TiVo Central – Interview with Jane Krakowski and Jack McBrayer, Stars of 30 Rock

Last week, a conference call was held by NBC for another surprise comedy hit in their “Thursday Night Comedy Lineup”, 30 Rock. Press from around the world got the chance to talk two of the actors on the show, Jane Krakowski and Jack McBrayer. The focus of this call was whether season two of this show could be as good as season one, which was nominated for an Emmy for “Best Comedy Series” this year. The second season premiere also featured Jerry Seinfeld as a special guest star, which was HUGE!

30 Rock is a workplace comedy set in a building that is supposed to resemble 30 Rockefeller Plaza, also known as the GE Building, which is the headquarters of NBC’s New York City studios, including Saturday Night Live‘s Studio 8H. This show follows the cast and crew of a fictional SNL-esque sketch comedy show that was originally called “The Girlie Show”. 30 Rock stars Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin, and Tracy Morgan.

Here is some more background information on Jane Krakowski and Jack McBrayer:

Jane Krakowski (Jenna Maroney)

Jane Krakowski is a Tony Award-winning American actress and singer. She is best known for her role as Elaine Vassal on Ally McBeal. In her first major television role, Krakowski joined the soap opera Search for Tomorrow in 1984, playing the role of Theresa Rebecca (T.R.) Kendall, a role she played until the show ended in 1986. She was nominated for a Daytime Emmy Award for the role in 1987.

A trained singer, Krakowski has made numerous appearances on stage. In 2003, she starred in the Broadway revival of Nine for which she won the Tony Award for Best Featured Actress. In 2005, she starred as Miss Adelaide alongside Ewan McGregor in the new production of Guys and Dolls in London (Piccadilly Theatre) a role for which she won the 2006 Olivier Award for Best Actress in a Musical. Krakowski has also appeared in the movies National Lampoon’s Vacation, Fatal Attraction, and The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas to name just a few.

Jack McBrayer (Kenneth the page)

Jack McBrayer is an American comedian who in 2006 gained national exposure in a role in the film Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. McBrayer is an experienced improvisational comedian, having performed in Chicago (at I.O. and The Second City’s e.t.c. Stage), Los Angeles (I.O. West) and New York City (Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre). McBrayer studied theatre at the University of Evansville.

Before being on 30 Rock, McBrayer performed numerous times on Late Night with Conan O’Brien, often lampooning his own Southern upbringing by playing a stereotypical hillbilly. He also appeared twice in Arrested Development as a waiter at the country club that the Bluths often visit.

And now here are the highlights of what was said in this conference call for 30 Rock with Jenna Krakowski and Jack McBrayer…

Jack, when you were young, what was Seinfeld to you? Was it a show that you watched a lot? And then what was it like when you first met Jerry, when you first had the table read and when you had to do the first scene with him?

Jack McBrayer: It actually was a huge deal for me, because I never in a million years thought that I would just be interacting, much less acting, with people who I had seen on TV for years and years. And it was a huge honor. And it was one of those things where I just had to maintain composure the whole time and not just freak out and call every friend that I ever had. It was a real honor.

The first time I met Jerry was when we were getting ready to act together. So it was a little intimidating. And I think what happens for me is that I just kind of clam up when I get a little star struck. I don’t want to say anything stupid, which is my Achilles heel. But he was so gracious and so cool. And he knows what it’s like to put on a TV show. So I think he was a little more forgiving too with our stumbles and our figuring it out as we go along. But it was fantastic. He was so great. He was really awesome.

Jack, how do you treat the real life NBC Pages? Are you soft on them or are you very demanding? Are you a hero to them or do they despise you and resent you for your success?

JM: Well I was worried that they were going to despise me for pretty much mocking what they do. But they have been so cool to me. And I’ve always been very respectful to the Pages. I used to actually work with them when I was working on Late Night with Conan O’Brien. It is a thankless job. It is a thankless job. But everybody there does it with a smile. And it’s a really fantastic group of people over there. So I have utmost respect for the real Pages.

What was your immediate thought when you heard 30 Rock was announced as the winner for the Best Comedy Emmy?

Jane Krakowski: I think we were all shocked and thrilled. We had lost everything up until then in that evening, so it wasn’t looking too good for us. I just sort of recall all of our posture being so high and so excited to be there. As the night went on we all kind of sank lower in our seats. I think Tina in fact was even calling her car like, because we were ready to go home. It was going to be a washout for 30 Rock. And then suddenly they called our name for the big prize and energy just soared through the roof. We ended up all being out until like 4 in the morning. It was a great. It was a shock and a great thing. I hope that it helps more people just find our show so we can keep making more, because it’s so fun.

