October 14th, 2010
10:33 AM ET
For Melora Hardin, returning to "The Office" after a two year absence was like coming back home.
"In a weird way it didn’t feel like I had been gone that long," she told CNN. "It was sort of nice to see everyone, and say hello and all the sets look the same."
Hardin is returning in her role as Jan - Michael Scott's former boss and former girlfriend - on Thursday night's episode, along with several of his previous flames.
The Jan we met when the series began was certainly not the Jan we saw as the series went on. Her relationship with Michael drove her to the breaking point, as seen in Hardin's favorite episode, "The Dinner Party."
"There was a moment where Jenna [Fischer] and John Krasinski and I were stuck in a condominium in the valley, and we could barely keep it together," she said. "I was showing them some scented candles, and we could not stop laughing."
As for the changes that Jan went through, Hardin said, "She kind of unraveled before the audience’s eyes and all of her seams were showing - I liked that about her. That was kind of a magical dance that happened between me and the writers. They would bring me lots of wonderful surprises and I would play with that."
According to Hardin, the Jan we meet this season "has gotten it together. She's not quite as quirky as before. You also meet [her daughter] Astrid, who is now three."
Hardin also kept busy this season working on the NBC series "Outlaw" as a love interest to Jimmy Smits' character, before it was canceled earlier this week.
She had some theories as to why the show - which aired on Friday nights and will now finish its run on Saturdays - didn't find an audience: "They hadn't done any marketing. It's a really hard time slot, pretty much the hardest time slot you could possibly have. They should put the new shows on a Monday night where they can find an audience... even for a few weeks. 'The Office' would have died a sad, slow death if not for [former NBC and now Fox entertainment president] Kevin Reilly, who was an advocate for the show."
Having acted many of her scenes with Steve Carell, Hardin also has some thoughts on who should replace him next season.
"I think I should replace him," she said. "There are so many different characters who could replace him. I think Kathy Bates would be fun, I think Rainn Wilson would be funny. There’s so many options out there, the show has legs on its own, you know? That’s why it’s won [the SAG award] twice for best ensemble. People love that ensemble."
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