‘The Office’ star Brian Baumgartner recalls how a childhood injury led to his successful acting career

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Before Brian Baumgartner achieved fame in “The Office,” he had big dreams of becoming a baseball player.

On Wednesday, the actor made an appearance on Nick Viall’s podcast, “The Viall Files,” where he opened up about a childhood injury that landed him in a wheelchair, disrupting his initial goal.

“If I had an early dream, it was that I was going to be a professional baseball player – all sports really, but baseball was really it for me – but my bone was twisted in my leg from birth, this was the kind of thing I could have lived with forever… my foot was slightly rotated from my knee,” the 48-year-old explained.

“It wasn’t dramatic, it was something that I could have lived with, but if you want to be a professional baseball player, no, you need everything aligned and to be able to run fast,” he said.

During his teenage years, Baumgartner underwent surgery to fix the issue. However, he said “something went wrong” during the procedure.

“Basically what happened was they did the surgery, they put the splint on, they put the cast on to keep the leg in place and there was either some chemical mis-mixture or the cast got really hot at the pressure point… something went wrong but for days I was experiencing pain and [the doctors] were like, ‘He’s fine, give him some morphine,’ and then eventually they were like ‘Well, he shouldn’t be feeling this,’” Baumgartner recalled.

“So they cut the cast off and it had burned through my Achilles tendon at the back of my leg,” he continued. “So now an elective surgery to try and solve a situation created a situation where I had to learn to walk again. There were skin grafts… I was in a wheelchair. I had a walker.”

The health complication made Baumgartner realize that sports may not be in his future.

“I was a very active kid,” he said. “I was playing tennis, basketball, baseball and I needed to find something else. And that’s how I got into theatre… just trying to find something I could do.”

And the decision forever changed his life.

From left: Rainn Wilson as Dwight Schrute, Oscar Nunez as Oscar Martinez and Brian Baumgartner as Kevin Malone in ‘The Office.’
(Photo by Justin Lubin/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images)

Baumgartner is best known for starring as Kevin Malone in the hit sitcom “The Office,” which aired from 2005 until 2013. In the podcast, Baumgartner said he was initially drawn to the show after he saw the original U.K. version.

“I called my agent and said this is the show, she said to me they are looking for unknown people but they are not looking for you unknown – like totally unknown,” he told the outlet. “But my manager worked and worked and got me in a meeting with [casting director] Allison Jones.”

“The Office” was the most viewed show on Netflix in 2018, streamed for over 52 billion minutes, according to Nielsen. That equates to nearly 15 hours for each of Netflix’s 58.5 million U.S. subscribers. “Friends” was No. 2 and “Grey’s Anatomy” was No. 3.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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