able to catch up with all of our favorite former Dunder Mifflinites.  So here's the scoop on what you haven't been able to see on TV.

Andy Bernard: 

Within a year of the documentary airing, Andy found himself married and living his dream, becoming part of the new-student-recruitment staff of his beloved Cornell.  But in 2015, he discovered his new wife having an affair with Broccoli Rob.  "I've been betrayed like this before," Andy said of his heartache, "but I would have been willing to work it out. I could have forgiven the cheating.  I could even have forgiven him. But not after what I saw." As it turned out, he walked in on the couple in a compromising position whilst wearing Harvard Pride T-Shirts. "There's a big red line you can't cross with me, and they did. It was completely unforgivable." The unfortunate incident had bittersweet results: The marriage ended in divorce, but his loyalty inspired the college to not only give him a raise, but also name him as Here Comes Treble's permanent Artistic Director. He's currently online dating and he's never been happier.

Angela Schrute:

Life's been hectic for this now mom of six (seven if you count Mose). After successfully convincing her husband of her cats' practical uses as farm animals, Angela's side-business "Kitty-Butter" has gained marginal local success.  Granted, that success comes from her only customer and former coworker, Kevin.  When asked about his affinity for the feline-dairy product, he said: "Hey, it's better than eating actual cats." And knowingly added:  "You can't eat those."

Creed Bratton:

What little information on Creed we can find tells us that he has warrants out for his arrest all over the world.  In the southwestern United States, he's suspected of running a theft ring after several grand pianos seemingly vanished into thin air in Phoenix, Las Vegas and Reno.  In the Bahamas, he is wanted for kidnapping various species of butterflies from a local botanical garden.  And in Thailand, there is a $50,000 reward for his whereabouts following an incident in which he "mooned" the anchors of the country's most watched morning show: "Wake Up Thai," on air.

Darryl Philbin:

Darryl has been living the good life in Austin. A few years ago, he reconciled with ex-wife Justine and brought her and their daughter Jada to live with him in Texas.  But once he realized Justine was only interested in him again due to his success with Athleap, the two split and co-parent locally. He's recently been spotted dating four different Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders, but says he's not taking any of them seriously. His daughter Jada, now 18, enjoyed success as the leading scorer on her high school volleyball team, and says she hopes to use her dad's contacts and savvy to secure a professional contract in the sport after college. She'll be attending Stanford this fall, with a full athletic scholarship.

David Wallace:

Still owns Dunder Mifflin. But, he's hoping to expand the business beyond paper. Currently, he's developing a solvent that removes human feces staining from auto paint. He also credits his highly lucrative invention "Suck-It" as "the greatest mistake since penicillin."

Dwight Schrute:

Dwight has done a better job at Dunder Mifflin than anyone ever expected. His single-handed success in the Scranton branch went on to mushroom into larger and larger sales areas, eventually rendering him the Regional Manager of Dunder Mifflin America. As the company continued its rapid exponential growth into international waters, Dwight was recently featured (along with David Wallace) in a Fortune Magazine cover article under the heading: "Assistant (to the) CEO." His beet farm/B&B Schrute Farms continues to be successful, running with the help of his cousins Mose and Zeke.  Asked for a quote for this article, Dwight said simply: "You couldn't handle my comments." But he did express pride that his eldest son, Phillip, was able to teach his younger brothers to circumcise themselves.

15 Shows You Should Watch If You're A Fan of The Office

It's been 4 years since The Office's cast took their final bows *sob* and we've watched, rewatched and binged on Netflix again and again ever since trying to fill the void it left behind.

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Psh...those are rookie numbers.
And while our beloved show never, ever ever gets old, sometimes we get a hankering for something new. So here's our list of shows you're likely to enjoy if The Office is your all-time favorite show.

#15: The Walking Dead

Alright, so we know it's a stretch but hear us out.  One of the hallmarks of The Office was its use of a large ensemble cast, slowly introducing seemingly background characters that eventually got more and more screen-time until they eventually became fan favorites over the course of the series.  The Walking Dead, we argue, does exactly the same thing.  The Walking Dead also populates early episodes, and even entire seasons, with these same types of might-as-well-be-extras characters.  Little do your realize as you binge through the episodes, that that one person whose name you can't even remember will one day charm their way into your heart as, at least, your secondary favorite. 

And, if part of the reason you loved The Office wasn't just the comedy, but the writers' ability to pen characters you actually gave a damn about, look no further than The Walking Dead for another excellent exercise in character driven plot-lines and long-term character development. 

No, it isn't comedy.  But, much like The Office was so much more than a simple "workplace show," as any true TWD fan will tell you, The Walking Dead is waaaaay more than just a "zombie show." 

Lastly, we argue that Dwight would have effing loved it.

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Oh but um, you might not want to get too attached to anyone.

Seasons 1-6 are available on Netflix. Season 7 will be available around the time Season 8 premieres this October.

8 Behind The Scenes Facts from "The Office" You Probably Don't Know

Alright, so you're an expert on all things The Office, right? We know this because of our bitter memories of your correction comments from over the years.  And by the way, it is "What kind of bear is best?" not "Which kind of bear is best?" thankyouverymuch.

Admin plight aside, we know The Office pretty damn well ourselves.  And even we didn't know most of this stuff.  So check it out, and leave your corrections additions in the comments below!

8) In Greg Daniels' mind (The Office U.S. creator and executive producer), Jim and Pam would have been an interracial couple.  In this alternative showniverse, Craig Robinson would have played Roy instead of Darryl, and Justine, Darryl's ex-wife, would have played Pam.

It would have been tough to hate Craig.
7) Remember that episode in Season 9 where Pam interviews with Bizarro-Michael for a job? (In actuality, Mark played by Bob Odenkirk) That scene was a throwback to the little known fact that Bob Odenkirk nearly got the role of Michael Scott, when Steve Carell almost had to bow out due to another pilot commitment.

6) The opening credit images were shot by John Krasinski.  After he landed the role of Jim, he and some friends took off to Scranton for a road-trip to get a feel for the place.  The title editors later used his shots for the opening sequences.

5) Oscar's being gay was decided because the writers saw Oscar Nunez wearing a pink shirt during a table read.