Steve Carell to Leave 'The Office' Before the End of the Season

Steve Carell, who plays Michael Scott on The Office, will depart the series with four episodes left to go in the season, showrunner Paul Lieberstein told HitFix at the NBC's Television Critics Association press conference. His exit will follow one or two weeks after Amy Ryan's final episode, fueling speculation that Scott will leave Dunder Mifflin to pursue a romance with Ryan's character, his old love interest Holly.

Carell announced in June that this would be his last season on The Office, but it was assumed he would appear in every episode of this final season. This is the first time we're hearing that Carell will leave the show before the season finale.

Lieberstein also spilled which three Office characters are in serious consideration to replace Scott as head of the Scranton paper company, but revealed that his replacement will not necessarily be an internal hire:

• Once Michael is gone, the real scramble to replace him begins, and those final four episodes will feature not only internal candidates jockeying for position, but a number of new actors brought in from outside.

• The list of significant candidates from the current cast that he and fellow producer Greg Daniels are considering is down to three: Darryl, Dwight and Andy. I asked about Mindy Kaling's Kelly, and he laughed and said she would probably find a way to insert herself into the running. I also asked about Jim, and Lieberstein agreed with me that Jim-as-manager has never served the character very well.

• Whoever gets the job of running the Scranton branch, be it a promoted regular or a newcomer, won't necessarily be the new star of the show. Everyone recognizes that it's an impossible task to ask any one actor to replace Carell, and the approach going forward will be more of an ensemble one. So where every episode in the past had to have a significant Michael story, things will now be more unpredictable, with perhaps Dwight and Kevin getting the two main plots one week, and Andy and Ryan the next.

Read the full story at HitFix.

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Kevin Fallon is a reporter for the Daily Beast. He's a former entertainment editor at TheWeek.com and former writer and producer for The Atlantic's entertainment channel.

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