Emmy Watch: Tina Fey on Liz Lemon as a mom, and her season 7 'bucket list'
Between now and June 28, the deadline for Emmy voters to return nomination ballots, EW.com is running a series called Emmy Watch, featuring highlight clips and interviews with actors, producers, and writers whom EW TV critic Ken Tucker has on his wish list for the nominations announcement on July 19.
Tina Fey is the first to admit that 30 Rock hasn’t survived on ratings alone. The series has always relied on the kindness of award voters. It’s been nominated for the Outstanding Comedy Series Emmy every year it’s been eligible, winning three times. 30 Rock and Fey herself have earned so much acclaim that you’d think the novelty of awards would have worn off, especially now that the show is going into its 7th and final season. But Fey tells EW that it hasn’t gotten old. “It’s super fun if you win,” she says. “I mean, it’s super duper fun. Believe me, I wouldn’t be mad if it happened again, but at a certain point, it’s also just avarice.”
Since its premiere, 30 Rock has operated as though every season were its last. “Because we lived in fear, or freedom from fear, of getting canceled for so long, anything weird we wanted to do, we went ahead and did it,” says Fey. Yet season 6 has still found new, weird territory to explore, including a memorably bizarre superhero sequence and another live show. And even crazier, we’ve seen Liz Lemon make real strides toward happy, functional adulthood. Read on as Fey takes us through some of Liz’s most pivotal moments of season 6 and teases what’s in store for season 7.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What’s a scene from season six that really showed big changes for Liz?
TINA FEY: There’s a scene in the end of the “St. Patrick’s Day” episode where Liz finally tells her boyfriend, Criss, “I love you,” which is a huge step forward for her as a character. You do these series and you’re hoping to go for several years. You want the characters to grow but they can’t grow too quickly, so six years in, Liz has finally made some emotional growth, and for me, I thought that was a nice story and a nice moment for the character. Then I also as an actress was very happy that I got to wear large oversize Hulk hands in this big romantic scene.
It was a great touch. It made it more Liz Lemon.
It made it more Liz Lemon, it made it more 30 Rock, it made it more fun for me the actor.
What’s it like finally letting Liz be happy and grow up?
Now that we know that we’re going to be done, it feels nice. It’ll be nice to have some more good things happen to her. She’s going to end up in a good place. I mean, she’s doing pretty well. She’s got Criss — that seems to be going well. They’re taking steps toward some form of parenthood that remains to be seen.
Oh good, I did too! She’s twins — they were not quite two and so, so cute. We had to audition them and they were the sweetest, most polite little girls. They said “please” and “thank you” already even though they weren’t two yet, but when asked to scowl in a terrifying way, they had it! I always found that if you gave them a couple of words, they could say it back, so I really liked getting them to go, “RUDE!” There was one sister that was a little feistier than the other, as is often the case with twin infant actors.
So will we get to see Liz as a mother?
Well, I think the last 13 will be about her road, potentially, to motherhood. I don’t think we’ll be bringing in the 21st-century Webster. Hopefully all of our staff will be working together to bring whatever kind of truthfulness we all can share about that process and someone entering that process at that age and what that feels like — and keep it kind of 30 Rock weird but also ground it in some kind of reality of what her situation will be like.
Final seasons of long-running shows can get pretty weird. Any pitfalls you want to avoid?
In fact, the writers just started last week, so we had a little bit of a conversation about what we want to do. I really want to keep making good, fun individual episodes. We’re not too worried about creating some ginormous arc. Eventually — hopefully — these episodes will live in syndication out of order and they’ll still be enjoyable. Tonally, our show has swung such a wide pendulum that I don’t think it’ll feel like, “Oh, Roseanne won the lottery” because we’ve already done so many weird things. I’m hoping we can just spend a lot of time with our own characters.
So what’s on your season 7 bucket list?
Well, we started talking about it the other day. There are going to be people that we’ve always wanted to have on that we haven’t, for various reasons, been able to yet. Or characters we’ve enjoyed so much that we want to bring back at some point before we leave. I always wanted to get Michael Benjamin Washington back on who played Donald Jordan, the older son. Of course we want to get Dennis Duffy in at some point. I’d love to get Michael Sheen to come back as Wesley Snipes. I’d love to get Isabella Rossellini back because we were reminding ourselves that Jack was married before, and she was a very pivotal character once. I tried to tell Selma Hayek that she has to come back. She said that she would and I’m going to hold her to that. And other “bucket list” things — I always wanted to do a full-tilt Bugsy Malone episode. But I don’t think we’ll get to that in the final 13.
At this point, what do Emmys and other accolades mean to you guys?
We’ve worked so hard to keep the quality level the same. We’re always trying to get it higher, and you strive for higher and see where it lands. It would be great for that to be recognized. And I also think there are people like Jane Krakowski — who’s done such good work for so many years — who are truly funny…truly, truly funny. She’s not just in a show that’s funny — she herself is really funny. I would be so delighted if she were recognized.
Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin, and Tracy Morgan star in the Emmy-winning comedy. You want to go to there.