For many actors, their origin story is one of years spent toiling as an anonymous extra or background player or someone smiling at the camera in a cereal commercial. In the case of Jenna Fischer, the story starts with a sex-education video. For patients being discharged from mental-health facilities. As the actress tells the New York Times in an interview, Fischer arrived in Los Angeles fresh from college and certain she’d be a steadily working actress within a year. She even got a pager to manage her soon-to-be-very-busy schedule. Within six months, she was broke with a dead car and in need of a day job. She explains, “Then one day something extraordinary happened.” Fischer got the fateful page that would put wind back in her sails and make her the face of safe sex. “A number I didn’t recognize was flashing on the screen. Finally, after all the struggle, the years of dreaming, the scene study classes, the movement classes, the voice and speech work, my efforts were about to pay off. I had landed my first real acting job.”
Fischer did her own makeup and wore her own clothes to the shoot, which was done in an apartment bathroom. She recounted the dialogue for the Times:
SISTER Wow, you’re spending a lot of time getting ready. You must really like this guy. Are you bringing protection?
ME Protection? Protection from what?
SISTER If you plan to become sexually active, you’ll need protection from pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.
After her fake sister walked her through a drawer filled with “every type of contraceptive device ever invented,” Fischer closed the scene with, “Thanks, Sis! I’m glad I know how to protect myself.”
After that, she steadily built up more work, got an agent, got a union card, and then, eight long years after she learned about contraceptive in an apartment bathroom, she says she got the line that changed her life forever, “Dunder Mifflin, this is Pam.”