“The Office” Season Eight: Robert California, Here We Come!

Secrets rarely last long in a workplace environment and even less so in Hollywood, but as it heads into its eighth and first Steve Carell-less season, “The Office” has kept a major reveal under wraps.

The strategy, it seems, has been to distract us all with the shiny new addition of last season’s finale guest star James Spader – who joins the cast as the startlingly intense new Sabre-Dunder Mifflin CEO Robert California – but they’ve kept a lid on the revelation of a SECOND major cast add, a mysterious someone who’ll step into the Scranton managerial seat vacated by Carell.

“The manager position is still open, and they told me who that's going to be and I'm not allowed to tell anyone,” star Jenna Fischer tells PopcornBiz. “It's very good. I think that people are going to be really happy - I was happy! It was good, a good choice.”

“We can't really talk about it,” adds Angela Kinsey. “There will be some new character, I can say that much. We're very stoked about this season as a cast. I have to say that at season eight of a show, I think things can get a little tired and we have this whole new sort of do-over. It's really kind of fun for us.”

What the ladies of “The Office” CAN talk about is Spader.

“He is amazing,” says Kinsey. “Our first table read with him was a week before we went back and at that moment I was like, 'Oh, we're going to be just fine.' He crushed the table read. He brings such a cool, amazing, intensity as Robert California that's so different from Michael Scott. Michael wanted everyone to love him. Robert California wants to run the best company in the world, and to see him turn that kind of intensity onto Kevin Malone was cracking me up. I just love him as this character. And it's been really fun to watch Dwight [Schrute] and Robert California act.”

“I'm such a fan of his,” says co-star Kate Flannery. “And I know how hard it is to come into an ensemble that's been together for so long – he's got so many names to remember in the first place. He's just been a great sport. It's just been very interesting because I never thought our show would go this direction and I'm so pleased.”

Meanwhile, the producers have promised to place renewed emphasis on the ensemble of long-standing characters and their antic interactions. “My character this season is really a bitch to Pam again, right out of the gate,” says Kinsey. “I am loving it. I haven't had some good Pam/Angela scenes in a while, and Jenna and I love that.”

Fischer also loves that her real-life pregnancy has been written into the show. “Pam will be pregnant in the season,” she says. “I don't know if you remember, but Jim and Pam snuck away on Valentine's Day in 'The Office', and so the backstory is that they conceived their second child at that time. So at least I don't have to hide behind any giant purses.”

Flannery says that the cast and crew have banded together to make sure the transition from the Michael Scott era goes as smoothly – and hilariously – as possible.  “It's a real big task, but I feel like we're closer than ever,” she says. “And we have a shorthand, so we're using it. There's an understanding of what we know how to do. And we just have the greatest writers, so we just gotta not make it too crazy, complicated, over-thinking and just do the right, next indicated step.”

If only the Dunder Mifflin team could get it together that effectively.

"The Office" returns Thursday night, September 22, at 9 PM ET on NBC

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