Shafer loves his 'Office' job

By Chris Dickerson | May 11, 2007

Bob (Charleston native Bobby Ray Shafer) and Phyllis (Phyllis Smith) Vance are newlyweds on "The Office."

CHARLESTON – Most of America knows him as "Bob Vance, Vance Refrigeration."

But around here, many people know him as "Bobby Ray Shafer, who grew up on Pinch Ridge up on the Elk River."

Shafer, 49, has made numerous appearances on NBC's "The Office" as Vance, who owns the business next door to the fictional Dunder Mifflin Paper Company in Scranton, Pa. Earlier this season, Vance married Phyllis Lapin (Phyllis Smith), one of Dunder Mifflin's employees.

In his first appearance on the show, he repeatedly introduced himself as "Bob Vance, Vance Refrigeration."

And that line has stuck.

"It works every time," Shafer said. "It's funny because I did it recently when to Greg Daniels' (executive producer) house. And (movie director) Harold Ramis, I did it to him and to Greg Daniels' kids. It got a huge laugh. I did it to Kevin Reilly, president of NBC."

Shafer also said he doesn't mind being known as Bob Vance, Vance Refrigeration.

"Right now, I embrace it," he said. "I might get sick of it later, but right now I love it."

Unlike his "Office" character, Shafer is a lifelong bachelor. He grew up in West Virginia, but moved away in his teens when his mother remarried. His father died in a car accident when Shafer was 9.

After living in Michigan and Maryland and spending some time in West Virginia, Shafer went to Broward College in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. In 1980, he went to Hollywood. He took acting classes under Peggy Feury, whose clientele also has included Sean Penn, Michelle Pfeiffer and Lily Tomlin.

He said he still visits Charleston a few times a year, mostly seeing relatives still here. But he also likes to hit the local golf courses.

Shafer said his work on "The Office" is the most fun he's had in his acting career.

"As an actor, it's very liberating," he said. "And personally, I'm a huge fan of the show. It's just so funny and nuanced."

He said he especially enjoys working with Steve Carell, who plays oblivious Dunder Mifflin boss Michael Scott.

"The great thing about, I think, the potential for our relationship is that I don't have to take any crap from him," Shafer said. "I'm fairly certain that I own the warehouse."

Shafer did say it's been odd that his character has become such a cult favorite.

"What's odd for me is that I've never held onto a character this long," he said. "But now, it's on an ongoing thing, especially if I wear Vance gear or 'Office' stuff. Everybody wants to talk about it. It's not horrible."

He said celebrity has its perks, too.

"It's not bad," Shafer said. "As Dennis Quaid has said, there are three good things about celebrity: good tee times, good tables in restaurant and you can do things for charity."

People even have talked about how much fun a Bob Vance, Vance Refrigeration spinoff would be.

"Of course, I would do that with those guys," Shafer said of the makers of "The Office." "In a heartbeat. They write such good stuff."

Shafer has thought about it a little.

"Oh, of course he would do his own TV commercials," he said. "That's classic stuff right there. There's no question. Plus, the Bob Vance, Vance Refrigeration set is already built."

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