From Jim Halpert to Jack Ryan: John Krasinski and His Departure from “The Office” Typecast

Here is my academic paper on actor John Krasinski’s transition out of “Jim from The Office” and into a Hollywood blockbuster star. I studied the discourse around Krasinski and words from he, himself. I hope you find this interesting and worth the long read!


John Krasinski, the “[t]all, handsome American film and television star…is probably best known for his role as sardonic nice guy ‘Jim Halpert’ on NBC’s popular TV series, The Office…” (IMDB.com). Although he just starred in Michael Bay’s 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi (2016) as navy seal Jack Silva, he is still referred to as Jim. Jim may be off camera, but his shadow is stuck to Krasinski’s presence in audience gossip and entertainment news. He has tried to say goodbye to The Office (2005-2013), but cannot successfully make the transition to film blockbusters.

The discourse around Krasinski’s acting career is intriguing for analysis because other white male television stars of similar stature have successfully made the transition, so why not Krasinski?

Through my exploration of Richard Dyer and Richard deCordova’s stardom, Pamela Wjocik’s typecasting, Michael Newman and Elana Levine’s Legitimating Television, hegemonic norms of gender and sexuality and actors’ transitions from TV to film, I plan to analyze the discourse surrounding John Krasinski and why he has struggled to transition out of The Office and into Hollywood blockbusters like 13 Hours. These scholarly sources will support my primary evidence of film and entertainment websites like Huffington Post, Hollywood.com, IndieWire, MoviePilot and more. The websites looked at comprise of profiles, interviews and analysis on Krasinski as a star. This academic paper is in congruence with a blog post called “Jim, Jack John – John Krasinski and his transition from TV to Hollywood Blockbusters,” that explores Krasinski’s transition to larger films in comparison to actor Chris Pratt. The discourse around Krasinski has larger implications surrounding gender and sexuality dominant norms, generalization of performers, and television’s legitimacy as a medium.

Before I delve into Krasinski as a star, I want to address my primary evidence. Anne Helen Petersen writes about the legitimation of gossip in her piece Gossip Grrrl.

“Gossip: We all do it. And when we do it, we probably think of it as easy conversation rather than as a means of social policing (which it is). But what about celebrity gossip? What happens when the focus of your speculation and chatter shifts from real people with who you live and work to celebrities you’ll never meet?” (46).

Petersen is articulating that gossip is dismissed as unimportant and effortless. However, there is a move of policing occurring with each conversation spoken. I felt the need to recognize the legimation of my primary evidence because historically, movies and celebrity fandom “have long been associated with the working class, with immigrant populations, with women, and with young people” (Petersen, 48). In the 1930s and 1940s, there was an emergence of the paradigm where specific mediums and activities were gendered as feminine—weekend matinees, romance novels, etc.; gossip is considered one of them. And because gossip is considered feminine, blogs, magazines and forums have been deemed feminine as well. “Within this paradigm, celebrity gossip is vapid, useless and hysterical” (Petersen, 49) to all audiences. So, Petersen’s argument is that gossip has been gendered and dismissed as insignificant, but in reality shows a very powerful mechanism of policing that informs populations on what is deemed normal or appropriate. To place Petersen’s theory into the context of my argument, my primary evidence is interviews, profiles and analysis about Krasinski as a star. “Gossip helps reveal the seams in the construction of star images—the labor involved in performing straight-ness, masculinity, whiteness, American-ness” (Petersen 50). Conversing about a star constructs the image that is portrayed across all media. So, to deconstruct the discourse around Krasinski’s star image, I had to go to the primary source where the discussion is occurring: the gossip itself. This discourse within the media shapes how audiences see Krasinski and has the capability to control part of his transition out of Jim from The Office.

John Krasinski has been acting since 2000 as supporting characters in TV shows and smaller blockbuster films such as The Holiday, License to Wed, and It’s Complicated. He has also starred in other smaller films such as Away We Go, Nobody Walks, and Leatherheads. His show The Office ran from 2005 to 2013—filming his movies in between seasons—but now is trying to break out of his typecast through acting and directing. The Office is a documentary-esque show about a paper company named Dunder-Miflin out of Scranton, Pennsylvania. The famous television show stars comedic star Steve Carell supported by Rainn Wilson, Jenna Fischer and Krasinski himself. The show as a media text casts the Jim Halpert shadow onto Krasinski.

