Rainn Wilson, Emmy-nominated actor best known for his portrayal of Dwight Schrute on the critically acclaimed sitcom, “The Office,” shared his personal journey with mental health and spirituality to a sold-out crowd on Wednesday as part of Binghamton University’s Distinguished Speaker Series.

This year’s installment was planned by Campus Activities in collaboration with the Student Association Programming Board’s (SAPB) insights committee. Both of the organizations share similar objectives to inform and inspire the University community through campus-wide events, humanizing prominent speakers who students have grown up watching onscreen in the process.

Chelsea Kaden, chair of the SAPB insights committee and a senior majoring in integrative neuroscience, explained that SAPB was increasingly inclined to bring high-quality programming to BU after previous appearances from fan-favorites like Giancarlo Esposito and, more recently, Brittany Broski.

“After the success of our fall keynote speaker featuring the amazing [Esposito], I would say that we did feel slight pressure to bring someone of equal prominence,” Kaden wrote in an email. “However, we felt more strongly that we wanted to bring someone who would get students just as excited to see. The goal of SAPB is student enjoyment and engagement, so this is why we take the creation of our survey and the results so seriously.”

The event was hosted by Kaden and Vice Chair Atticus Fauci, a sophomore majoring in economics, who guided Wilson’s talk in a live interview format and inquired about consequential moments throughout his career as an actor and author. A brief Q&A session toward the end of the event allowed members of the audience to interact with Wilson themselves, which included several jokes and references to his time on “The Office.”

Wilson, who described himself as a “totally geeky, suburban kid from Seattle,” grew up with divorced parents in a household where he was essentially raised by classic American sitcoms of the 70s and 80s such as “Mash,” “Taxi” and “The Bob Newhart Show.”

“I would watch the kind of comedic side characters — Radar O’Reilly, Jim Ignatowski and Howard Borden — in TV sitcoms and I loved what they did so much,” Wilson said. “I loved the physical comedy and the odd humor … In my head, I was like, ‘I want to do that. I want to do what they’re doing.’”

Wilson began participating in theatre throughout high school and college at the University of Washington in Seattle, attributing his compulsion toward the craft to an “[obvious] genetic component” upon discovering that his birth mother had also been an actor.

As a sophomore in college hoping to pursue acting more seriously, Wilson tried his hand for roles in local productions when he came to the realization that he would need more training to make it in the real world. Wilson explained that he was finally convinced to make that commitment while watching the critically unacclaimed movie-musical adaptation, “A Chorus Line,” a film that ironically drew out that “beautiful, mystical” revelation that would define the rest of his life.

By the time he had secured his breakthrough role in the American adaptation of British sitcom “The Office,” Wilson had already graduated from the Tisch School of Arts at New York University 15 years prior and was doing theater for a decade — balancing callbacks, rejections and miscellaneous side gigs to pay the bills.

“I was the first person to audition for ‘The Office,’” Wilson said. “Literally day one, first person signing in on the call sheet at the casting office. I still have a copy of that.”

Like many other members of the cast, crew and critics, Wilson said he did not anticipate the lasting success of the series, which evaded constant threats of cancellation and suffered from slaughterous reviews upon its release in 2005. He later theorized that perpetual attraction to “The Office” could be explained by the balance of comedy and “real, human moments” exchanged between characters, a decision implemented by head writer and showrunner Greg Daniels.

“No one really foresaw what was going to happen,” Wilson said. “And now I just saw a thing that said we were the fourth most streamed show in the history of all television.”

Despite his gratitude toward “The Office” and the opportunities that followed the show, Wilson explained that he felt “chronically dissatisfied” and “constant not-enoughness” with the direction of his career and discussed his daily struggle with crippling anxiety.

“There’s so many different things that anxiety could be telling you that you need that you’re disregarding,” Wilson said, who recommended that the audience practice self-care and reach out for support if needed. “And then you live as a victim to this kind of unsettled state to dukkha, to anxious discontent.”

Wilson embarked on a spiritual journey in search for a greater sense of peace and purpose, tracing back to his roots in the Baháʼí faith, which embraces religious beliefs from around the world in pursuit of a unified future. To share his newfound discoveries about humanity and society, Wilson co-founded the production company SoulPancake in 2006 and published his bestselling book, “Soul Boom: Why We Need a Spiritual Revolution” in 2023.

Jennifer Keegin, associate director of campus activities who organized the event in collaboration with SAPB’s Insight Committee, expressed her appreciation for Wilson’s vulnerability.

“We love [Wilson’s] positive messages about Joy and taking care of personal mental health,” Keegin wrote. “His popularity with ‘The Office’ is one thing — but also his work with SoulPancake and his books that he’s published. We have had many big-name speakers in the past.”

“[Baháʼí] has informed my whole life and career,” Wilson said, discussing the similarities between the creation of art and the making of prayer. “And I will say there was a period of time when I struggled with the fact where I was playing one of the most annoying, dorky, sycophantic, weirdo characters in the history of television and then I had all these spiritual ideas and connections by playing this paper salesman, beet farmer. What the hell?”

Wilson continued to explore themes of encouraging potential and building capacity, an experience that he said was especially attainable within a collaborative campus community which sets the stage for a “rich lifelong process” of learning. He advised BU students to take advantage of this period of their lives and take part in a journey of self-discovery.

“The 20s is a time to grow, learn, thrive, read, fall in love, travel the world and make a lot of mistakes,” Wilson said. “It’s fine to make a ton of mistakes in your 20s. Don’t hurt yourself or anyone else, don’t be stupid, but make some mistakes and then you’ll gain some maturity by the time you’re in your 30s. When you’re 32, everything will still be there for you. It will all be waiting for you.”