The Emmy-winning actor stopped by The Late Show With Stephen Colbert on Monday, June 13, where he talked about directing the near-fatal episode of the hit NBC sitcom. The episode, titled “Work Bus,” saw the entire office forced to work on a bus for the day due to Jim (John Krasinski) messing with Dwight (Rainn Wilson). A refrigeration unit was attached to the bus to keep the cast cool while filming, and therein lay the problem.
“What they didn’t plan on, they didn’t think,” Cranston explained, “that where the intake for the refrigeration system was, was exactly lined up to where the tailpipe of the bus was. So the exhaust of the bus was going right to the intake.”
Jenna Fischer, who played Pam in the award-winning comedy, first told this story in her new book The Office BFFs, which she co-wrote with fellow Office star Angela Kinsey. The chapter in the book is titled “Death Bus,” though Cranston explained that he isn’t fond of that title.
“So, it’s not fair that it’s called Death Bus because no one died. It was — I’ll admit, it was my aim,” he said jokingly.
Cranston did credit Fischer with saving everyone’s life, even though he brushed off her concerns at first. “She said, ‘I smell exhaust. It’s coming inside the bus.’ And I’m thinking, ‘Jenna, I mean, come on. How is that possible? It’s not possible.’”
Despite not believing her initially, Cranston eventually checked the situation out for himself and realized she was right. “I got a chair, and I stood up on the thing, and I stuck my nose up in there, and sure enough, it was billowing down. It was carbon monoxide,” he stated.
“I wasn’t quite sure, so I got a second wind, I got some more, I got nice and dizzy, and then realized, oh my God, we could have all been dead. It would have been one hell of an episode. It would have been the finale before they would have planned that though.”
The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Weeknights, 11:35/10:35c, CBS