Nellie Andreeva
EXCLUSIVE: While the fate of the on-screen boss on NBC’s flagship comedy series The Office is still in limbo, the near future of show’s behind-the-scenes boss is set: The Office showrunner/executive producer Paul Lieberstein has signed a three-year overall deal with series producer NBC Universal Studios. Under the pact, Lieberstein will continue to run the comedy, working closely with The Office developer/executive producer Greg Daniels. Later in the life of the deal, Lieberstein’s first overall, he is expected to develop new projects. But for the time being, he will be focused entirely on The Office, which is undergoing a major transition following the recent departure of original star Steve Carell. “This show has changed my life,” Lieberstien said. “As a writer I’ve never felt so creatively fulfilled, I really feel like I’m writing exactly what I’ve wanted to write in terms of exploring everyday life. And it made me an actor, which I never suspected I’d do.”

Lieberstein, who plays Human Resources Director Toby Flenderson on The Office, became an accidental actor as part of an experiment by Daniels, who felt that the writers on the show would do a better job writing for the cast if they themselves experienced what it is like to be an actor with bit guest parts on the show. Lieberstein appeared in the second episode in a stint that was never meant to go further. But when then-NBC Entertainment president Kevin Reilly saw dailies from the episode, “he thought I was funny and wanted more of me,” Lieberstein said. With so many inside and outside Dunder Mifflin interviewing for Michael Scott’s job in the season finale, why didn’t Toby make a play? He actually did. “He was in the finale but didn’t make air,” Lieberstein said.

After graduating from college with economics degree, Lieberstein did an ill-fated stint as an auditor while writing spec scripts on the side. He landed his first writing job in 1991 on the Nickelodeon sitcom Clarissa Explains It All starring Melissa Joan Hart. Several sitcom gigs later, in 1998 Lieberstein joined the Fox animated series King of the Hill, co-created by Daniels, who subsequently recruited him for The Office right after the pilot. The two knew each other; Lieberstein is Daniels’ brother-in-law. (He is also brother-in-law to his Office co-star Angela Kinsey). With Daniels, Lieberstein has won two best series Emmy Awards, a best comedy series for The Office and best animated program for King of the Hill, both shared with the shows’ other producers. He is with CAA, 3 Arts and attorney Ken Richman.

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