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Q&A with Kate Flannery for Pensacon

By Dakota Parks for Downtown Crowd

For most millennials and Netflix-now-Peacock-binge- watchers, Kate Flannery is easy to ID for her role as Meredith Palmer, the inappropriate, frequently drunk and sexually promis- cuous employee for the Dunder Mifflin Scranton branch on The Office. In college, Flannery studied acting, and shortly after she joined The Second City’s National Touring Company and became an original member of Chicago’s Annoyance Theatre, starring in over 15 shows including The Miss Vagina Pageant and The Real Live Brady Bunch. Outside of her nine-year stint in the paper sup- ply business, Flannery has kept herself busy singing on tour with Jane Lynch, dancing on Dancing with the Stars, performing in shows with her musical comedy improv group The Lampshades and starring in a variety of films and TV shows. She has voiced the character of Barb on Steven Universe, appeared in episodes of Brooklyn Nine-Nine and New Girl and films like Helicopter Mom, Cooties and 4th Man Out to name a few.


Hi, Kate! Thanks for meeting with me. Have you been to many comic conventions?


KF: Of course! I have, actually. About a year and a half before the pandemic started, a few of us from The Office started getting invites to conventions. They’re a lot of fun, and I’m excited to come to Pensacola.


Did anyone on the cast ever anticipate The Office becoming such a big cultural phenomenon?


KF: Oh my God, no way! It really gained a whole new following when it started streaming on Netflix. The writing is just amazing though, and there is something so relatable about the documentary-style office setting. It’s the subtleties of the workplace, where you’re not allowed to comment, but there is clearly so much to comment on. I also think that kids tend to plug into The Office because being in a classroom is not unlike being at a workplace. Everybody’s at a desk, usually next to someone you didn’t pick. Your boss is kind of like a teacher. It’s the subtleties and silences of life that make it so hysterical.


What was it like auditioning for The Office?


KF: Initially, I actually auditioned for the part of Jan and didn’t get that, so I wasn’t in the pilot. But they held auditions later in the year, and I went in and they told me “don’t wear make-up and don’t try to be funny,” which are kind of antithetical to most auditions for comedies. I knew Steve Carell from the Second City comedy club, and I always thought he was a genius. When I saw some of the first edits of the show before it was released, I thought it was the funniest thing ever, but I was worried it might be too weird for NBC. Thankfully, it wasn’t. I just love that Meredith is so unapologetically herself, and I think there are a lot of women like her that don’t get represented enough on TV, so I’m proud to represent her.


I saw on your Twitter that there is a Meredith Funko Pop figurine with the boob hanging out from the “Casual Friday” episode. Has any of the fan art surprised you?


KF: None of it really surprises me, since fans are just responding to what they see on the show. Sometimes the art is capturing my most unflattering moments on the show, but I love that. One that really made me laugh was when somebody got a Casual Friday tattoo of Meredith in the short dress flashing everyone.


Do you have a favorite scene?


KF: One of my favorites is the Moroccan Christmas episode, where Michael Scott drags Meredith into rehab. That scene where we’re in the parking lot was not particularly scripted and it was just a lot of fun to improv with Steve. I loved doing any of the physical comedy. I actually got to do most of my own stunts, which was awesome.


There are so many iconic stunts from getting hit by a car to bats in your hair and shaving your head during the lice infestation. What was the movie magic like for these moments?


KF: We had a great bald cap artist named Ed French. He actually worked in the first Star Trek movie. He’s the guy that teaches everybody how to do the bald cap in Hollywood. It was four hours in makeup every morning and took about two and a half every evening to get out of it. I have so much respect for Sci-Fi folks now.


I read that you actually met your boyfriend Chris Haston on the set of The Office pretty early into filming?


KF: Yes, I did. It was a big surprise for me, because I was 40 years old when I got The Office. I always had the worst wardrobe and no makeup on. I used to joke like I’m never ever going to get laid during this role. I actually said that to Melora Hardin, who plays Jan, and she always reminds me of that. But Chris is the best. He’s been working at NBC as a photographer for 35 years, and he’s worked on everything from the Golden Girls to The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, so it’s great to be with someone that understands the business as well. We really were the real-life Jim and Pam of The Office—just slightly goofier.


What is it like touring with Jane Lynch?


KF: Jane and I have been working together for six years. We did a Christmas album together that was number eight on the Billboard Top Ten, so now we do a Christmas tour each year. We took off last year for the pandemic, but two years ago, we took a tour bus around to 25 cities and did 30 shows. It was awesome. It’s like the Rat Pack but with a couple of broads.


Is there anything you’re working on right now?


KF: There’s a new movie coming out at the end of April called Golden Arm, which is a comedy about female arm-wrestling. I play Randy, the bar owner, when they discover that they have a golden arm. A golden arm is someone who allegedly has no athletic ability, but somehow possesses this great strength that kind of comes out of nowhere. We filmed in 2019 when I had a break in Dancing with the Stars, and I was supposed to go to South by Southwest Film Festival for it, then the whole world shut down. So, I’m excited for it to come out.

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