Why Did Steve Carell Leave ‘The Office’? The Reason Steve Carell Left After Season 7, Explained

Few actors have left as significant a mark on a TV show as Steve Carell did on The Office. Carell starred in the series for 7 seasons as one of the lead characters, Michael Scott. Scott is the regional manager of Dunder Mifflin, a paper and supplies company. Carell received critical acclaim for his masterful portrayal of Scott, who some consider one of the greatest and funniest TV characters of all time. He garnered a total of six Emmy award nominations and one Golden Globe award win for his performance.

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Scott resonated well with audiences as, despite his flaws and outrageous antics, he proved to be a kind-hearted, well-meaning, and ultimately very lonely man. As the manager of Dunder Mifflin, Scott is not very effective. He is inappropriate towards his staff, makes too many “that’s what she said jokes,” and spends way more time distracting his staff members than he does working or thinking. At the same time, though, he genuinely cares about the company and his staff. He simply struggles with seeing his staff as his family and feeling lonely and underappreciated.

Given Scott’s popularity, many were shocked when it was announced Carell was departing The Office after 7 seasons. The show continued to run for two additional seasons without Carell. However, the Scott-shaped hole was too noticeable to cover up and the show declined significantly. The cast and crew subsequently decided to end The Office after season 9. The Office will still be remembered fondly for decades to come. Many still question, though, why Carell, who was so vital to its success, depart after season 7.

Why did Carell leave The Office?

Carell himself has never spoken extensively on his reasons for leaving The Office. At the time, he kept things vague, merely indicating it was time to move on. In an interview with EW, he stated, “I think [season] 7 will be my last year. I want to fulfill my contract, I think it’s a good time to move on.” When pressed further about his potential of returning or changing his mind, he responded, “No. I just want to spend more time with my family.”

Hence, the official answer at the time was that Carell left to spend more time with family. However, over the years, some have suggested that this wasn’t the full reason. The problem began because Carell had initially signed a contract to stay on The Office for 7 seasons. Given his character’s popularity, one would imagine it would’ve been pretty easy for the contract to be extended. According to Carell’s hairstylist, Kim Ferry, though, the network never reached out to Carell about renegotiating his contract.

In Andy Greene’s book The Office: The Untold Story of the Greatest Sitcom of the 2000s: An Oral History, he alleged Ferry told him:

[Carell] didn’t want to leave the show. He had told the network that he was going to sign for another couple of years. He was willing to and his agent was willing to. But for some reason, they didn’t contact him. He planned on staying on the show. He told his manager and his manager contacted them and said he’s willing to sign another contract for a couple years. So all of that was willing and ready and, on their side, honest. And the deadline came for when they were supposed to give him an offer and it passed and they didn’t make him an offer.

What’s the real reason Carell left The Office?

Since Carell has never explicitly discussed his reasons for leaving, it is difficult to confirm Ferry’s version of it. However, others have also backed up that version of the story, as well. On an episode of An Oral History of The Office podcast, The Office producer Ben Silverman and editor Claire Scanlon, both confirmed that Carell didn’t want to leave. They alleged the network never even bothered trying to get him to stay on.

Before his official announcement of departure, Carell had commented during a BBC Interview that he “might leave” after season 7, due to the end of his contract. However, The Office sound mixer, Brian Wittle, explained that Carell hadn’t made his decision at that point. Instead, it seemed to have been intended as a cue for NBC to start putting effort into getting Carell to stay. As the star of the show, it seems odd the network would just let Carell leave without any offers or negotiations.

Ultimately, it is hard to say what the real reason Carell left was. Likely, it was a mixture of his desire to spend time with family and explore new avenues, as well as the studio’s apparent lackluster attempts to get him to come back. The whole tale about the studio’s alleged actions is disappointing to hear. As the star of the show, it’s unfathomable that the network failed to make an offer for him to return. Without Carell personally addressing the allegations, though, it is difficult to determine what really went wrong at the time.

(Featured image: NBC)

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Rachel Ulatowski
Rachel Ulatowski is a Staff Writer for The Mary Sue, who frequently covers DC, Marvel, Star Wars, literature, and celebrity news. She has over three years of experience in the digital media and entertainment industry, and her works can also be found on Screen Rant, JustWatch, and Tell-Tale TV. She enjoys running, reading, snarking on YouTube personalities, and working on her future novel when she's not writing professionally. You can find more of her writing on Twitter at @RachelUlatowski.