Tina Fey, simply put, is one of America’s most treasured comedians. She is also one of the entertainment industry’s most talented writers and a two-time Golden Globe-winning actress to boot. Her list of accolades and credits on both the small and silver screen are extensive, but shows such as “30 Rock,” “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” and, of course, “Saturday Night Live” have made her into a household name. She has starred opposite Steve Carrell in “Date Night,” alongside Amy Poehler in “Sisters,” and even Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy in “Muppets Most Wanted” and received her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2011.
Now the 9-time Emmy Award winner has her sights set on adding a few theatrical trophies to her already impressive collection, as she has received a plethora of nominations this awards season in the category of “Best Book of a Musical”, including the Tony Award and Drama Desk Award, and has won the Outer Critics Circle Award already. And all because of the Broadway premiere of Mean Girls – the musical adaptation of her 2004 fan favorite movie, which she also wrote and starred in! Ms. Fey has written an updated book for the musical and has been hands on throughout the lengthy, creative process of bringing Mean Girls to the stage.
We caught up with Tina to get the lowdown on what she feels was important to update in her writing, what Mean Girls and the current presidency share in common, and how the show can also appeal to straight men…
Congratulations on the tremendous success of Mean Girls, Tina – your first Broadway credit! How would you describe the whole experience for you so far, breaking into the Broadway scene?
It’s been a joy! I spent five whole years with our creative team and it could not have been luckier. My husband Jeff Richmond, the lyricist Nell Benjamin, our director and choreographer Casey Nicholaw – they’re all nominated! The whole process was a kind of best case scenario. And now we’re just thrilled to be here and have people responding so positively to the show. It’s thrilling for me to see this young cast getting all these nominations. It’s just awesome!
I had such an entertaining evening when I saw Mean Girls and I particularly enjoyed the way you’ve updated the book with plenty of current references that just weren’t around when you wrote the screenplay for the 2004 movie. Can you tell us a bit about those updates?
Sure! No spoilers, but we knew we had to kinda pull the show into 2018 and social media is certainly a part of that. For example, when something goes wrong for our characters at the talent show, maybe it gets broadcast across several social media platforms. Gretchen may liken herself to an iPhone without a case in her fragility. It was quite fun and like a breath of fresh air to kind of pull those characters into the present and to talk about things kids have to deal with like “Oh, should I try Oxycontins?” Like “No, you definitely shouldn’t!” Let’s help them with that and with other little things here and there that are plaguing them now.
And nothing seemed to be off limits in the book for you. Even the presidency gets a mention or two…
(Laughs) Yeah, it’s hard to go near this topic of people degrading each other with snarky language because that’s one of the first things you think of! It definitely felt like there was a lot of overlap there. We had to touch on that at least a tiny little bit.
Well, it almost writes itself…
It almost does! (Laughs)
Now, the night I attended it was very clear that Mean Girls has a core fan base as the audience was overwhelming packed with teenage girls, who knew all the iconic lines from the movie and cheered when they heard them on stage. Was it also one of your goals to try to appeal to a broader demographic when you were writing?
For sure! We knew from the start that we had what we referred to as a bifurcated audience. We knew we’d have young women who had seen the movie that would have certain expectations, but we also wanted to make sure that the show is genuinely good for people who have never seen the movie. And I think we’ve done that. I keep saying that I’d love to cut together a commercial of soundbites from all the Dads that come to watch. “Well… Er… I didn’t really know what to expect and I actually really enjoyed that!” We should just make one commercial like that so other people know it’s fail-safe. I would even say it’s straight-man-safe!