“Oscar Nunez of NBC’s ‘The Office’ is the gayest straight man on television.”

Oscar Nunez, who plays Oscar Martinez on NBC’s “The Office,” is a comedic actor. His background, in sketch comedy and improv, reflects that. So true to his work, Nunez even went to the extent of humoring up his bio. Of course, this wasn’t known going into the interview.

Nunez recently spoke to Zoiks! Online about his bio, his gay role on television, and if Steve Carell is really like his character on “The Office.”

Q - I was reading that you were adopted and fostered by Cuban parents and then later came to the states to study improv and comedy. Is that true?

A – You got your hands on a bio and it was totally comedy stuff. I am Cuban, my parents are Cuban and I was not adopted.

Q – (laughs) Oh, I was reading a bio and thought it was odd when I read it.

A – It was written comedically. I was not adopted and my parents would be very angry to hear that.

Q – How did you or why did you decide to go into stand-up comedy and improv?

A – I never really went into stand-up. I went into more of the sketch comedy in New York City. Stand-up, I find it really difficult. It’s not really my thing.

Q – Have you ever tried stand-up?

A – I’ve done it once in a while and sometimes it flies and sometimes it doesn’t. It’s just not my thing. Maybe some day.

Q – What was the attraction to sketch comedy because the two, sketch comedy and stand-up, are pretty similar?

A – Yeah, you’re right. We were writing our own sketches when I was doing it in New York. I’ve always just been attracted to comedy.

Q – Is that something you have to take classes for? Do you think people have to be naturally funny to be successful?

A – Yeah, I think so. You know, Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds, I don’t know if they’ve ever done improv or stand-up, I don’t know that much about them, but those guys are funny. If you go out and hang out with Sandra Bullock or Ryan Reynolds, they’re funny. They’re just funny people. I don’t know what my point is, but I don’t think it’s something you can teach. I think everyone you know who is a funny person – Mike Myers, Will Ferrell – all those guys who are comedians, I think they were going to be funny whether they were going to take a class or not.

Q – Did you take classes?

A – Yeah, I auditioned for a sketch comedy group in New York City and I got in and we performed in the lower East Village on the weekends. Till this day I’m still friends with a lot of the people from the group.

Q – I read that you founded and performed in The Shock of the Funny Theatre Company in New York City.

A – I wasn’t a founding member but I was one of the first members. The founding member is this guy Mike Player, who is the artistic director for The Gay Mafia, which is a gay, improv, sketch group here in Los Angeles.

Q – “The Office” premiered in the U.S. in 2005. It was instantly a success. With success a lot of times you see writers and behind the scenes people jumping ship for other shows or even their own pilots. However, the writing has stayed consistently funny since it first broadcast. Did you lose a lot of writers?

A – No, a lot of the writers are still the same people. We’ve hired new people. But a lot of the same people, Greg Daniels still writes, B.J. Novak, Mindy Kaling, Paul Lieberstein, Lee (Eisenberg), and Gene (Stupnitsky) are still there, and Jennifer Celotta has been there for a while. So a lot of the writers from the first couple seasons are still with us in the sixth season. Some new faces but a lot of the same people have stayed on.

Q - How much of the writing is contributed by the cast regarding the characters they play? In other words, how much input do you have as a character on the show?

A – We have a little bit of influence, and the longer the show runs there’s a trust that people say, ‘Oh, they must know what they’re doing because we’re doing well.’ If you have an idea you can pipe up. But it’s a smooth running ship so why rock it? But if you have an idea for your character they’re certainly open to it.

Q – Was it your idea to make your character gay on the show?

A – No, it was not my idea to make him gay on the show. I wanted to make him a lesbian but they said you weren’t a woman. So we met halfway and made him male gay.

Q – It seemed that when the show first debuted your character wasn’t gay, like they all of a sudden made him gay.

A – He wasn’t gay at the beginning. They made him gay. They gave him some pills or something.

Q – Gay pills?

A – They hypnotized him while he slept. (laughs)

Q – On the show, Oscar is the straight man in terms of being grounded and the voice of reason. But, your character is also gay. So you could say you’re both a straight man and gay man. You’re the gayest straight man on TV right now?

A – I’m the straightest gay man on TV. Or the gayest straight man, what did you say, the straightest gay man?

Q – The gayest straight man, but I guess it could be the straightest gay man.

A – Either one.

Q – Years ago, having a gay minority on TV was a double whammy. It was almost taboo to talk about it. Now, it’s a common occurrence to see this. But they still won’t swear on TV though. How much has television evolved in terms of seeing homosexual characters as well as strong minority characters?

A – I don’t know if it was that thought out. Oscar was just an accountant and I happen to be Cuban so they made him Mexican, and then they were like, ‘We need a gay character,’ and I’m like the gayest so they made me gay. So, it wasn’t thought out like, ‘Let’s have a gay Latino.’ It didn’t happen that way. It just happened ass backward. There was no master plan to incorporate a gay character. There was none of that.

Q – What is your favorite episode of “The Office”?

A – Oh, there’s so many. I guess the one where Michael pushes me out of the closet.

Q – When preparing for your role as Oscar, how much of Oscar on TV is the same as Oscar in real life in terms of personality?

A – 23.7 percent.

Q – (laughs) Is that a calculated -

A – It’s a very easy job to prepare for, acting wise. Basically, the way I look at it is I’m an accountant, and I don’t want to be filmed, and oh they made him gay. So now I’m gay. But it’s not like I work at a gay bar where there’s a lot of contact with gay people. So, it’s good for me to be gay there because there’s no gayness going on. My character is gay, but you can have a knife and a fork but you can’t eat a steak if there’s no steak in front of you. You just have a knife and fork. I can’t do anything with my gayness so I can’t use my knife and fork because there’s no, maybe no steak, but there’s no sausage. There’s no sausage.

Q – You’re not gay in real life though.

A – The jury is still out on that. I reserve my right to choose. I like freedom. I wake up in the morning and say, ‘I don’t know, should I have a popsicle or a donut?’ You know, who knows?

Q – Do people come up to you thinking you’re gay living in Hollywood?

A – No, they don’t. The gay community gets the acting thing. I don’t get a lot of people coming up to me; it’s mostly kids and college frat guys or something.

Q – I have to ask. Is Steve Carell like his character on the show?

A – Yes, he’s exactly like Michael Scott. How he makes it through the day, he has a lovely wife and kids, I’ll never know. I wonder why Nancy stays with him. (laughs) He’s like Michael Scott. (laughs) No, Steve is obviously not like Michael Scott. Michael Scott’s insane. Why would you think that? I’m going to tell Steve that.

Q – Look at a lot of his movie characters, “Get Smart,” “40-Year-Old Virgin,” and even when he was on “The Daily Show,” there was something really odd about him.

A – You understand he’s acting, right? He’s playing a character. He’s really not like that. He drives a really cool car. He’s not like that (laughs). I’ll tell him you thought he was.

Q – Well, I appreciate your time and you doing this.

A – My pleasure man. It was lots of fun.


Jason Tanamor is the Editor of Zoiks! Online. He is also the author of the novels, "Hello Lesbian!" and "Anonymous." Email Jason at jason@zoiksonline.com.

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