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Phyllis Smith: the bonds made and friendships will continue.

Phyllis Smith: the bonds made and friendships will continue.



Grew up • South St. Louis

High school • Cleveland

Played • Phyllis Lapin-Vance, 2005-2013

Smith was a football Cardinals cheerleader and a burlesque dancer (“no stripping!”) with Will B. Able and his Baggy Pants Revue at the Chase-Park Plaza in the 1970s. She continued dancing in California until she injured her knees; she then worked in casting with Allison Jones, who cast “The Office.” When executive producer Greg Daniels and director Ken Kwapis (who grew up in Belleville) heard Smith read lines opposite various auditioners, they wrote a role for her.

Since then, Smith has appeared in movies including “Butter” and “Bad Teacher,” in which she played Cameron Diaz’s best friend. She will make her debut at the Muny this summer in “Nunsense — Muny Style!”

Smith writes:

This past weekend in Scranton our fans made it clear that we were all loved and they will miss watching us every week. I had one young man tell me he wished I was his mom. Another young woman told me that every time she watched “The Office,” I reminded her of her mother, who had just passed away a year ago, and that every time she saw me she felt as if she had a piece of her mom still with her. Another fan told me that when she was recovering from cancer, watching “The Office” was the only thing that got her through. Those kind of sincere remarks make you humble and grateful for the opportunity to contribute to making someone feel better.

Personally, I was able to experience things I never imagined, like going to the Emmys, the SAG Awards, going on locations to beautiful settings I never knew existed in California. I now have a second family with the wonderful people I worked with for nine years. We had babies born, a few deaths, some tears, but mostly laughter and heartfelt memories.

Someone said to me, “now that the show is over are you going back to casting?” I said absolutely not, I am blessed to have a new career to pursue in my life.

By the way, thanks to Ken Kwapis, who suggested they cast me. Ken, even though I was happy before, your decision made my life profoundly blessed.

I miss my fellow “Office” mates and crew, but know that the bonds made and friendships will continue.

I have said in many interviews that God had a better plan for me than I ever anticipated. I still firmly believe that and I am grateful for a prayer answered. I once prayed when struggling financially and worried how I was going to be able to assist my parents in their latter years living thousands of miles away, to help me win the lottery or something. And I did win the lottery, just in a different and better way.

In a final note, thank you “Office” fans for always being so polite, thoughtful, and just all around GREAT!

Next: Ellie Kemper, John Burroughs

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Gail Pennington is the television critic for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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