Krasinski is a star, and stardom is “the status of being a famous or exceptionally talented performer in the world of entertainment…” (Google). The star is an actor whose purpose is to connect with their audience. They play a key role in the film industry that is more than just for entertainment or art. In his research of star studies, Richard Dyer argues that stars are polysemic—they make up multiple meanings from different places. He also argues that stars were created as a method of audience consumption. Stars must connect to their audience by balancing a façade of both ordinariness and extraordinariness. They are supposed to be an aspiration for audiences but also be relatable. Krasinski is seen to be relatable through blog posts like “Score One for the Average Guy” (Zimmerman). But, Krasinski is also seen as inspiring from posts similar to “20 Reasons John Krasinski is a Perfect Specimen of Human Creation” (Kornowski). Through the consumption of film, magazines, gossip, etc., audiences have shaped their opinion of Krasinski into a specific image. Although the star is made up of many nuances and characteristics, audiences have constructed Krasinski as a simple, “nice-guy”—which I will explain later in my paper.

Dyer’s complex measure of stars’ relates to my analysis of the discourse surrounding Krasinski because he is considered a star. Richard deCordova’s studies on stars ties into Dyer’s because deCordova argues that through consumption of stars, “the film actor, as a character type, was to be a conventional hero…in his or her personal narrative just as he or she was in films” (104).

Meaning, audiences expect Krasinski to be very similar to ‘Halpert’—and because Krasinski has said several times in interviews that he sees a part of himself in ‘Jim’, audiences have latched onto this idea and not let go. Thus, discourse surrounding him is very much placing him to be everything that Jim is. To most people, they are one in the same.

 “Krasinski is very much like that dude you knew in college: easygoing and funny without the obnoxious laughter-as-heroin need of a stand-up comedian…In that way, the lean, 6’3” actor resembles Jim, his character on The Office: an average, likable guy who’s bemused by the insanity of everything around him.”

Krasinski is ordinary, he’s average, but people love him for that. Then, his extraordinariness emerged stronger when he physically transformed into “a perfect specimen of human creation” (Kornowski) for his breakout role as Jack Silva in 13 Hours. He broke his type and the internet could not handle Jim having muscles. [1]   

Dyer defines type as any characterization that reaffirms the current social structure. This is a way for people to make sense of others, fitting them into different categories within society. People who are typed are still included in society, but have a specific label placed on them. Although Dyer explains stereotypes and types in the context of representation, his analysis on types converges with my context of Krasinski being typed as the “nice-guy.” In relation to Hollywood films, typing turns into typecasting. In her critique of Hollywood typecasting, Pamela Robertson Wojcik argues typing is “refer[ing] most broadly to an actor’s ability to embody something typical or representative of the human condition” (227). There are many types in society and actors fulfill those types on-screen. She argues there is a contradictory expectation of typecasting within Hollywood and its fans. Type is at odds with the term character. While type “is relatively simple, shallow and unchanging,” (Wojcik, 226) character is “complex, deep and developing” (Wojcik, 226).

There is a tension within typecasting. Wojcik argues that typing critiques actors’ ability to play other roles while also critiquing the performance of the actor’s role within the specific type. From the audience perspective, we “expect actors to stick to type” (Wojcik, 224) while at the same time we “reject actors’ efforts to play against type” (Wojcik, 224). Audiences expect actors to stay within their limits but also break out of their limits, and both times lead to criticism. Although we understand typecasting is restrictive, she argues that it is “inescapable” (Wojcik, 224) due to the fact that typing in society is natural because that is how people understand the world they live in.

The “nice-guy” typecast is connected to the stereotype—in film—of the pansy, sensitive man. Hegemonic ideals of gender have created a dichotomy within masculinity, and Krasinski as a star is trying to move from one side to the other. The dichotomy of masculinity is hyper-masculine man vs. the sensitive man. This binary stems from the gender binary of masculinity and femininity. The gender binary describes masculinity as active, rational, and public; femininity is described as passive, emotional and within the private sphere. The sensitive man, the “nice-guy” resembles a more feminine man—one that respects women, has emotions and is passive. Jim Halpert is the “nice-guy” who fits into this stereotype of sensitive man. His relationship with Pam is loved by most audiences, he sits in an office all day, and the only aggressive (hyper-masculine-esque) image of him in all nine seasons is a small frown.[2] Understanding this type as the “nice-guy” is important because Krasinski is being limited to only play this type of character.