JM: And what I remember specifically about that moment is, you know, when you’re sitting there you kind of practice your congratulations face so that the camera doesn’t catch you like going, oh man. And so when they did call our name it was just complete surprise and we didn’t have to put on that face.

JK: None of us got out of our seats for a really long time. I think we thought like we misheard it.

JM: We thought they were saying 3rd Rock from the Sun.

Is there a certain sense of vindication that you know you were doing something great, and now you’re being recognized for it and that other people are catching on to what you’re doing?

JM: Absolutely. We’ve been so proud of the work and it’s very frustrating that we were not getting great numbers of people watching it. And so to be recognized like that by the Emmy people, that was fantastic.

JK: Thank you Emmy people, whoever you are.

JM: Whoever you may be.

Jack, your character takes the butt of Tracy Morgan’s jokes on the show and has to put up with that. Off camera are you able to give it back to him or do you still find yourself at his comedic mercy?

JM: No actually I can dish. I can dish it as well as take it. But with Tracy, I mean it’s like a de-clawed kitten. I mean he does crazy and funny stuff but he does not have a mean bone in his body. So it’s just been really a joy just goofing off with him offstage. Jane Krakowski, however, is a stone cold bitch.

JK: We don’t speak off camera.

JM: No. In fact this telephone call is really out of line for us.

Jack, how similar are you to your character Kenneth? You play him so well. Any similarities there?

JM: Well I’m a people pleaser. And I like doing a good job. And I look smashing in a navy blazer. But for the most part I don’t think I’m quite as naïve as Kenneth. Although I’m a little bit gullible. But not dangerously so like Kenneth.

How much of what we see on the screen is ad lib and how much of it is actually scripted?

JK: It’s pretty much scripted. I mean the writers are so genius and they come up with such hilarious stuff that it’s pretty much scripted. But there seems to always be a little room for play. So if we come up with things, they always want you to try it and throw it on in. And if it makes everyone laugh, then it might get there. If not, it goes on the DVD extras.

JM: Right. Well, and plus Jane can’t read. So a lot of stuff she has an ear prompter at all times.

What was the most exciting thing either of you did in your real life summer hiatus this year?

JM: I got to spend a month in Hawaii, and it was awesome. I was working on a Judd Apatow movie, and I was in Hawaii for a month. And I’d never been there before and always dreamed of going. And I was there for a month and I got paid to be there. It was so great. It was like a month-long Corona commercial.

JK: Yes, and mine was very similar. I was in Toronto, Canada for the summer. The beach, the high life. I made a movie called An American Girl. So I was only there for a month though so, but it was good fun. Toronto, it’s kind of like actor camp. Meg Wilson was making a movie there. We were all like in the same hotel. And you kind of all meet up for drinks after your day of filming and chat about how fun it is to be an actor.

Jane, are you planning on singing again this year on the show?

JK: Yeah, I sang a little bit already. I love that they sort of added that in. Jenna seems to be part of the musical quotient of “The Girlie Show”. And I love that. It’s really good fun for me. I get to roller skate and disco dance. I mean we’ve sort of written in a lot of fun things for us to do. But Jack’s character is probably the only fan of my singing.

JM: Yes, my character is a fan of her singing. Not me personally.

Jack, did you set out to steal all the scenes on the show or did that just happen?

JK: Yes you evil, evil man.

JM: I was told by NBC publicists that this is exactly what I had to do. No, I’m just reading the scripts. And I mean just the whole ensemble is so much fun. I love playing with all the different characters and seeing what kind of dynamic you can find with that.

What has been your favorite moment doing this show, either behind the scenes or even favorite scene on air?

JK: Wow there are so many.

JM: I know.

JK: They write such good stuff for all of our characters.

JM: I can’t think of a specific one, but I like it like when all of us come together. For example, our second episode we were all on this yacht. And that was something to be hanging out with everybody. Especially at that point in the game we really didn’t even know each other at all that well. And so I’m looking forward in the next couple episodes we have a big party scene. And so I think everybody is going to be together. And we’re going to be able to just hang out and do bits just as people.

JK: Yeah I agree with Jack. It is fun when we all get to be together because it’s such a group of hilarious people that it’s fun to put that whole mix together. I did absolutely love that episode on the boat. I think we all kind of finally got to know each other and come into our own. But I also love a lot of the crazy stuff they give Jenna, like Muffin Top where I got to do a music video with Ghostface Killah. Where else am I going to get to do that stuff? So that was one of my highlights. God, there are so many because they give us such fun stuff to do. In Season 2, they’ve sort of blown it out of the water with mixing up a lot of the people too. Like I get to do a lot more stuff with Kenneth this year.

JM: Yeah.

