'The Office' Star Rainn Wilson's Mission to Give Back

'The Office' star might love playing villains on screen, but in real life, he's using his faith to inspire others. 

by
Apr 7, 2017

Rainn Wilson in "Smurfs: The Lost Village

Rainn Wilson, who voices the evil wizard Gargamel in the upcoming movie, Smurfs: The Lost Village, has a really fantastic reason why you should go see his new animated film, we’ll just never know what it is.

“I was going on and on about the movie for two minutes before I realized I had you on mute,” Wilson told Guideposts.org during a recent phone interview. “You missed it. It was gold.”

Technical difficulties resolved, Wilson did get to share why he was so excited to join the all-star cast of the animated film – his costars include Demi Lovato, Joe Manganiello and Julia Roberts. While he never really watched the beloved 80s cartoon, Wilson appreciated the original Belgian comic book series on which the characters are based. He says this movie is a throwback to those comic books.

“The thing that really captivated me was the beautiful drawings,” Wilson explained. “It’s really lush and gorgeously drawn, kind of a throwback to the original Belgian cartoon series. I just loved the aesthetic of it.”

He also appreciated the chance to play another bad guy.

“Bad guys are so rich comedically,” the actor said. “They have those giant blind spots. They think they’re brilliant but they’re really idiots. They have a giant ego that’s always getting deflated and they get so easily frustrated. It’s a rich mine for comedy.”

It’s also something he has experience in. Wilson made a name for himself playing Dwight Schrute, the socially awkward suck-up salesman and assistant to the regional manager on the popular NBC mockumentary comedy series, The Office. Throughout the show’s 12 year run, Wilson’s character gained a massive following.

The actor saw his success as an opportunity to do some good in the world.

“I had a lot of interest in philosophy, spirituality, life’s big questions and so I thought we could explore something like that on the web,” Wilson said. He started a company called SoulPancake, which focused on providing uplifting and inspiring content on the web. If you’ve seen any of those Kid President videos, you already know the kind of content SoulPancake is producing.

“We wanted to have digital content for young people that was fresh and fun,” the actor said. “Our mandate is to provide uplifting and inspiring entertainment to people that focuses on life’s big questions.”

The project was created, in part, because of the actor’s faith. Wilson follows the teachings of the Baha’i, a religion that emphasizes unity: unity with God, with religion and with human kind.

“The most important thing in the Baha’i faith is service to others and service to humanity,” Wilson explained. “Anytime you find a Baha’i, you’re going to find them seeking to balance their own interests – their occupation, their career, their family, the stuff we all need to deal with – with trying to make the world a better place.”

Wilson, who wrote a book called The Bassoon King, which expanded on his faith journey and his comedic career, says he always tries to remember the tenants of his faith when taking on any new project.

“I try to always think about what I’m doing as a storyteller as trying to uplift people and trying to make the world a better place.”

It’s why he started SoulPancake and why he and his wife run a nonprofit aimed at helping underserved adolescent women in rural Haiti have access to arts education and literacy programs.

“My faith and my work are interconnected,” Wilson said. “I think too many people have their faith and their job separate and it’s important to integrate what you believe with the work you do.”

But the actor knows that no matter what he does next – animated films, memoirs or humanitarian work – his fans still want to see him put on the oversized glasses, don the shabby suit, sport a middle part and play Dwight one more time. He’s got an answer for that.

“I’m open to something happening,” Wilson said when asked if an Office reunion might ever be in the cards. “It’d be fun to do an Office road trip movie. Dwight and Angela could team up with Jim and Pam to help Michael, who’s been arrested in Colorado and the whole gang could get back together on the way. That’d be fun.” 

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