Lemon out! After seven seasons, three Outstanding Comedy Emmys, countless nominations and more catchphrases than you can shake a bag of Sabor de Soledad at, 30 Rock takes its final bow Thursday at 8/7c on NBC. Tina Fey, 42, recalls her life as Liz Lemon and reveals what it’s like to shut it down once and for all.
TV Guide Magazine: It’s been a great ride. How do you feel about the end?
Tina Fey: I feel good. All things must come to an end, and I’ll be heartbroken to leave all these people, but it was time and the right thing to do. We’ve told the whole story.
TV Guide Magazine: Do you remember shooting the pilot?
Fey: Parts of it. Like realizing what the hours were like on a single-camera comedy and crying because I had just had my first daughter, Alice. She was, like, 6 months old and this was supposed to be my bridge out of the hours at SNL, but this schedule was so much worse.
TV Guide Magazine: Did you read the early reviews?
Fey: I didn’t really have time to read all of them, but I flipped through this huge bundle on my desk and by chance landed on [a review] that said I was the problem with the show and everyone else was fine.
TV Guide Magazine: Ouch. Do you read them now?
Fey: Nah. I like to search #30Rock on Twitter because I think you get a more honest balance of what stuck with people, if they liked it or not.
TV Guide Magazine: What’s your favorite episode?
Fey: I have a lot. When Tracy did Conan O’Brien’s show; “Apollo, Apollo”; “Black Tie” with Paul Reubens; Liz’s wedding. I have to say, “Verna” is one of my all-time favorites because I love Jan Hooks so much, and for her to come in as Jenna’s mother was really great.
TV Guide Magazine: Least favorite moment on the show?
Fey: The ones when I came back six weeks postpartum, absolutely green and swollen. I will not want to look back at them. [Laughs]
TV Guide Magazine: Did the fact that 30 Rock kept winning awards help ease the sting of the show’s low ratings?
Fey: Oh, yeah. They also kept us alive. I used to look at the ratings as a bummer, but you can’t control them. I think in seven years we’ve had nine time slots. I begged to be on later every year. Our show is inappropriate for 8pm. I have kids! Weirdly, some of the best ratings we ever got were when we were on at 10pm.
TV Guide Magazine: How did you handle the scandals, like Alec Baldwin’s political rants and saying he was leaving show business?
Fey: A lot of that happened when we were off the air during the summer, and when you turn these people loose, they cause trouble. [Laughs] I wouldn’t be surprised if Alec ran for mayor of New York in a few years. And when he said he was leaving the industry, I knew that absolutely meant he was staying. That I have learned.
TV Guide Magazine: What about Tracy Morgan’s gay-bashing comedy routine?
Fey: Tracy’s controversy was one I had to deal with because the network wanted me to. People were threatening to boycott the show, and I wanted to make sure people knew Tracy didn’t speak for us. I’m sure he wasn’t even speaking for himself. He was trying out some unformed stand-up and it backfired. We had to cajole him into letting us deal with it on the show — he was nervous, because he really felt bad about it and wanted it to go away.
TV Guide Magazine: We know Jane Krakowski replaced Rachel Dratch as Jenna in the original pilot, but were there ever any other contenders for Jack?
Fey: No. The network was thrilled that we could get Alec, who, I have to say, really opened the door for movie stars to feel like it was OK to do TV. He was so good.
TV Guide Magazine: Which characters have grown closer to your heart since the beginning of the show?
Fey: Jane has grown Jenna into this ridiculous comedy powerhouse. Things started to take off with her when we stopped trying to pigeonhole her into some “TV best friend” and just let her be bananas and an awful person. In the opposite way, Tracy’s character has gotten sweeter and more heartfelt as Jenna became more of a sociopath. It feels like that’s where they are supposed to be.
TV Guide Magazine: Bringing in Sherri Shepherd as Tracy’s wife helped with that.
Fey: Yeah. What Sherri did kind of saved us. We got a call that Tracy needed a kidney transplant, like now, and that he’d be out for eight weeks. So she came in at a time when Tracy was really sick, and we were able to keep his storyline going.
TV Guide Magazine: What have you learned from playing Liz Lemon?
Fey: I have learned that every woman is responsible for being a feminist example. At. Every. Moment. Or not. [Laughs] I don’t know. I still don’t know, but I have had the pleasure of meeting a lot of women who identified with Liz, and that’s been great.
TV Guide Magazine: Will we ever see her again?
Fey: Who knows? Maybe in a series of erotic novels…that will appeal to no one. [Laughs]
TV Guide Magazine: What has been the biggest battle you have had to fight for the show?
Fey: NBC has never not let us do something, which is nice. I think we waged a battle to get them to promote the show…and we never won that battle. [Laughs]
TV Guide Magazine: So what was your biggest victory?
Fey: Survival! This absolutely should have been 12 episodes, so people could say, “That show was amazing. I can’t believe it was canceled.” The fact that we got far enough along that those same people can now say, “It’s not good anymore” is a triumph in itself.
TV Guide Magazine: Like Arrested Development.
Fey: Yeah, and Freaks and Geeks. You want to be a hero.
TV Guide Magazine: Compared to the show’s TGS writing staff, what was your writers’ room like?
Fey: The exact opposite. The TGS writers are the laziest bunch of jerks you’ll ever meet, and our real writers work so hard. Long stretches of working seven days a week. They were always taking the show home with them.
TV Guide Magazine: What has been the strangest side effect of your fame?
Fey: Every now and then, I would have an encounter with someone who knew that maybe I was on television, but they had no idea what show it was and they still wanted to take a picture with me. Like, just in case, they’d get the picture and Google me later.