Michael Arbeiter from Hollywood.com questions whether or not Krasinski will ever be able to break free of Jim Halpert. Arbeiter argues that the discourse around him, not his capabilities, is what is keeping him from playing “a villain, a fool, [or] a weirdo” (Hollywood.com). Because he has played the “nice-guy” for several years, “we [audiences] don’t think we’re allowed to associate the man with anything unpleasant” (Hollywood.com). In his article, Arbeiter believes that “everybody likes Jim,” but speaks to Krasinski and encourages him to “remind everyone that there are better things to be than Jim” (Hollywood.com). I do not want to argue that having the typecast of “nice-guy” is 100% bad; typecasting is very common; however it is limiting Krasinski’s potential. It is restricting him to the walls of one box-on-the-shelf—and producers continually are taking down the “nice-guy” box off the wall. This leaves Krasinski unable to move from box-to-box, from type-to-type.

Implying that yes, his character on The Office was great, but he has the potential to do so much more. While the majority of discourse around Krasinski is about ‘Jim,’ actor Matt Damon is one friend who recognizes the typecast that Krasinski has fallen in to. Damon compares Krasinski to George Clooney, beginning his acting career on a famous television show before switching to Hollywood. “And that’s what I feel about John: he’s great on his show, on ‘The Office’ he’s fantastic, but that’s just a piece of what he’s going to do. He’s really great” (Koenowski). Different than most discourse around Krasinski, Damon sees Krasinski’s career more than just Jim from The Office. Damon references the problem with typecasting. Stars are complex people with many characteristics and identities. However, Hollywood has limited the ability of actors to expose their complexities and perform all different types of characters. MoviePilot Staff writer Kristin Lai notices Krasinski breaking out of his typecast as a nice, average, comedic guy.

“I actually love John’s work and think he could play just about anything, but somehow this pairing seems a bit strange to me. Maybe it’s just because I can’t imagine Jim Halpert jumping through Bay-esque explosions…This is not to say that I have no faith in John’s acting ability…It would actually be great to see him break his typecasting! He deserves it” (Lai).

This is just one post about audience confusion—but also excitement—of Krasinski breaking out of The Office. 13 Hours gave Krasinski a tough-guy role in an action movie, while still maintaining his family-man, “nice-guy” typecast. ‘Silva’ is still an emotional character, with a wife and children; thus he is still reinforcing part of his type. This character is unique because it breaks the dichotomy of hyper-masculinity or sensitive man. Krasinski is both sensitive and very masculine; audiences can sympathize with his relationships with his family and CIA-mates but also gaze upon his hyper-masculine body and stature as he runs through explosions. But was it enough to get Krasinski out of ‘TV actor’ and into the ‘Hollywood blockbuster star’ label?

Historically, the discourse around Hollywood actors has put them above television actors in a socially constructed hierarchy of stars in the industry. Michael Newman and Elana Levine argue that “movies have long been elevated culturally above television, especially since the post-war years of art cinema…” (Newman, 5). The film industry would legitimate itself as a more elite or legitimate medium than TV through portraying film as good culture and television as bad culture. Years prior stars would leave TV to head to the movies.  “They’d become so famous that the measly, lesser TV screen could no longer hold them” (Buchanan). It was a step towards a more legitimate medium. Recently, this hierarchy is blurring and the difference between TV and film actors are disappearing.

The large pay off isn’t only going towards movie stars; TV actors fame and fortune are closing the gap between the two. The cultural difference between the two mediums is only a social construct, and television writers, producers and actors have recently began to pick up on it. There is a change occurring. Movies have somewhat “dropped the ball when it comes to providing the meaty, dramatic parts that actors yearn to play” (Buchanan). Television is now becoming more “high-quality” with award winning casting, dramas and well written content rather than just sitcoms and reality shows. Plenty of movie actors are going to television, and TV stars are getting into the large-screen. However, some TV actors are struggling to breakout into Hollywood. Ellen Seiter, media scholar, explains the difference in TV and movie actors.

 “’No matter how well known, a feature film role only lasts a little more than two hours…by comparison, successful television series roles last for dozens of hours,” sometimes over years, meaning “actors become inextricably linked to those roles in the eyes of the audience…’” (Dupont).

She argues that because audiences are connected with TV actors for—potentially—several years, and a film actor plays that role usually one time, audiences are more prone to characterize an actor as a certain role on TV than in film. Hence, Krasinski’s situation where he is stuck with the ‘Jim’ typecast. Krasinski brings life to this struggle of leaving behind his sitcom role and playing different types of roles. While Krasinski has been in other roles after the end of The Office in 2013—roles such as John Woodside in Aloha, Jack Silva in 13 Hours, and John Hollar in The Hollars—the discourse around him has not changed from the last episode at Dunder-Mifflin. Opposite of Krasinski’s situation, Chris Pratt is a good example of a television actor who transitioned well into Hollywood blockbusters.

