Steve Carell's final episode of The Office airs on NBC tonight, and there's been no shortage of tributes to the actor's understated, empathetic style. Salon's Drew Grant called Carell's "goofy but lovable" paper company manager Michael Scott the "bumbling patriarch" of The Office's workplace family. "How could the show go on without him?" he wondered. At The Atlantic, Kevin Fallon marveled at the hidden depth Carell gave to the character. He was a goofball, yes, but there was "brilliance buried beneath Michael's inappropriate, highly unorthodox business practices...the office achieved unlikely success [under Michael]—avoiding downsizing, outlasting a major buy-out, and surviving countless catastrophes."
This is all predicated on the loveliness of Steve Carell, who pretty much everyone agrees is thoughtful, generous and nothing at all like the petulant manchild he plays on TV. He appears to be the closest thing Hollywood has to a saint. Here's why:
He is humble
Carell isn't mad at NBC for overshadowing his final episodes with flashy guest stars (a four episode guest arc for Will Ferrell and finale cameos by Ray Romano, Jim Carrey, and James Spader) and fueling media speculation about his potential replacements (Ferrell, Romano, Spader, Doctor Who's Catherine Tate, Will Arnett, Harvey Keitel, and Ricky Gervais have all had their names floated.) Instead, he's flattered that so many big names want to do the show, especially Ferrell, his Anchorman co-star. "Frankly I was very humbled by [Ferrell's casting]," Carell told The New York Times earlier this month. "It's such a gracious thing for him to do as a friend, plus the fact I knew that he’d have fun doing it."
He gives thoughtful gifts
Paul Feig, who directed the finale, described the bounty the actor gave away at his farewell party in an interview with the Los Angeles Times::
"You definitely saw presents being handed around. Steve was even giving out presents to the cast and the crew. I remember seeing them delivered to people’s dressing rooms. But they must've been very personal, because people weren’t really sharing what they got."
His gifts aren't always as tangible. During the 2007 writers' strike, Carell, in a show of solidarity, called in sick with case of "enlarged balls." Without the show's star, production on new episodes was quickly abandoned.
He brings out the best in his peers
Feig told E! that in tonight's episode "everyone gets a moment [with Carell] that you would want them to have." All the tears shed in the wake of his departure are a "a proper outpouring of emotion for a man who is completely deserving of getting that much [attention].". He elaborated on Carell's ability to elevate his fellow performers in an interview with IFC: "Steve's just one of the best comedic actors...just best actors, period, but he has an ability to ground everything,"
He makes people cry
About those tears. There wasn't a dry eye in the house when Carell was filming his final scenes. Don't take our word for it: In their own words, here are members of the cast and crew describing how they struggled to keep their emotions under control during those last days.
I definitely cried on the last day. Wasn’t expecting it and then the last scene of the day was our goodbye of characters. We hadn’t said goodbye and so that was an incredibly existential black hole. It was like way too much happening. So there were definitely tears.” -- John Krasinski ("Jim")
"[Co-star] Angela [Kinsey] and I have cried a lot and that's the hardest thing to let go of." -- Jenna Fischer ("Pam")
"[T]he last day of shooting with Steve was more intense than I anticipated it would be,” Wilson continued. “There actually wasn’t a dry eye in the house. It was really sad. It was very difficult to make comedy when there was a heaviness hanging over the proceedings." -- Rainn Wilson ("Dwight")
"I had a Dr. Seuss quote engraved on [a desk clock he gave to Carell] -- 'Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened' -- because that's how I faced [Carell's last] week "-- Paul Feig
"It was really emotional. We cried a lot. All of us." -- Angela Kinsey ("Angela")
Feig recalls things were particularly glum while filming an all cast singalong to the Rent song "Seasons of Love" for last week's episode.It was so emotional!," said Feig. "I was prepping [for the next episode] and my assistant said, 'You should come down here.' The first time they started singing that song, everyone choked up in real life. It really started to land for people that the end is coming."