If forced to choose a celebrity to play hypothetical surrogate to her hypothetical baby, Tina Fey would bestow the honor on … beach volleyball star Gabrielle Reece.
“You try to think of who’s healthy and it’s, like, no one,” says Fey. “But Gabrielle Reece is athletic and lives in Hawaii. Plus, she’s already made some kick-ass babies.”
Though Fey won’t be requiring the services of any celebrity womb in the near future (she has one child) – surrogacy is a hot topic this month thanks to her new film, “Baby Mama,” which premieres at the Tribeca Film Festival on Wednesday before opening in theaters on Friday.
Written and directed by Michael McCullers, “Baby Mama” is the story of 37-year-old Kate Holbrook (Fey), a single, highly successful businesswoman who wants to have a baby. With no prospective husband, a uterus her fertility specialist doesn’t like and no time to waste waiting for an adoption to go through, Kate decides to hire Angie Ostrowiski (Amy Poehler) as a surrogate.
Audiences expecting a one-two comic punch from former “Saturday Night Live” castmates Fey and Poehler should be forewarned: Fey’s Kate is the straight-shooting, preppie, career-driven type to Poehler’s loopy, fart-joke-making Angie. Kind of like Felix and Oscar of “The Odd Couple.” Only prettier.
“I knew I was the straight person going in and I like doing that,” says Fey. “I hope people don’t write that I sucked because I was the straight person, but here’s what I’m going to do if that happens: Not read it.”
Though Poehler does most of the heavy comedic lifting in the film, Fey does get a few one-liners, including one about olive oil and the birth-giving process that audiences won’t soon forget.
Other zingers were bits that Fey and Poehler added to the script after sitting down with McCullers to cut out some of his decidedly male humor.
“He had a lot of car jokes in there,” says Fey, who worked alongside and even shared an office with McCullers during their days writing for “SNL.”
“Amy and I have both done enough shooting to know that if we keep these car jokes, we’re going to be sitting in hot cars for 15 days to shoot it,” says Fey.
“But it’s not like we added anything really Lifetime-y. I think by and large, there’s not that big a difference between guy and girl humor. Funny is funny.”
Fey has spent years writing her own material, including “SNL” and her current sitcom, NBC’s “30 Rock,” for which she stars, writes and produces. She also penned and played a small part in the 2004 hit “Mean Girls,” starring Lindsay Lohan. So she says it was a treat to have McCullers bear the brunt of the writing duties on “Baby Mama.”
“It was like having someone clean your house and do your laundry,” she says. “And put flowers everywhere. It was awesome.”
Working with her BFF Poehler wasn’t so bad, either. “We’ve never been on a big film together like this before,” says Fey. “But we’re so familiar with each other, so it was nice because there was no awkwardness and no ego. It’s not competitive onscreen or off.
“Though I am a little bit taller,” she points out. “I want everyone to know that I’m almost 2 inches taller than Amy and about 20 pounds heavier.”
In addition to Fey’s budding movie career – she has a small part in Ricky Gervais’ upcoming movie, “This Side of the Truth” – she is still fighting to turn “30 Rock” from a critics’ darling to a ratings winner.
“We went up against an unexpected ‘American Idol’ results show last week,” says Fey. “I just felt like, can’t ’30 Rock’ catch a break? It was our first week back and ‘American Idol’ is like the Wal-Mart of TV shows. There’s nothing wrong with it and everyone totally loves it, but it just crushes everything in its path. But we did okay.”
Fey’s character on “30 Rock,” Liz Lemon, a producer-writer for an “SNL”-like show, has been called the most realistic single career woman on television – a description Fey takes as a huge compliment.
“We do strive to make her realistic to the point of embarrassment,” she says. “We’re just trying to show the underbelly of being a real woman. But it is TV, so I’m sure there are things about her that are heightened. I mean, she did steal a baby once.”
Though “Baby Mama” may get people talking about the issue of surrogacy, Fey hopes audiences also will pay attention to the deeper message the film is trying to communicate.
“Ultimately, the movie is about these two women trying to help each other,” says Fey. “It’s about what it means to be a family and what constitutes a family and how you make a family in the 21st century.”