When Tina Fey co-starred in “Mean Girls” back in 2004, she hadn’t had much experience as a featured actress. Or even as an actress halfway down the call sheet.
Sure, she could be found behind the Weekend Update desk at “Saturday Night Live,” but that was more about being stationary and reading off cue cards, not learning the craft of how to hit marks and do the walk and talk.
“I learned so much of the mechanics of acting on ‘Mean Girls,’ like the close-up and master shot,” Fey explains. “I had no idea what I was doing half the time, and sometimes even realized during a shot I was off camera.”
She’s a fast study. In addition to exec producing and writing NBC’s Thursday night comedy “30 Rock,” Fey gives a winning performance as the fictional show’s flighty but mostly effective producer, Liz Lemon.
Those witty barbs and zingers flung between Lemon and boss Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin) kill every week, and Fey has developed enough confidence in her acting abilities to deliver them in style.
Fey calls their relationship “a mix of Mary Tyler Moore and Lou Grant and Princess Leia and Han Solo.”
She wasn’t always sure, though, that she’d take on the role of Lemon — one that she ultimately wrote for herself. Initially, there was some doubt as to whether she’d want to handle acting chores in addition to her writing and exec producing.
But a discussion with friend and former “SNL” castmate Amy Poehler convinced her to give it a shot.
“We talked about how women are always asking themselves, ‘Should I act or am I just a writer?'” Fey says. “But I’m sure Ray Romano and Jerry Seinfeld never questioned themselves.”
Now, with a full-season run of “30 Rock” behind her, she feels more comfortable in front of the camera than anytime before in her burgeoning career.
“I learned a tremendous amount as the year went,” she says.
Like that other famous comedic actress, she might just make it after all.
Favorite scene: “I like the scene early in the season when I get summoned to Jack’s office, and he says there are people that don’t like him. Then he tells me I have eyes like a shark, which Elaine Stritch reiterated in the last episode.”
Where you’d like to see your character go next season: “We talked at one time about having Jack promote her up the company ladder.”
TV guilty pleasure: “I watch ‘The Office.’ That’s my appointment TV.”