From TV’s “30 Rock” to “Baby Mama,” “Admission” and “Muppets Most Wanted,” Tina Fey has offered up some priceless portraits of working women.
But for her latest movie — the new-to-DVD dramedy “This Is Where I Leave You” (2014, Warner, R, $30) — Fey gets the opportunity to try something completely different.
“I play a lot of characters who are defined by their work, or they work too much,” says Fey, 44, a native of Upper Darby. “But this is a lady who doesn’t work. She doesn’t work! And that alone was interesting to me.
“I had a lot of fun talking to the costume designer. It’s, like, nothing this character owns should have buttons or closures, or anything you could ever wear to work. She has stuff she just puts on [and goes.]”
Directed by Shawn Levy, who helmed “Date Night” starring Fey, “This Is Where I Leave You” centers on four siblings (Fey, Jason Bateman, Corey Stoll, Adam Driver) who are asked by their mother (Jane Fonda) to sit shiva for a week following the death of their father.
Adapted by Jonathan Tropper from his 2009 best-seller, the movie aims to balance funny business with bittersweet interludes.
“I like human stories about human people who never turn into cars no matter what happens,” says Fey with a laugh. “I love the idea of the premise, basically, of this ensemble of people being stuck together.
“Shiva is a formalized version of conversion. Having been in a similar situation in the last year [of a loved one passing] … everyone comes from out of town, and you all pile into the house, and everyone brings food, and you’re all together … It’s good for [you] because everyone should be together, and share old stories of happier times and be there for each other, and take turns crying.”
When Fey was weighing her decision to join the movie, she focused on her character Wendy, a woman who seems on the surface to be the best-adjusted of the four siblings.
But Wendy is covering up a painful past. Years earlier, she and her boyfriend (Timothy Olyphant) were in an accident that left her unscathed and him brain-damaged.
“The one thing I liked about Wendy’s story was that I felt like it was something I hadn’t seen before,” notes Fey, who has two daughters, ages 9 and 3 with musician husband Jeff Richmond. “She’s a woman who kind of lost the love of her life, without really losing him, early on.
“Her back story is that she tried to stick with [Olyphant], and, at a certain point, it just became impossible, and she had to go off and make a more pragmatic life choice. So she married the successful guy.
“Her life from the outside seems perfect. But she’s the person who’s not really happy with the choices in her life, and I thought that was an interesting thing to try and play.”