The Office showrunner Greg Daniels deleted a scene from the Season 9 episode "Dwight Christmas" because it features a White actor wearing blackface in a brief scene. The new version of the episode will replace the old one in syndication and is already on Netflix. The move follows Tina Fey's decision to pull episodes of 30 Rock featuring blackface from streaming services.
“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," Daniels, who developed the U.S. version of The Office for NBC, said in a statement to The Wrap Friday. "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."
"Dwight Christmas" aired on Dec. 6, 2012 during the show's ninth and final season. In the episode, Rainn Wilson's Dwight Schrute tried to get the Dunder Mifflin team to celebrate Christmas in the traditional Schrute Family Pennsylvania Dutch way. Dwight even dressed up as Belsnickel, the Santa Claus-like character in German folklore. Oscar (Oscar Nunez) looked up the character on Wikipedia, only to be horrified to learn Belsnickel's partner is Zware Piet, or Black Peter. The character is "a slave boy often portrayed in colorful pantaloons and blackface."
Stanley (Leslie David Baker) is immediately disgusted by this and told Dwight to stop it. Dwight defended playing Belsnickel and said his family does not "blindly stick to every outmoded aspect of our traditions. However, there is a quick cut to Nate (Mark Proksch), who is wearing blackface and waiting on Dwight to tell him to come up to the office. Dwight texted him not to come though. Later in the episode, Nate is shown with the blackface almost wiped from his face.
The new version of the episode is already streaming on Netflix and replaced the old one wherever the show is available for purchase. When The Office comes to NBCUniversal's Peacock in 2021, the new version will be included there as well.
The decision came after the creators of Scrubs and 30 Rock asked for episodes showing characters wearing blackface to be removed from circulation. On Friday, The Wrap reported that Netflix removed the Community episode "Advanced Dungeons & Dragons" because of a scene showing Ken Jeong in black makeup as a "dark elf." All of these moves have been made amid the Black Lives Matter protests against police brutality and systemic racism.