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Tribeca 2016: Tina Fey on Mean Girls musical and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

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Just a few days after Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt season two hit Netflix, Tina Fey sat down with TV Guide writer Damian Holbrook for a wide-ranging conversation at the Tribeca Film Festival. Together, the longtime friends discussed everything from Kimmy Schmidt and 30 Rock to Amy Poehler and Saturday Night Live — as well as a few new details about the upcoming Mean Girls musical.

Here are some of the biggest highlights from Fey and Holbrook’s conversation.

Fey’s Kimmy Schmidt character stemmed from her own love of the show.

Much of Fey’s panel focused on the recent release of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt season two and the introduction of her character Andrea, an alcoholic therapist who (sort of) befriends Kimmy.

“I wanted to play that part because I like the idea of being a person who got to talk to that character,” Fey told the audience. “This is going to sound really cheesy, but when you write a series, you have to kind of be in love with all your characters. You have to really love them because you’re going to spend so much time thinking about them. And so I really felt that way about every character on 30 Rock, and I feel that way about the characters on Kimmy Schmidt. So it was appealing for me to get to play the person who gets to really try to talk to her and try to help her through this messed up way. Because I love her!”

Fey never intended to play Marcia Clark on Kimmy Schmidt — and she’s obsessed with Sarah Paulson’s version of Clark.

Fey told the audience that she was thinking about playing a character like Andrea all the way back when she was first pitching the Kimmy Schmidt pilot. Instead, she made her on-screen debut in season one, playing Marcia Clark as the prosecutor in Reverend Richard Wayne Gary Wayne’s trial.

“At the end of season one, I was coerced by the writers to play Marcia Clark,” Fey said. “Thank God I went first on that one. Could you imagine if I was rolling out that terrible Marcia Clark [now]? That was literally because we could not book anybody. Sarah Paulson was already booked on the other one, I guess.”

In fact, Fey later named The People v. O.J. Simpson as one of her favorite shows on television right now, and she told the audience that she actually updated her Emmy voting status so that she could vote in the acting categories for Sterling K. Brown and Sarah Paulson.

She’s still hard at work on the Mean Girls musical.

Now that Kimmy Schmidt star Ellie Kemper is pregnant, Fey has some free time this summer before season three starts filming in October and hits Netflix sometime in May of 2017. In the meantime, she’ll continue working on the upcoming Mean Girls musical.

Fey added that the musical is still in early stages, and she’s trying to figure out how closely she wants to stick to the original movie script, especially because some of the references are more than a decade old. “The thing about social media is that it doesn’t dramatize well, but it’s been an ongoing question,” Fey said. “Do you take out things that are now outdated? Like three-way calling is not a thing.”  

She misses working on Saturday Night Live, especially during election season.

Fey has returned to her old Saturday Night Live stomping grounds twice this season to reprise her role as Sarah Palin, but she admitted that she misses Studio 8H most during the elections — especially with the craziness of the 2016 campaign.

“I feel like looking back on 2008 now, it looks like an episode of The Andy Griffith Show,” Fey said. “And now it’s like, ‘Ryan Murphy brings you Horror Election!’ It’s like, Donald Trump is covering a Bowie song? What is happening?!”

She’ll probably never do a full TV series with Amy Poehler.

Poehler and Fey have teamed up on everything from hosting the Golden Globes to feature-length films like Baby Mama and Sisters, but don’t expect the pair to team up on a television show any time soon. “People sometimes do say, ‘Why don’t you guys do a series together?’” Fey said. “And the funny thing is — and I think we both know this to be true — is that we’re actually both alphas. And so it works in short spurts.”

She auditioned for the Into the Woods movie.

Fey and Holbrook discussed her eclectic resume, ranging from Whiskey Tango Foxtrot to Sisters, but she also revealed that she tried to audition to play the baker’s wife in the 2014 Into the Woods movie. (Emily Blunt ended up landing the role.)

“I tried to beg my way into that movie,” Fey said. “I did that thing I said I was never going to do, where I was like, ‘May I please audition?’ It’s like, they knew where you were, sweetheart. They could’ve found you if they wanted you to audition. That was in my weird year off between TV shows.”

She’ll always consider herself more of a writer or an actor than a director.

Fey has written, produced, and acted in almost every possible medium, but she says she has no interest in stepping behind the camera.

“I would say never say never, but I really respect directing, and I know that I still think of things from a writer’s or sometimes an actor’s point of view,” Fey said. “And I just don’t understand or really care about cameras. After all these years on set, I understand what’s happening, but I just don’t care.” 

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