How Rainn Wilson's 'Miserable Experience' on Broadway Helped Him Find Success as Dwight on “The Office” (Exclusive)

After bombing on stage, Rainn claimed he was "never going to do that again" before he landed the role that would change his life on 'The Office'

Rainn Wilson wouldn't have been the face behind The Office's beloved Dwight Schrute if it hadn't been for a "miserable" period of his life on stage.

In PEOPLE's exclusive look at his appearance on Good Trouble with Nick Kyrgios, the actor, 58, recalls the early days of his career where he tried to make it on the Broadway stage in New York City until he realized he wasn't being true to his identity and his craft.

As a "trained actor" who studied at Juilliard, Wilson shares how he was expected to "stand a certain way" and maintain a "certain comportment" in order to fit in with the New York theater crowd.

<p>Good Trouble with Nick Kyrgios/Hana Kuma</p> Rainn Wilson

Good Trouble with Nick Kyrgios/Hana Kuma

Rainn Wilson

Related: Rainn Wilson Shares Sweet Napkin Note About The Office Given to Him by Flight Attendant: 'So Humbled'

"I got my first Broadway show and I was trying to do that and I was trying to please other people and to fit in and be this idea of like, what a New York theater actor was," he explains. "And I sucked and I was bad in the play, had a miserable experience, bombed and coming out of that, I was like, 'F--- that. I'm never going to do that again.'"

Eventually he realized he "needed to be myself," he shares. "I'm an ungainly, weird and wonderful guy and I wear glasses and I get my clothes at thrift stores and I need to be true to who Rainn Wilson is," he jokes.

Wilson adds that he believes that he would have never been able to "successfully" take on his iconic character on The Office, if it weren't for the "really miserable experience" he had on Broadway.

Byron Cohen/NBCU Photo Bank Rainn Wilson and Ed Helms as Dwight Schrute and Andy Bernard on 'The Office'
Byron Cohen/NBCU Photo Bank Rainn Wilson and Ed Helms as Dwight Schrute and Andy Bernard on 'The Office'

Related: 'The Office' Stars Celebrate 10 Years Since Series Finale: 'A Lot of Beauty in Ordinary Things'

"It helped me find my authentic voice, which is, you know, a little, little left of center," he continues. "It is different."

Speaking to his similarities with Dwight, Wilson adds, "Dwight and Rainn, both are kind of socially awkward and don't fit in and have kind of a skewed way of seeing the world. Which is good trouble, but beyond that, there's not really that many similarities."

Now that it's been a decade since The Office aired its series finale, the actor says he has the career he's always wanted. With a hit show, "a good dozen movie roles" and top billing in a few plays, he shares how he's been able to "make a living and play some cool characters."

"People may not be watching the stuff that I'm doing, but I don't really care as much. You know?" he says. "Unlike being a professional athlete, we have a very narrow shelf life and I want to die on stage doing King Lear. I want to keel over in a heart attack at age 89. But that's the cool thing about acting. You don't retire. You just keep going."

"The thing I love about the theater is you get trained in the theater to just play characters. I played dozens of characters before I played Dwight. Dwight, who was the one that really took off," he later adds. "I've played dozens of characters since I played Dwight, and that's where I get off the most, like a get a script. And there's some kind of offbeat dude and like, how am how am I Rainn in a suit who I am and portray that offbeat dude. And I'm so lucky. I'm so blessed that I get to make a career of doing that for a dorky kid from suburban Seattle with the weird family in that and the pimples and the giant head. It's beyond a dream come true."

<p>Nbc-Tv/Kobal/Shutterstock</p> Rainn Wilson as Dwight Schrute on 'The Office'


Rainn Wilson as Dwight Schrute on 'The Office'

Related: 'The Office' Star Rainn Wilson Says He 'Spent Several Years Really Mostly Unhappy' on Beloved Series

In October 2020, Wilson acknowledged the impact the acclaimed comedy series — which aired 201 episodes between 2005 and 2013 — had on viewers during an Instagram Lives series with his on-screen boss Steve Carell.

While discussing the show's surprise resurgence of popularity during the pandemic lockdowns, Wilson said, "One thing that's been really gratifying for me is during this really dark time, I've heard from so many people that they've really appreciated having The Office there — that it has a warmth and humanity to it, kind of a family feel that makes it a special thing and that's helped them during this time, and even helped their mental health.”

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The full episode of Good Trouble with Nick Kyrgios will air on Wednesday, March 20 at 3 p.m. ET/12 p.m. PT domestically on Tennis Channel platforms, on Hana Kuma's YouTube channel, and on all podcast platforms.

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