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Tina Fey is a busy woman.

She just spent the past nine years at “Saturday Night Live”—six of them acting as a cast member, co-anchor of “Weekend Update,” and the first female head writer (winning her an Emmy). In 2004, she made her screen debut as writer and co-star of “Mean Girls”, a movie about how tough high school girls can be. And now she is serving as executive producer, writer, and star of “30 Rock,” a new comedy premiering this fall on NBC.

“30 Rock” is about what Fey knows best, the workplace surrounding a live comedy- variety show, this time called “The Girlie Show”. 30 Rock features Alec Baldwin as Jack Donaghy, the new network executive that decides to “up” the ratings by bringing in Tracy Jordan, played by Tracy Morgan, an unpredictable movie star, to join the cast.

Too bad it sounds exactly like “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.” In both shows, a live comedy variety show reminiscent of “SNL” is rocked by a new network executive who decides to bring in some fresh blood to make the show’s ratings rise. But they aren’t the same at all, according to “SNL” creator Lorne Michaels.

“They are the hour show, and they have ‘60’ in it, and we’re the half-hour show and we have ‘30’ in it. So I think people will be able to clearly distinguish which is which,” Michaels said. Even more so, “30 Rock” is a comedy, whereas “Studio 60” is more serious. Either way, Fey isn’t worried about what critics are labeling “competition.”

“I don’t know if those guy’s are worried, but it’s so beyond my control that I’m not really—I don’t have time to worry,” Fey said.

Of course she doesn’t have time! In the midst of all of her success, she gave birth to her only child, Alice, in September of last year. Making time for a newborn can be stressful, but Fey says she’s trying.“The one thing is that it’s nicer than the ‘SNL’ schedule, it is a rigid Monday through Friday, so I will have the weekends with her. In a lot of ways, I’m going to be sad about that part of it, but it’s going to be a lot like every other working parent, where I’m going to see her mostly on the weekends and in the early morning and at night.”

So, with all this on her plate, is a mental breakdown in store for her?

“I’m going to go nuts,” she joked. “No, I don’t know. I think the one thing I have going for me is I do not understand the train that is about to hit me. But I am just going to—we’re trying to get as much done as possible in the writers’ room now before we start. And I tried to gather a staff of writers that were experienced so that they can proceed when I’m on the set.”

Michaels has full confidence in her, however. After all, he made her head writer in just three years, and is executive producing her show. “Obviously I’m very impressed with her,” he said. “I think she’s smart. She’s funny. And the intelligence is always present in her work. And so if she has an instinct that she wants to go in a certain direction, after a certain amount of time, you just trust that and support it and try and figure out how you can help it.”

He will miss her tremendously on “SNL,” however. “I think in each season, there’s—no matter how you felt going into the season, by the end of the season, you go, ‘Hey, so-and-so did amazing work,’ and they’re the one—they’re the person people are talking about. So I think that Tina disappearing is a huge hole in the writing staff because she was not only, if not the best writer, worked with the best writer. And she was the head writer. So that was a unique situation, and I think people will have to step up.”

Michaels isn’t the only person backing Fey. She also has the support of her friend and former “SNL” costar, Tracy Morgan. He will be joining the cast as Tracy Jordan, the movie star. My character’s a superstar but an unstable super star. He’s an unstable superstar. He’s got a good heart,” Morgan said. “Tracy Jordan is alright with me. I’m…Bruce Wayne, so he’s batman. Tina allows me to put the cape on with the utility belt for the half-hour on Wednesdays and stuff like that.”

He is sticking with Fey specifically because of her writing talents from the “SNL” days. “I love Tina Fey’s writing because she’s an honest writer. Her writing is honest. And her sense of humor is based in reality just like mine. So we get along and have a lot in common as far as that’s concerned. I love Tina, because she’s down to earth. She made me funny. When she came aboard, I started to emerge on the show. So that’s awesome.”

Fey said that the writing is harder on a sitcom with recurring characters as opposed to a weekly, ever-changing basis. “I definitely want it to feel story driven. Story is something that coming from the sketch world is new to me and I want to learn about it, because I think if you don’t have a little bit of truthfulness to the characters and you don’t have a story it may be hard to keep people’s interest. That’s one of the things I love about “The Office” is even that simple tension between Pam and Jim, it just keeps you there. Just keeps you hooked in story wise.”

Although she misses the sketch-comedy format, Fey said she will miss Saturdays the most. “It’s my favorite day. I will probably just show up and hang out. My husband still works with the show in the music department. There’s something about Saturdays—the camaraderie, even before the after-parties, the crappy dinner at 5:30 in the cafeteria, and just going through all the sketches and seeing what you have, and being together all day on that day is my favorite.”

Catch Fey’s new comedy, “30 Rock,” premiering on Wednesday, Oct. 11 at 8 pm et/pt on NBC

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www.Dishmag.com / Issue 62 - September 2018
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