For Pratt, Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) was the breakout moment where he is now an Oscar-worthy actor. Krasinski, on the other hand, had his breakout blockbuster in 13 Hours. Both white, average-looking males starred in competing TV comedic sitcoms for a long period of time and no one had heard of them as anything but their character name until their first large blockbuster film. However, Krasinski is not considered a blockbuster actor just yet. While he gained media attention before and during the exposition of his newest action-movie, the media consistently referred to him and continues to refer to him as Jim from The Office. Chris Pratt is no longer only recognized as Andy Dwyer from Parks and Recreation (2009-2015), but only as Chris Pratt—the action star. The discourse around Pratt is much different than Krasinski despite the fact that they are very similar by Hollywood standards. Both actors were pudgy, average-looking actors, played smaller roles in movies on season breaks, and drastically changed their physique for upcoming roles. Pratt transformed his body and his acting ability through his films Zero Dark Thirty (2012), Guardians and Jurassic World (2015). Kurp of Uproxx argued that 2014-2015 was “the year of Chris Pratt” because he “passes every metric of a ‘cool’ celebrity: he seems like he seems like someone you’d want to get a beer with, he’s able to transition between cult comedies and blockbusters, has an awesome wife, [and] uses the word ‘dude…’” (Kurp). He’s ordinary, but much cooler than the average guy. Very similar to Krasinski, yes?

I believe that Krasinski understands he has been typecasted as the “nice-guy Jim” based on the way he speaks about his role in The Office. His Sundance interview with Kate Erbland from IndieWire sheds light on his attempt at getting more complex roles in Hollywood:

“’I don’t know if I pictured myself as an action star, but I always wanted to do a movie like that [13 Hours]… Listen, “The Office” for 10 years was a great story, and I’m so honored to be a part of it… [but] I would love to do more action stuff and bigger stuff. Getting in shape like that is something I was always wanted to do, and I understand that people need to see it. If I said before, “I can be in a Marvel movie,” they’re like, “Ehhh.” Then when you make a transformation like I did for “13 Hours,” then people are like, “Oh, I can actually see it happen.” So hey, here’s hoping’” (Erbland).

Krasinski understands the gender politics at play here. As seen through many actors like Pratt, legitimacy as a star and versatility as an actor are somehow connected to one’s physical body. Changing one’s physique to another—becoming hyper-masculine—leads audiences and Hollywood to believe actors have more capability for complexity in their performance. Because the gender dichotomy perpetuates masculinity as more complex and femininity more simple, this transformation—to a much more masculine body and character—thus reinforces the hegemonic ideals of gender.

Understandably so, he hopes that more masculine roles like 13 Hours will come to him, because he is ready to try something new. LA Times writer Amy Kaufman interviewed him about how he “is over being the nice guy” (Kaufman).

“’I don’t want to play pansies anymore.’ That’s exactly what I’m headed toward … I want to play something a little more real and gritty.’…”This is the time for me to step out and show that I don’t just want to play the “nice-guy” roles, and I think I’ll find out what my limits are,” Krasinski, 33, said over lunch shortly before Christmas” (John Krasinski Digs Deeper).

It is interesting how he calls himself a pansy in the interview with Kaufman, and that he wants to move towards more “gritty” roles—implying masculinity. His language about himself is perpetuating the hyper-masculinity vs. pansy, sensitive man. Krasinski is continuing his transition to film and more action roles. But, the discourse around him is still very stagnant. His newest announcement of his role as Jack Ryan in a new Amazon series creates more complexity for Krasinski.

He is coming back to TV for the time being, however he is trying out a hyper-masculine role rather than comedic like The Office. Krasinski is now seen as a more legitimate candidate for more complex roles, character variation and different types.

“His muscular, macho turn in this past January’s 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, as a military contractor tasked with protecting the notorious American compound, undoubtedly paved the way for his newest role, and perhaps his most high-profile.” (Charles Bramesco).

Without 13 Hours, the media overall believes, Krasinski would not have received the Jack Ryan role.

Like Anne Helen Petersen argued, gossip is a form of social policing that does have affects on people, especially actors. A blog post about Krasinski affects the industry’s opinion on him. Like he said himself, without the role as a navy seal, Krasinski wouldn’t be seen as a legitimate action actor. The type of “nice-guy” is very limiting on not only his career but also his complexities as an actor and person.

