Steve Carell reprised his role as Michael Scott in the series finale of The Office but the cameo almost didn't happen. It took a lot of convincing to persuade the actor to return for the last episode when The Office officially ended its nine-season run in May 2013.
Michael Scott exited the NBC series towards the end of the seventh season. The character finally got his happy-ever-after as he moved to Colorado to be with the love of his life, Holly Flax (Amy Ryan). He surprisingly left his Scranton life behind while mostly avoiding the difficult goodbyes with his office mates. In reality, the character left because Carell wanted to focus on his film career. Having been a lead character since The Office's debut in 2005, Carell felt like it was time to move on.
The Office ran for two more seasons after Carell left. As the series finale began to draw closer, viewers started to wonder if everyone's favorite boss, Michael Scott, would be making a return. Dwight and Angela's wedding took the focus of the final episodes of the series. This allowed for a type of reunion as many characters made their return to celebrate the nuptials. Michael appeared at the most fitting time to serve as Dwight's best man. The cameo was a perfect sendoff to The Office, but everyone was led to believe it would never happen.
Prior to The Office's finale, Carell was asked repeatedly if he would appear in season 9, specifically the last episode. The actor vehemently stated that he was asked multiple times to reprise his role as Michael but always declined, explaining that it wouldn't make sense with the character's arc. Series creator Greg Daniels also confirmed the news that Carell would not appear in the finale.
During the show's final season, the cast of The Office led viewers to believe that they still had hope that Carell would change his mind. Daniels has shared that they tried again to get the actor to come back but to no success. NBC and Carell's agent started to decline comments which led viewers to believe something was up. Carell was confirmed to be on set during the finale but they claimed he was not filming any scenes. Instead, it was told that he was present to celebrate the end of the series with his former Office co-stars.
The denial continued but it was finally revealed that Carell would indeed have a very brief cameo in The Office series finale. Daniels and his team even kept it a secret from NBC as they wanted to surprise everyone. Despite all of the previous statements, it's likely that Michael's return was the secret plan all along. It was a special moment for the cast, as well as the loyal viewers who watched the series from the beginning. Michael's cameo didn't take away the focus from characters at the center of the finale but it was a necessary addition seeing as he was once the face of The Office.