What did you think about the script when you first got it?
It didn’t seem to be a typical romantic comedy.  I was surprised by the journey.  Because, let’s face it—with a romantic comedy, you kind of know where it’s going.  You’re stupid if you don’t.  But what’s interesting is how it goes against the grain.  It’s not necessarily the journey you think these people are going to think.

Did you play the guitar before this?
My hands were bloodied.  I had never played.  I started playing with a steel string guitar that they gave me to practice on and I had calluses.  I started to learn this on The Office.  He would sit in my trailer for hours teaching me these chords and my fingers were literally numb.  I’m actually an expert on the baritone horn but that would have somehow not worked for the scene.  I don’t think you’ll ever hear it.  It’s the least sexy instrument you could ever hear.

How did you feel when you first met Juliette?
I was incredibly intimidated and nervous.  Here was a world-renowned, Oscar-winning actress and all I wanted her to do was like me.  Within moments, she was completely disarming and kind and had put me at ease.  She could not have been a nicer, sweeter, more self-deprecating person.  That’s the part of her I didn’t know.  She has a huge sense of humor and is able to laugh at herself.  I loved meeting her and working with her.  I still can’t believe I worked with her.  It’s still kind of like a dream.

Some of the parts that were the most relatable were the family weekend.  Can you relate to that?
It’s very similar to my wife’s family, I have to say.  She comes from a family of six brothers and sisters.  The first time I met her entire family was at her brother-in-law’s 40th birthday party and there must have been 100 people there.  I was the new boyfriend stepping into the fray. A lot of families you see in movies are very dysfunctional and they play off of that aspect.  This family is extremely functional and loving, with a huge heart.  My wife’s family was that way.  They embraced me.  They have a beach house in Massachusetts and all get together, at least once a year, in that house.  They play football on the beach, the kids do a talent show for the family.  It’s as if I lifted their family and put it into this movie.  There are so many similarities.  So I understood it and I believed it.  It did not seem unrealistic to me because I know firsthand that these families exist.

Did you ever have one of these embarrassing moments like some of the ones in the film?
[Laughs.]  I was driving over to the house and I wanted to make sure I had decent breath so I had a bottle of Listerine in the car.  Just before I got to the house, I took a swig, swished it around in my mouth, opened the door and spit it out.  Behind me was my future father-in-law.  So when I got to the house, I knew that my girlfriend’s father had seen me spit outside the car.  That was my introduction to him, and that’s become a legendary family [comment]: “Boy, what a class act you were!  A hundred yards from the house, you’re spitting out the door!” So I had my fair share of embarrassing moments.  That was just the first.

So what’s going to happen this season on The Office?
These episodes go places that you would not expect them to go.  That’s what I like about the show.  It doesn’t service its audience.  It doesn’t pander or go where you think it’s going to go.  There are some rocky roads ahead for these relationships.  Plus, all of the inner workings of these relationships, you’ll get to see.  And, you’ll get to know more of the ensemble.

Will you stay with the show?
I’m committed for at least a few more years.  And I love it.  I’m extremely close with the cast and the writers.  I can’t imagine a better work environment.  It’s smart and it’s fun and it’s a fun character to play.  I’m enjoying it tremendously.

Dan in Real Life is directed by Peter Hedges and stars Steve Carell, Juliette Binoche, Dane Cook, John Mahoney and Dianne West.  The film is rated PG-13 for some innuendo and opens nationwide on Friday, October 26, 2007.