The following was taken from my article for The Daily Tar Heel in December 2016.
By Zach Goins
T.J. Miller has been to some pretty crazy Christmas parties, but nothing that will top what audiences will see in his new movie, “Office Christmas Party.”
In “Office Christmas Party,” which officially hits theaters on Dec. 9, Miller plays Clay Vanstone, a manager throwing a wild party in a last-ditch effort to land a huge client to keep his CEO (and sister) from shutting down his branch. As parties in movies tend to do, the night gets very, very out of hand.
Paramount Pictures hosted a college conference call on Dec. 6 to let Miller shed some light on the movie, his own experience with Christmas parties and which ingredient he represents in the giant recipe that is the movie’s cast of comedy stars.
“I’m paprika,” Miller said. “Paprika’s sort of the spice that is it’s own kind of flavor, but helps to enhance and heighten the other flavors, and that’s what I was. Hopefully I was the ingredient that both added something to the overall film but also helped sort of enhance and elevate the flavors of comedy around us.”
The star-studded cast features comedy legends like Jennifer Aniston and Jason Bateman, along with some of Hollywood’s hottest rising stars like Kate McKinnon, Olivia Munn, Randall Park and Karan Soni.
“You can’t have a great dish without great ingredients, and this is an ensemble comedy so there are quite a few ingredients,” Miller said. “This ain’t no chicken marsala. White wine, capers and a little vinegar. This is a very complicated dish, like a Baked Alaska or a soufflé that does rise to the occasion.”
Looking at the cast, there seems to be one name that stands out: Courtney B. Vance, the winner of the 2016 Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or a Movie. Landing a role in this raunchy comedy may not seem like an obvious next step after Vance’s performance as O.J. Simpson’s lawyer Johnnie Cochran in “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story,” but Miller said goofing off with Vance was one of the best parts of filming. Miller said his favorite scene involved sliding down a Slip’N Slide with Vance.
“That was a real stunt, we really did it,” Miller said. “We were moving like really fast, like 15, 20 miles an hour with the harnesses on. But it’s just funny, he’s like this award-winning dramatic actor and he was such a silly goose in this movie. We just both had so much fun doing that, doing different poses, dabbing, just joking around and it ended up just being kind of, I don’t know, that was a part of the movie that was just fun.”
Although the movie is fictional, that doesn’t mean Miller hasn’t had some crazy Christmas party experiences of his own, involving a ceiling completely covered in mistletoe, a homemade hat built from half of a keg and plenty of alcohol.
“I kissed 15 people,” Miller said. “Some of them women, some of them animals. I had a dog lick my mouth for an hour and a half before I realized it wasn’t the person that I was talking to.”
His partying didn’t come without consequences, though.
“I got mono, three different strains of mono, which is strange because mono means one,” Miller said. “Also, using a hacksaw I cut an empty keg in half and wore it as a hat, which was not as funny as when you wear a lampshade as a hat, it’s much heavier. So, I also fractured my clavicle.”
But on a more serious note, Miller said he hopes the movie can give audiences an escape from the drama of 2016 before moving forward to face what’s to come in the new year.
“I think now more than ever, right now, we need something to sort of go and laugh at that’s positive and inclusive and a little bit more than that, even,” Miller said. “Let’s party. It’s about a huge party. It’s about everybody coming together to party, and that’s the message. It’s not that hard to promote a comedy during the apocalypse.”
If anything, the movie will be able to serve as a break from all of the family gatherings that are bound to occur in the month of December.
“It’s just a good time and, also, it wouldn’t hurt for us all to not have to talk to our families for an hour and a half,” Miller said. “That’s a bonus. We’re offering you sort of two and half to three hours of stress-free holiday with family, so that’s a pretty good pitch right now more than ever.”
Zach Goins is a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association based in Charlotte, N.C. Zach co-founded Inside The Film Room in 2018 and serves as Editor-in-Chief of the website and co-host of the podcast. Zach also serves as a film critic for CLTure.org.