Rainn Wilson proudly strolls on to the University Auditorium stage and passionately speaks to an excited crowd of UF students; little about bears, beets or “Battlestar Galactica,” but more about passion and the mechanics behind it.
During the Wednesday event, hosted by UF ACCENT Speakers Bureau, the 57-year-old actor chatted with Ted Spiker, chair of UF’s department of journalism, acknowledging the humorous grasp of his work but touching on the intersectionality between passion, wellbeing and spirituality.
Wilson, who’s notably known for playing the outlandishly lovable Dwight Schrute on the American sitcom, “The Office,” has gone on to write, produce, direct and act in works like “Lessons in Chemistry,” “Mom,” “The Meg” and more.
Wilson opened the conversation saying he initially believed “The Office” would be popular among adults familiar with the workspace and not teenagers, he said.
He also acknowledged the show’s timelessness besides showcasing a humor that would not be received well today.
Several UF students waited a generous chunk of the day to hear Wilson speak.
Arwen Coatss, a 20-year-old UF psychology junior, said she waited in line for about two hours.
“I’ve seen ‘The Office’ about 10 times,” she said. “I know the words to every episode, and Dwight has always been my favorite.”
LeAhyari Garcia, a 20-year-old UF health science sophomore, quotes Wilson’s character on a daily basis.
“It’s my comfort show, and to see the man himself is just a great opportunity, and I wouldn't want to miss it,” she said.
Wilson began his career in the arts at New York University's acting school where he would go on to participate in theater, executing dozens of roles from Shakespeare, Eugene O’Neill and more, he said.
He said during his time in New York City, he battled many mental health problems, limiting him from accomplishing aspirations.
“I had depression, alienation, addiction, loneliness, you name it,” he said.
Wilson didn’t have access to modern-day resources like mental health podcasts or therapy, so he turned to studying spiritual readings, he said.
Wilson has overlapped his devotion into his work, eliciting a meaningful reason to continue acting.
“I think art and spirituality are completely synonymous,” he said. “I think that they both strive for an expression of something beautiful.”
Wilson said the more he’s incorporated devotion into his creative process, the more successful he’s felt with his craft.
“Even playing an absurd, weird character like Dwight, I can't tell you how touched I've been over the years of how much the show means to people,” he said.
He also shared some personal endeavors like his family’s love for animal rescuing and his newfound hobby, tennis.
Wilson closed out the speech with additional words of encouragement for the UF student body.
“Dream big, and you may not be able to achieve that dream,” he said. “But you'll come to find out you're able to achieve so much more than you think.”
Nicole Beltran is a second-year journalism and economics major. This is her first semester as the race and equity reporter. She has previously worked as a translator and editor for El Caimán. In her free time, she enjoys watching movies, trying new foods and drawing.