In my paper, I argued that John Krasinski as a star is stuck in the stagnant discourse of the label Jim. Using scholarship from Richard Dyer, Richard deCordova, and Pamela Wjocik, I have delved into theories behind stardom, typing, typecasting, gender norms and actor transition from Television to Hollywood. My scholarship stands as a base for analyzing my primary evidence of entertainment websites and internet gossip as a way of policing Krasinski’s transition from Jim Halpert to roles like Jack Silva and Jack Ryan. The policing of Krasinski’s “nice-guy” type has broader cultural and social implications on stars and people in general because it perpetuates hegemonic ideas as normal.

As stated previously, typing—characterizing—people is a common method of making sense of the world. However, typing is limiting an actor’s ability to perform complex roles in TV and film. Hollywood already limits feminine character’s roles—making them generally more simplistic than masculine roles—so typing characters only limits their potential further. Krasinski attempting to become more masculine in his roles is important because he is expanding his performances; however, it speaks to multiple dichotomies of gender within our society. Krasinski as a TV actor, trying to move to Hollywood film, is a key example of the blurring lines of TV and film actors. Moving back to television—in his upcoming series on Jack Ryan—Krasinski is playing into the politics of legitimizing television as something closer to Hollywood cinema; breaking down the social hierarchy of the entertainment industry.

John Krasinski is much more than Jim from The Office. Audiences are slowly moving towards understanding Krasinski’s capabilities. An article from Vulture, a pop-culture website, announced his newest role with the title “In a Continued Quest to Distance Himself From Jim Halpert, John Krasinski Will Star in Amazon’s Jack Ryan” (Ivie). From my analysis, entertainment gossip is noticing Krasinski’s shift in performances. While he has not completely moved away from the Jim Halpert character, each hyper-masculine character he will play, hopefully will do the trick.


Work Cited

Arbeiter, Michael. “Can John Krasinski Break Free of Jim Halpert?”Hollywood.com. Hollywood.com, LLC. Web.

Buchanan, Kyle. “TV Stars Don’t Need to Make It in the Movies Anymore.” Vulture.com. Vulture.com, LLC. 12. Mar. 2014. Web.

DeCordova, Richard. Picture Personalities: The Emergence of the Star System in America. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2001. Print.

Dittman, Earl. “John Krasinski poignantly closes the door to ‘The Office.’ Digital Journal. 10 May, 2013. Web.

Dupont, Veronique. “TV to movies: How hard is it for actors to make the jump?” Rappler. 24 Aug. 2014. Web.

Dyer, Richard. “The Role of Stereotypes,” in The Matter of Images: Essays on Representation (New York: Routledge, 1993).

Erbland, Kate. “Sundance: Why ‘The Hollars’ Director and Star John Krasinski Doesn’t Mind If You Call His Film ‘Sundance-y'” IndieWire. 26 Jan. 2016. Web.

Ivie, Devon. “In a Continued Quest to Distance Himself From Jim Halpert, John Krasinski Will Star in Amazon’s Jack Ryan.” Vulture. 30 Apr. 2016. Web.

Kaufman, Amy. “John Krasinski digs deeper.” LA Times. 2 Jan, 2013. Web.

Kornowski, Liat. “20 Reasons John Krasinski Is A Perfect Specimen Of Human Creation (PHOTOS, GIFS, VIDEOS).” Huffington Post. 9 Aug. 2013. Web.

Kurp, Josh. “10 Reasons You Should Be Elated 2014 is The Year of Chris Pratt.” Uproxx. 21 Jan. 2014. Web.

Lai, Kristin. “John Krasinski Could Completely Break His Typecasting in Michael Bay’s New Movie.” MoviePilot. 16 Jan. 2015. Web.

Newman, Michael and Elana Levine. “Legitimating Television.” Legitimating Television: Media Convergence and Cultural Status. (New York: Routledge, 2012). 1-13.

Petersen, Anne Helen. “Gossip Grrrl” (Bitch Media, 2012)

Robertson Wojcik, Pamela. “Typecasting.” Criticism 45.2 (2003): 223-4

Zimmerman, Mike. “Score One for the Average Guy.” Men’s Health. 17 Nov. 2007. Web.

[1] This comment plays into how audiences continually referred to Krasinski as Jim when announcing the actor’s role in 13 Hours.

[2] Searching through Google images under the search terms “Jim Halpert mad,” the first 11 pages contained no images of Krasinski expressing aggression or any emotion other than a soft smile or kissing Pam.

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