In a statement today, Daniels said, “The Office is about a group of people trying to work together with mutual respect despite the inappropriate actions of their boss and assistant manager. The show employed satire to expose unacceptable behavior and deliver a message of inclusion. Today we cut a shot of an actor wearing blackface that was used to criticize a specific racist European practice. Blackface is unacceptable and making the point so graphically is hurtful and wrong. I am sorry for the pain that caused.”
The deleted 2012 Christmas episode scene involves Rainn Wilson’s Dwight dressing up for a holiday party as Belsnickel, a Pennsylvania Dutch folkloric St. Nicolas-like character. The office mates protest when they learn that Belsnickel is typically accompanied by a blackface sidekick named Zwarte Piet, or Black Peter, prompting Dwight to text a quick cancelation to the white warehouse worker he’s recruited to play Black Peter. The warehouse worker (Mark Proksch) is seen about to enter the building, in blackface, receiving the text, and later at the party with some of the dark make-up still evident.
The newly edited version will replace the old one on Netflix, in syndication and all other platforms.
The Office joins a growing list of TV shows, films and performers reckoning with past examples of racial humor and portrayals now viewed with a greater sensitivity brought about, in large part, by the Black Lives Matter movement and protests over the police killings of George Floyd, Brionna Tayler and other black Americans. Scrubs and 30 Rock have excised blackface scenes, the bands formerly known as The Dixie Chicks and Lady Antebellum have removed the Old South references from their names, and HBO Max will run an explanatory disclaimer with Gone With the Wind. Both Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel recently apologized for prior use of blackface impersonations.
More recently, Jenna Marbles, one of the most popular YouTube vloggers with more than 3 billion views and 20 million subscribers, quit her channel after posting an 11-minute video apologizing for, among other things, doing a blackface video impersonating rapper Nicki Minaj.