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Brian Baumgartner loves milk. So, when the Office star was approached by the California Milk Processor Board to front its latest campaign, “Never Doubt What You Love,” it was an easy yes. (Also, according to Grub Street, Baumgartner may be part of a new wave of milk drinkers ignoring the trend of cashew, oat, almond, coconut milk, and the like.) The campaign centers Baumgartner as he interviews Californians and asks them to defend what they love while hinting at the impact of cancel culture and misinformation. The Hollywood Reporter caught up with Baumgartner via Zoom to discuss why he gave such an enthusiastic yes, what he’s loving lately and how he keeps all of his Office-related projects straight.
This new campaign — “Never Doubt What You Love” — is an interesting approach, meant to push people to defend what they love while also promoting milk. Why did you say yes to it?
It’s a brilliant positioning of an amazing message. First of all, the California Milk Processor Board and their iconic campaign, “Got milk?” … I mean, who doesn’t know, “Got milk?” with the mustaches? My first thought was, “Am I going to have a mustache?” Because I don’t do the facial hair. With the Never Doubt What You Love campaign, it’s a play on combating all the misinformation that exists in the world. You never quite know what is good, what is bad, and so we use that as a play on milk and encourage people to never doubt those things that they love — like milk.
[In the campaign], we have a lot of fun canceling puppies and grandmas and beaches and all the things people love in California. I had a lot of fun shooting it and I got to meet a ton of interesting people. We had a great time in Venice and downtown L.A.
The cancel culture part is interesting, and I didn’t consider whether milk was in danger of being canceled, especially in California. Are you a big milk drinker?
I am a milk drinker. Yes. Whole milk, 2 percent, nonfat, depending on what I’m putting it in. It was easy for me to support them because I truly do love milk.
What’s your take just on cancel culture, in general?
Well, look, I think the point is it’s about the misinformation. It’s so easy for anybody on Twitter or other social media outlets to spread misinformation. Not to get overly political, but you can see it out there with COVID-19 vaccines. Are they good or bad? Should we or shouldn’t we? I certainly don’t pretend to have the answers, but I know that there’s a lot of misinformation that’s out there right now. Where milk plays into it, there’s a certain segment of the population that believes almond milk and oat milk and whatever kind of milk is better. But why is milk suddenly bad? We’re playing on the things that we love and putting doubt in people’s minds that maybe they shouldn’t just listen to whatever they hear. Or, in this case, someone who looks like me with a microphone in front of them telling them that certain things are bad.
The campaign also encourages people to never doubt doing what they love. What are some things that you love?
It’s a COVID cliche, but I got a dog during the last year and a half. I never thought that I would do the big dog thing in California but the amount of joy the dog has brought into my life over the last year is in indescribable.
I also think the importance of family and keeping in touch has been a big thing for me. I didn’t see my parents for 16 months. They live down in the Southeastern United States and it was really difficult [to be apart for so long]. I eventually traveled back to spend time with them but I feel encouraged that the new technology was used for good during this bad time. I also used Zoom to see and stay in touch with old friends from high school that I don’t keep in touch with as regularly. Obviously, in-person stuff is better but that was a great way to reconnect. It made the world slow down a little bit and feel like we could have deeper connections even if we couldn’t do it in person.
That’s so exciting about the dog. What’s the dog’s name and what breed?
Meadow, and she’s a chocolate lab. She is a big girl now — about 90 pounds — and just over a year old.
You juggle a lot of projects about The Office with the podcast (on iHeart and Spotify) and a new book coming up. Did you keep a good journal during your time on the show? How do you keep all the stories straight?
The business of television was always interesting to me. I was a theater actor before I moved over to film and television, but I was always interested in how shows were put together and packaged, how writers came up with stories and just all the how and why of it all. When I started the journey on the podcast and now the book, Welcome to Dunder Mifflin, everything has been based on the question: Why is this so popular? What is it about the show that has made it No. 1 for years, even eight years after we stopped filming? I approached it like a true-crime podcast. The mystery isn’t who was killed or who disappeared, but what happened [on the show]?
I really wanted to go back and look at casting choices, aesthetic choices, cameras, characters, writers, how the show was constructed, the ultra-realism, why it remains so popular and still finds new and younger viewers, etc. We’ve got well over a hundred hours of recorded interviews completed for the book and we will be publishing exclusive, never-before-seen photos. I’m super excited about it. For me, it’s been an exploration. I took some notes along the way, but I guess my memory is better than some people would guess, maybe?
Interview has been edited for length and clarity.
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