Remember when Jack Black, Jessica Alba, and absolute legend Cloris Leachman were on The Office?
The three didn’t interact with any Dunder Mifflin employees on screen, but they did star in Mrs. Albert Hannaday, a chaotic (fictional) film that Jim, Pam, and Andy watched together in the break room.
Turns out the star-studded fake film almost featured another other big name, too. But several stars, including Zac Efron, reportedly turned down the role.
On the latest episode of the Office Ladies podcast, former co-stars Jenna Fischer and Angela Kinsey continued to chat about the Season 5 episode, “Stress Relief,” which needed to be extra good because it had the post-Super Bowl slot in 2009. We already learned behind-the-scenes details about the fire drill cold open and the hilarious CPR scene, but this time the podcast hosts dished on Mrs. Albert Hannaday, unpacked the film’s surprise twist ending, and revealed which stars were almost cast in the film.
For those who need a refresher, Mrs. Albert Hannaday was a deeply strange film that kicked off with Sophie (Alba) introducing her boyfriend Sam (Black) to her grandmother, Lily (Leachman). Sam eventually fell in love with Lily, but the film ended with her making out with another young man and breaking Sam’s heart. Rough stuff.
As revealed on the podcast, the young man kissing Leachman (who died at age 94 in January 2021) at the end of the film was Nate Federman, a writer’s assistant on The Office. Kinsey and Fischer reached out to Federman to learn how he’d been cast in the role, and boy is it a story.
“I was one of the writer’s assistants on ‘Stress Relief; and I got to make out with Cloris Leachman,” Federman began. “This is my story.”
“Originally, my part was supposed to be for Zac Efron and there were actual lines, but he turned it down and so did Corbin Bleu and Christopher Mintz-Plasse. And the day before it was supposed to shoot, they hadn’t cast it and all the lines had been cut. And they really just needed somebody who was young looking to make out with Cloris Leachman,” he explained. “They didn’t have to be handsome or famous. So enter me. Paul Lieberstein and Jeff Blitz, who is directing the episode, pulled me aside at work and asked me if I was interested in doing the part. And I’m not an actor. The last time I performed was in fifth grade. I was Motel the tailor in Fiddler on the Roof, and I froze in the middle of [‘Miracle of Miracles’] and the audience laughed at me and it was scarring. But I was really excited to earn five hundred bucks and residuals. So I said, ‘Sure, I’ll do it.'”
“At the time I was so terrified of letting the show down. It was working with all these incredible actors and actresses who actually knew what they were doing, and I just didn’t want to screw things up for everybody,” Federman continued. “So I went home that night and I told my girlfriend, now my wife, about what I was going to have to do. And I was really scared.”
After practicing all night, Federman went to set the next morning and met Leachman.
“I’m in hair and makeup and they’re doing my hair, and all of a sudden I feel these hands running through my hair and I hear this voice go, ‘I hear that you and I are going to be doing some kissing later.’ And I turn around and it’s Cloris Leachman and she’s smiling at me. And I’m like, ‘Yeah, we’re going to be doing the scene together.'”
Federman rode to set with Leachman, Black, and Alba, it then it was time for the big kissing scene.
“We’re positioned on the couch and [Leachman is] sitting on my lap and I have my arms around her and we’re talking and it’s very pleasant and she’s very nice and she’s telling me about her children,” he said. “But then right before we do the actual take, she gets real serious. You know, she’s getting into character and she looks me in the eye and I’ll never forget this. She goes, ‘When they call action, I want you to grab my ass and really get up in the crack.’ So when they called action, I grabbed her ass and I really got up in that crack. And we did the scene. We shot it many times. They had to get it from a lot of different angles. So we ended up making out quite a bit.”
“She did say a variety of other pretty raunchy things. She’s an expert at dirty talk, but it was an amazing experience,” Federman said. “And I’m incredibly grateful that my five seconds of fame were spent with an absolute legend like Cloris Leachman. And it’s something that I always get a kick out of when I get to tell people.”
“I mean, what an amazing story,” Kinsey said.
“Amazing. ‘Hey, Nate. Zac Efron isn’t available. What are you doing tomorrow? Can you do something for me real quick?… It’s just that scene where you make out with Cloris Leachman'” Fischer joked. No big deal!
Be sure to listen to the full podcast to learn more delightful behind-the-scenes stories from filming “Stress Relief: Part 2.”