Near the end of Season 7 of The Office, Steve Carell departed the show in a move many assumed was to pursue other projects. While the actor behind Michael Scott went on to achieve plenty of success upon his exit, he apparently didn't plan to leave quite as early as he did. In Andy Greene's new book about the NBC classic, The Office: The Untold Story of the Greatest Sitcom of the 2000s, numerous crew members indicated Carell was planning to sign on for a few more years.
When Carell spoke with the BBC in 2010, he implied that Season 7 would "probably be my last year." People at NBC heard his comments, as the show's boom operator and sound mixer Brian Wittle told Greene, and their reaction was what ultimately convinced him it was time to leave. "He didn’t plan on saying it out loud and he hadn’t decided anything. He was kind of thinking out loud," Wittle said of Carell's infamous BBC interview, as per Collider.
Carell noticed how the interview inspired a very muted response from network executives. "When he realized he didn’t get any kind of response from them, he thought, ‘Oh, maybe they don’t really care if I leave. Maybe I should go do other things,’" Wittle added. "So I think that made it easier, because when the news broke that he was considering it, the people that are in charge of keeping him there didn’t make a big effort to do so until afterward."
Hairstylist Kim Ferry also spoke about Carell's departure, indicating that he "didn't want to leave the show." She continued, "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. I don't know if it was a game of chicken or what." Casting director Allison Jones backed up the claims, too, calling NBC's handling of it "asinine."
The show went on for two seasons without Carell, and the later episodes generally garnered a less enthusiastic response from fans and critics alike. Around the time he made the decision to leave, NBC had a reshuffle of people behind the scenes. The Office producer Randy Cordray said that if NBC would have handled the situation better, Carell likely would have stuck around for longer.