Big news (and sad news) for THE OFFICE fans. Yes, Steve Carell is leaving at the end of the season of the NBC series, but he’s leaving much earlier than expected.

Instead of making the last episode of the season his swan song, executive producer Greg Daniels revealed to ASSIGNMENT X tonight in an exclusive interview at the NBC Winter TCA party, that Carell will be departing on the April 28th episode, giving THE OFFICE a handful of episodes to deal with the aftermath of Michael Scott’s exit during the rest of Season Seven.

“The big scoop tonight, he’s not leaving at the end of the season, he’s leaving before sweeps,” Daniels tells us. “And we’re going to sort of play out the jockeying of everyone there for his job and outside interviews and the struggle to find a replacement – that’s going to be the end of the season.”

But will Carell make one last appearance during the last episode of the season, and Daniels notes, “no.”

In terms of storytelling, Daniels says that true to THE OFFICE form, the show will treat Scott’s exit like any manager’s exit from the office – with everyone moving on and getting back to work, well, work, in THE OFFICE sort of way.

“It’s a bit of an unusual situation to have a lead leave a show, but we felt like the story is not ending with his leaving Dunder Mifflin,” says Daniels. “If you look at what the big event is in their lives, it’s ‘Oh my god, who is going to run the office?’ ‘Is it going to be me? Do I have a shot at it?’ ‘Who is that person they’re meeting with?’ We’re going to take advantage of the natural curiosity people have [when it comes to replacing somebody] and incorporate it into the storyline.”

While a replacement for Carell hasn’t been named, Daniels says that to fill the gap, they will also be adding some new cast members into the mix and he feels the story will go on without Scott manning THE OFFICE ship.

“When Jim and Pam got together, people were like ‘what are you going to do? There will be not more will they or won’t they,’ but we still managed to do great big episodes with them getting married and the baby,” says Daniels. “I think that it’s kind of dangerous to keep going without Steve, but it’s also leading to a lot of big episodes and the change is kind of creatively exciting. I think a bigger danger would have been not to change anything about the show and just kept going. Steve is fantastic, but our impression from what we read online, people love the ensemble too and the other characters and the other actors we have. I think most shows would be very content to have one or two of them as the lead on their show and we have five or six of them.”

The other big news, THREAT LEVEL MIDNIGHT, the script Michael wrote and has been shooting with his camcorder over the last six years will finally be completed in an upcoming episode.

“And it’s not a good movie,” adds Daniels. “It’s not the worst movie ever. It’s not good. He’s been shooting it for the last six years, so people who are no longer on the show will be in the movie.”

(additional reporting by A.C. Ferrante)

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