Blake Robbins, Actor (Jim’s brother Tom)
Just like Jim Halpert, I have two older brothers. And just like Jim, I close my eyes and shake my head at some of the things they do. Tom and Pete Halpert have a knack for making things awkward: From mocking Pam’s art to borrowing a whoopee cushion from Michael to conspiring with Dwight… it’s all about the tag-team pranks.
Recently, our Office-themed sister-site, ScrantonBranchOffice.com, was able to catch up with one part of that team: Blake Robbins who plays Tom. He shared with us his TwoCents about being a part of The Office Universe… and how he hopes to be around when the JAMbino is born. Enjoy!
ScrantonBranchOffice: Could you please tell our readers a little about yourself and how you got your start in show biz?
Blake Robbins: From birth my parents were involved in all aspects of local theater (acting, directing, stage managing, lighting ext). So I grew up around theater…I had no personal interest for the most part. Mostly I was interested in sports. When I got to college, my first girlfriend was a broadcast journalism major who did college plays. She asked me to be one of the rabbits in a production of Winnie-the-Pooh for local area kids. I think I ended up in about 9 plays before leaving school with my business marketing degree.
A week before graduation I had the epiphany that I wanted to act for a living. I moved back to the Boston area and started taking classes and doing theater. Years passed and I decided to audition for the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in NYC… I was accepted.
SBO: You’ve done a lot of television, everything from Oz to 24 to Firefly (one of my personal favorites!). What path led you to The Office Universe and the role of Tom, Jim’s brother?
BR: I’ve been very fortunate to get to work on some of the best shows on Television… Including the four shows you listed. Ultimately the path to The Office was more of a quick left turn. My “big” break in show business had been the HBO series Oz (I played CO. Dave Brass), this led to my doing more than a few hour long drama. No comedies though, not a one. So, last summer (August- I think) I’m enjoying a dog walk when I get a call from my manager asking if I can make it to Alison Jones’ office for a 2pm audition. I ask “for what”, he says “The Office.” No further details and no script. He tells me to just get there and they’ll have scenes for me to read. SURE (even though I’ve now got to rush home, shower, shave and drive there in less time than I could possibly expect to be able to do any of it), NO QUESTION- I’m there. I get to Alison’s office and notice all of the actors are six feet or taller, and I start to read the material. It becomes immediately apparent that I’m auditioning to play one of Jim’s brothers!! No time to be nervous, (did I mention I’m a HUGE fan of the show!!) because I’ve got about 9 pages of script to make sense of. I guess I did alright because about a week later I got the call that I had booked it and would be shooting the following Tuesday.
SBO: Other guest actors who have appeared on The Office mention how wonderful an environment it is to work in. Can you tell us a bit about shooting your first episode, “Employee Transfer?”
BR: They are a fantastic cast and crew, one of the absolute best in television. My concerns (being such a huge fan) were that I would walk away from the experience disappointed. My survival job as a young actor in NYC was as a doorman at a very fancy hotel – I met many celebrities during my time there and in my experience you walk away disappointed more often than not. Oh my other concern was that I would stink. Stinking or not has never really been one of my concerns, so that was new for me.
The day of work started very, very early at a small restaurant in downtown LA. I met Tug Coker who was going to play the other brother (Pete)… this was nice because now there were two of us going through this experience. That was comforting. I met Jenna in the make-up trailer and I swear she couldn’t have been nicer. Like I said it was very early, and she was a little under the weather so I could have easily forgiven her for being less than hospitable. Well I didn’t have to, she was friendly, warm and welcoming. I met John when we gathered for the first rehearsal- same thing, he couldn’t have been nicer.
Both Tug and I had both asked for steaks; if you’ll remember our entire part in Employee Transfer took place during that meal. Both John and Jenna had a laugh at our expense as we ate steak from around 10 in the morning until late afternoon. In the episode you’ll notice they are having salads and veggies. I think I had four steaks that day… a lot even for an avid meat eater.
The last thing I’ll share from that first day is that I think everyone on the cast and crew is aware that it could be difficult for a new actor to step on to that set and feel comfortable. They’ve got such a special chemistry going on, so I think they really go out of their way to put you at ease. That, and they are just good people who seem truly grateful for what they’ve got going on with the show.
SBO: From the viewer’s standpoint, “Niagara” looked like a blast to film. Can you talk a little about that experience and reprising your role of Tom?
BR: “Niagara” was as much fun to shoot as you can possibly imagine. For me it was fun to not only see Jenna, John and Tug again but now I also got to meet everyone else. To watch as they made magic. As an actor to learn from their approach to comedy. As a fan to sit back and enjoy these characters I love- In fact they were running a scene in the church and I caught myself laughing out loud. I had to learn to control myself.
SBO: What future projects do you have coming up?
BR: What did Kristen Chenoweth say at the Emmy’s? Well I’ve already done 2 of the 3 shows she mentioned (I’d love to do Mad Men as well). I’m looking for that next gig. Well that’s not exactly true. I just got cast in a film called Rubber that shoots in early November. Donna Morong (Gone Baby Gone) cast that. I’ve heard Stephan Spinella is in it- I love his acting. My fingers are always crossed that they’ll find away to bring the brother’s back to The Office. Maybe a family holiday, or when the baby comes, who knows right?
SBO: If someone were to climb off a desert island and only have time to watch five TV shows to learn what American television is all about, what five TV shows (of all time) would you show them?
BR: Wow this is a tough one, because you’re not asking what are my favorite TV shows, but which one would teach someone about America. I will concentrate on America in the modern era. In no particular order, off the top of my head and without explanation.
Mash, Cheers, Oprah, TMZ, and The Simpsons.
Much thanks to Blake for taking the time to share some thoughts and stories with us. Hey Blake – we hope to see you when the JAMbino arrives, too!