JK: And Tracy is doing a lot more stuff with Alec. And so we’ve sort of switched it around a little bit. And that’s really fun when we get to work with not the actors that we tend to be in scenes with all the time. So it’s gotten mixed up a bit this year which is really fun.

JM: Yeah.

Jane, you’re playing a character on a TV show about a TV show. There can be sort of a split personality thing going on. Are you ever conscious of the fact that you have to be funny enough for 30 Rock, but yet at the same time, your character has to be plausibly funny enough that we believe she could be the star of a comedy show. Are you ever conscious of that split personality thing?

JK: Wow, that’s a really interesting question. I think people know that’s what we do so that sort of just goes with the picture. I do get a bit more nervous when we do like the sketches that are the show within the show. Because I feel like there’s this pressure in thirty seconds or less because that’s all they ever show that we have to show what that show is. For me it tends to be musical moments. And I kind of love that because I don’t “The Girlie Show” is is an out there kind of program. I also think the pressure is a little bit off of me because Jenna from day one got sort of downgraded. She was the star of “The Girlie Show” but got downgraded for Tracy’s character to come in. So I think it lets her off the hook a little bit. The sort of mocking and the making fun of all of our characters on the show is great fun for me.

Jack, your character seems like such a cold character. Did you expect that he would be so popular with fans?

JM: Pretty much all the first season, all we were focusing on was not getting the phone call saying that the show was cancelled. So we were just going about doing the best that we could and stuff. I got to say, though, the writers just set all of us up with such fantastic material. So I can only take so much credit. Because it’s not like I’m doing anything they’re not telling me to do. I’m just a puppet in their wicked scheme, just a pawn in the game of comedy. But thanks.

You said before that Kenneth was making out with Jane’s character in one episode this season. Does that mean he’s definitely not gay?

JM: Well I don’t know. And plus Jane is definitely the instigator of that scene.

JK: Yes, and if Jenna kisses him it doesn’t mean that he’s not gay.

JM: That’s right. Jenna kisses just about anyone and anything.

Jane, what did you learn about handling success with Ally McBeal that you’ve been able to draw experience on this time around?

JK: Everything was new when I was on Ally McBeal. It was all for the first time. So it was quite a surprise when people knew our names or watched the show and would stop you on the street. I was not on TV for a bunch of years and I did a lot of theater before I came back to do it this time. It’s just been a joy. Now getting on another what I think is a very clever and funny show. And now just winning the Emmy to be a part of another show of that level has just been great. So this time around I kinda know what could happen. And I’m enjoying it so much more this second time around that it happened again.

Jane, in this new season Jenna gets a little bit more weight on her after doing a musical over the summer. Is that one of the story lines?

JK: It is. Jenna did a musical called “Mystic Pizza: The Musical!” for her summer break and on Broadway. And she gained 40 pounds doing it because she had to eat four slices of pieces per performance. And they made me this incredible prosthetic. And it’s sort of a four episode arch of Jenna dealing with the weight and as an actress being fat is like the worst taboo ever. So how she deals with it. And they’ve written some surprising ways she deals with it. And it’s very, very funny.

Jane, when you’re doing a musical, you’ve got so much going on. You’re the center of the thing for two hours and so forth. And now you’re in a big cast show where everyone is given a short amount of time to do their part. what do you do with time in between? How do you get yourself in the mindset of “Okay, today is going to be waiting. And I’m going to be doing a scene in a couple hours or so.”?

JK: It’s such a different discipline. I mean in the theater you have to like make your day work out so you have all your energy and ready to go fully to perform at 8 pm. And I really thrive on that discipline. I love it. With this kind of deal you do wait around a bit longer. And you have to be ready to go right when they’re ready to film and call you. It doesn’t feel like there’s that much down time here at 30 Rock. And everyone here is so hilarious that it’s so fun to be here when we’re here.

I always find that I vary my time in my dressing room and I’m always up on set, because that’s where all the hilarity is happening, and even if you’re not filming or in that scene, so it’s really good fun. And the material that we get to do here is fast and furious and fun. So if Jenna is going to do a song on the show it’s probably written the day before at midnight by Jeff, who writes all of our music. You have to record it that morning. And then you’re going to film it that day. So everything happens quite fast. And for us, the hours seem to go by really fast. It’s fast and furious.

What’s the story behind the Rural Juror? And is anyone capable of saying that?

JK: When Tina told me about that story line, I think she and some of the other writers just like came up with it. And it made them laugh but none of them could say it. And then a whole episode was born out of it. And there’s Web sites about this fictional movie that was never made. There’s like a line of T-shirts. It’s really, really funny.

Are people mad when they realize you’re not just like your characters in real life?

JM: I would hope not mad.

JK: People are relieved when they find out I’m not like her.

