Everyone on The Office Is Freaking Out

THE OFFICE -- "Sex Ed" Episode 704 -- Pictured: (l-r) Angela Kinsey as Angela Martin, Kate Flannery as Meredith Palmer, Oscar Nunez as Oscar Martinez, Jenna Fischer as Pam Halpert, Ellie Kemper as Kelly Erin Hannon -- Photo by: Chris Haston/NBC Photo: Chris Haston/? NBC Universal, Inc

Steve Carell's impending departure from The Office may have fans feeling nervous about the future of the show, but that's nothing compared to how the show's cast and producers are feeling, which is apparently totally freaked out. At least according to a panic-attack-cum-profile of Will Ferrell in the Times today.

These are "uneasy times" for the cast who "now face the uncertainty" of whether people will still watch without Carell. Producers are "concerned" that viewers "misconstrue Mr. Carell’s last episode on April 28 as the season finale — or possibly the series finale," hence the timing of Ferrell's guest appearances. "No one knows how those [ratings] numbers might change when Mr. Carell is removed from the equation," the story says. Rainn Wilson worries that "we could crash and burn without Steve ... We could be in a whole mess of trouble." But you can't just replace him! John Krasinski frets that “If we just did a boss for a boss [swap], this is how it would feel, and it’s pretty funny. Do I think that’s necessarily the best thing for the show? No, and I don’t think Will does, and I don’t think Steve did. I don’t even think the producers do.”

So what do the producers think? Paul Lieberstein says he'd "been struggling for a plan of how we were going to transition out of the Steve Carell era, and it had been weighing on me. Having Will Ferrell was the answer." Although not a permanent one: "What the Office producers may lack in clarity or candor about their vision for the show’s future they amply make up for in nervousness. Asked a few questions about a possible replacement for Mr. Carell, Mr. Lieberstein became agitated." All the anxiety rubbed off on Ferrell, who "acknowledged ... uncertainty about his career trajectory and a fear that he would not be funny in whatever he does next."

Calm down, everyone! The Office will be fine without Steve Carell! Right? Right! Right ... Oy, pass the Xanax.

Discomfort Zones [NYT]