Jenna Fischer Reflects on the Trait That Led to Her Career as a Working Actor

February 12, 2018

Jenna Fischer is best known for playing Pam Beesly on the popular NBC sitcom The Office, for which she received an Emmy nomination for Best Supporting Actress. Well, she recently authored her first book entitled The Actor’s Life: A Survival Guide which is receiving rave reviews and is being described as a “must-have guide for all aspiring actors” thanks to its candor, humor, and helpful tips.

In the book, Fischer describes the optimism she felt when she first moved to Los Angeles at the age of 22. But her open heart was soon crushed when she realized how daunting the road ahead was to reach her goal of becoming a working actress. Indeed, it would take eight years before she landed her iconic role in The Office. During those long years, she endured extended periods of time when she couldn’t land an acting gig. And the stress she felt during auditions was enough to make her teeth throb in her mouth.

Fortunately, Fischer has a personality trait that has carried her through all the obstacles along her journey. Sometimes she refers to it as being “delusional,” other times as exhibiting “magical thinking;” but, many would agree that it is, in fact, good old-fashioned grit that sustained Jenna through the thick and thin. In this video clip, she describes the resounding belief and determination that has made such a difference in her career:

“But I think I’m that person, you know like you hear a story about someone who wants to change something, and they’re like, ‘I’m going to sit on the steps to the capital for as long as it takes!’ And they sit there for like seventeen years. Finally, the lawmaker meets with them, and a deal is made. Because I hear a story like that, and I’m like, ‘Oh, so just pure willpower and grit. Like I will wait you out until you agree with me that I’m a working actor. I’ll wait it out with you! Let’s keep waiting!’ And by the way, I think that’s part of the magical thinking of my mind, which is like, you’ve been to those ball games where it’s ten to zero. And then, in the end, the other team wins eleven to ten. It happens! It could happen to you!”

Although Jenna started to receive small roles in independent films and was cast as a guest on television shows like Spin City and What I Like About You, she decided to take the bull by the horns and create her own production. So, she wrote, directed, and starred in her own mockumentary called LolliLove. It was an improv project featuring improvisational interviews with her friends. But it ended up being a significant creative exercise that impacted her career. As Fischer says, the film would  go on to be “the super best practice I could have ever gotten for the possibility of being on [The Office].” Indeed, after a succession of mostly improvised auditions much like her LolliLove production, Fischer ended up being cast as Pam Beesly on The Office.

When it seemed like there were a million reasons to quit, Jenna kept her focus on the possibilities and clung to them–and essentially “waited everyone out!” As Franklin Roosevelt once said, “When you come to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.”