JM: Probably relieved but no. I mean the cool thing is like people who come up to me are always very nice. I think my fear when we first started shooting the show, because I’ve never been on a TV show where you get recognized in the street, was that people were going to come up to me and just say hateful things. And to me that’s like a nightmare.

JK: Why would they say hateful things?

JM: Well I don’t know. I mean I didn’t know if people just felt like they could because I come into their house every Thursday night, or for the seven people who actually watched the show. But everybody has been so, so nice. And so in that sense it was more of a relief than anything. So even if they did confuse me with Kenneth I think I’d be all right. But whatever. As long as I don’t have to have Alec Baldwin yell at me in character.

Jane, Do you ever have Jenna moments besides this call?

JK: Besides this phone call, yeah. Which is really funny because I always think I’m so far removed from Jenna. And then things like this happen and I’m living the life. I’m in the world. I don’t know what it is. Whenever I talk to Jack I always become far more Jenna than I really am. It’s really funny. He brings it out in me, because he finds it humorous. And then I just go there.

JM: I love this.

JK: Terrible. What’s fun for me with Jenna is all the actressy qualities that I definitely have and many other actresses that I’ve know and worked with have that I get to really celebrate and bring out full throttle. It’s kind of fun instead of trying to hide sort of all of those neurotic bits and stupid stupidity. Oh dear.

Who on the cast has the toughest time keeping it together or keep it from breaking during some of the scenes? It has to be difficult.

JM: It is hard. I mean I just recently have been breaking up a little bit. But I think it’s just because I’m not so nervous that the show is going to be cancelled. But every now and then Tracy will get a little tickled, I think.

JK: Yeah and I just did a scene with Alec, my first one of the season. And he kept breaking up while going. And it’s so joyous when you see that.

JM: I know.

JK: Because we’re all just having a ball. And when you’re having that much fun you can’t keep it in while filming, it’s great.

Jane, in the pilot you didn’t play Jenna. It was actually done by Rachel Dratch who still guest stars on the show. How did that transition go for you and how you approached it?

JK: Oh well it went quite smoothly. She’s just such a wonderful lady. And she was so great about it all. It’s great because she still has appearances on the program. And everyone here is very good friends with her. I mean Tina and Scott Adsit they’ve all known her for many, many years from their Second City days. From my end it’s always an awkward situation. But it went as smoothly as it could for that situation.

Jack, there’s buzz that you’re going to have a love interest in the coming season. Any actor that you want to play that role?

JM: Well, it depends. Like sometimes the love interests that Kenneth gets are so out there that I don’t even know, like if I could recommend an actor. For example, I do make out with Jane Krakowski. I don’t know if you’ve heard of that actress.

JK: You are such a lucky man. Lottery winner right there.

JM: But I read a quote from this summer where Tina said that she was hoping to get Florence Henderson on the show as a love interest for Kenneth. So I don’t know exactly what is going to be going on. But I’ve got my little black book handy if they ever just need my advice on actors and cast.

As far as going on from this is there time for another season or do you hope that there is?

JM: Well I’m planning on it because I spent a lot of money that I do not have yet. No, of course, we just hope to go on as long as we can and as long as the show is entertaining for us to do and for people to watch. So yeah. I mean as long as we can do it.

What is it like on a day-to-day basis when you’re making this series?

JM: Well, I mean it is so difficult just to keep it together because the scripts are so funny. But as long as you can keep the main goal in line that, okay, let’s put this story together so that hopefully the rest of America can laugh as much as we are behind the scenes. Everybody here is such professionals. And our crew is just fantastic. So they run a tight ship here. But we get the job done.

What are your hopes for the second season?

JM: Maybe you know how on some TV shows like the whole cast goes to Europe or something. So maybe we could all go to Hawaii for a few episodes.

JK: The Bradys went to Hawaii.

JM: Yeah, like when the Bradys went to Hawaii. Maybe we could do that too. Or Toronto.

JK: We could all go to Toronto, Canada. Well I think we all hope that people find it and watch it. And if you didn’t see it last season, you can buy the DVD now released. Or, you know, just to find it for the first time and catch on. Hopefully winning the Emmy will bring a bit more people’s awareness to it and that we’ll get to keep making them because it’s so fun to make. The first five episodes are so hilarious because we’ve shot five of them already. The writers have come up with such funny, funny stuff. So I think the first five are as good as the best ones of last season and even better. So I hope we just get to make more.

– The second season of 30 Rock airs on NBC on Thursday nights at 9 p.m. ET/PT.

– The second season of 30 Rock airs on the CTV network in Canada on Tuesday nights at 9:30 p.m. ET/PT.

Sir Linksalot: 30 Rock