Set Visit: 'The Office'

24 FEA OFFICE Craig Robinson and Leslie David Baker
David Strick

Craig Robinson (left) gets a microphone adjustment while chatting with co-star Leslie David Baker. "The scene where Michael tries to hug Stanley was hard," Baker says. "There wasn't a dry eye in the house."

THR was there as the NBC comedy wrapped an emotional seventh season with a bake-off, a big dose of nostalgia over departed star Steve Carell and high hopes for a new boss.

It's fitting that The Office films on a nondescript lot in Van Nuys. Like its onscreen counterpart Scranton, Pa., the setting lacks pizazz or Hollywood glamour. This is exactly how the stellar talents who inhabit the Emmy-winning series prefer it. What could be a better inspiration for depicting the realism of workday malaise? Another thing the cast of the NBC comedy didn't have to fake while filming its finale was the heartache over Steve Carell's exit from the show a few weeks earlier. "I will always treasure it," Rainn Wilson, who plays militant office drone Dwight Schrute, says of Carell's final episode. "That curious feeling of trying to make comedy and also not cry -- it's the strangest sensation. It was very tough filming my last scene of the season and leaving my second family for several months." Emotions also ran deep for co-star Brian Baumgartner (Kevin Malone), who savors more than a few scenes from the series' seventh season. "I loved when Michael proposed to Holly under the sprinklers, he informed the office that he was leaving and when he said goodbye to every character," he says. "So many moments that, as a friend of Steve, I will carry with me." But the final shoot April 14 (the finale aired May 19) wasn't all weepy: Star Jenna Fischer (Pam Beesly Halpert), who had to conceal the early stages of her pregnancy on camera, won a competitive cake-making contest among the cast and crew. For executive producer and writer B.J. Novak (Ryan Howard), it's all about the future -- a new boss! -- and reinventing the show. "In writing season eight, I'm trying to come up with new relatable stories for all the characters we still have," he says. "Next season will return to the very small, observational stuff we started with, but with all these characters -- Andy, Darryl and Erin -- we didn't have in the beginning. I'm enjoying it more than I thought."