Tina Fey has a list of awards and nominations so long it falls off the page. Among them are this year’s Primetime Emmy Awards noms–one for the creation of Netflix’s Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt with Robert Carlock, and another for her stint as a guest actress on the show. In December we’ll see Fey reunite with Amy Poehler in the film Sisters, in which the three-time Golden Globe-hosting duo play siblings revisiting their childhood home–with a little help from Amy Schumer’s Trainwreck favorite, John Cena. AwardsLine spoke with Fey about the changing face of female comedy, her new network pilot, and whether she and Poehler have plans to crack the Oscars co-hosting curse.
Can you tease a little of Kimmy Season 2? Robert Carlock said recently Titus will get more backstory…
Titus gets a little more backstory; Titus gets in a relationship. Kimmy is kind of grappling with the fact that the world is not black and white, and what does she do now that this one chapter of her life is closed. She’s kind of still coping with the end of her first normal relationship with Dong. Ki Hong Lee will be back. I think as the season goes on– it’s funny because this doesn’t sound like the most comedic thing ever–Kimmy kind of needs to start facing like, “OK, I’ve been putting on a brave face forever and my go-to has been I’ll smile through it and I get by.” And as happens in real life, that only works for so long and then things start to bubble up underneath and you have to deal with things on a deeper level. I think she will start to do that. Again, somehow still in the form of comedy.
Robert also said two of the first congratulatory emails you got were from Jen Salke and Bob Greenblatt at NBC, and now you’re working on a pilot for them again. After the freedom of Netflix, how does it feel to go back to network?
We’ve only just sold the other pilot so we’re getting started. But I think, you know, we both worked in broadcast for every part of our career except the last six months, so it definitely still feels familiar and we definitely still aspire to get another show on the air in that form. So yeah, that’s going back to stuff we’ve already done before, whereas the Netflix thing is like, “Oh no, we can unlearn some of these habits for Netflix, writing toward ad breaks,” although we kind of still are writing to commercial breaks, the boundaries of time, running time and stuff.
The pilot is about a Jersey mom who’s an intern at her daughter’s workplace?
Yeah. The pilot is going to be written by a wonderful woman named Tracey Wigfield, who was a 30 Rock writer, and she and I actually co-wrote the last episode, the series finale of 30 Rock, and I was reminded at the pitch meeting that we won an Emmy for it! She’s been writing on The Mindy Project for the last few years and she’s ready to go up on her own, and it’s sort of inspired by her own relationship with her mom. They have a deeply close but hilarious relationship, wherein her mom has the password to her email. Why? You’re practically 30 years old! I think it has the potential to be a really funny ensemble, a nice clean, simple premise; I feel like it could be very funny in the hard jokes that Tracey is good at, but also very kind of relatable and watchable in a way that hopefully will make it really good for broadcast.
You and Amy Poehler have the movie Sisters coming up. Did you say to each other, “What’s the most fun we could possibly have at work?”
Well, the script for that movie was written by Paula Pell, another SNL veteran and a performer in her own right, and I had been helping her develop that script for a couple years. Then once it seemed like it was really going to be real, then yeah, once Amy was on board as well, we were kind of just stacking the deck of, “Who else can we get to be in the movie that we just want to hang out with all summer?” And we had great success. Rachel Dratch is in the movie, Maya Rudolph, Kate McKinnon, Bobby Moynihan, just so many old buddies of ours that it really was just a really fun time. I can’t lie.
And John Cena–Amy Schumer said he’s brilliant at improv.
He really is. He comes very prepared, and I know we were shooting our movie at the same time (as Trainwreck). He was going back and forth, he had just done one right after the other at the same time, so I’m sort of jealous in a way that Trainwreck got to debut how hilarious he is. But I’m also really grateful that he’s in our movie. He’s so funny and he’s a really, really good improvisor.
There’s so much more happening now for that kind of smart, boundary-pushing female comedy–it seems you and Amy Poehler paved the way for people like Amy Schumer and even Lena Dunham…
I think with Amy (Schumer) it’s comedy with a point of view and it’s coming from that person, so it’s not just an actress being cast in a romantic comedy. The whole kind of universe you’re seeing, it’s all coming from her, and she is political in terms of sociopolitical. She has some stuff she wants to complain about and that makes for good comedy.
When you were starting out, did you feel a lot of resistance to your brand of comedy as a woman?
No, because I don’t know if it’s just the marketplace that I was trying to sell it in, but I started writing at Saturday Night Live and I was sort of brought in with the unspoken idea of I’ll write for the women. It was never a stated thing but I felt like that was part of my job, and the women in the cast were great, so it was not a struggle to get them on every week. Then the first and only movie that I’ve had time to write was Mean Girls, and Sherry Lansing was super supportive of that. We’ll see now as a middle-aged woman how the rest of it goes! But no, and I think television, too, is more woman-friendly.
You and Amy have both said you’re not sure you’d want to host the Oscars. Could you ever be persuaded?
Gosh. I was going to start saying, “I don’t want to host the Oscars, but someday I’d produce the Oscars.” I feel like I could bring it in to time, and that’s the only thing I have to offer. I feel like I could make the necessary cuts for it to be the right length. So I would do that.
What is still on your work wish list?
I’ve been pretty lucky. We’re in the process of trying to write something for the stage here in New York. I’d like to do that. I’d like to write another movie because, like I said, I’ve only written one movie, and then been fully occupied by television for the last 10 years. So those would be the two things. And of course my fashion line.
What would that look like?
It would be a lot of denim on denim.