Tina Fey, 'Admission' Star, On The Muppets, '30 Rock' And The Future Of 'SNL'

03/15/2013 08:18 am ET | Updated Mar 15, 2013
  • Mike Ryan Senior Entertainment Writer, The Huffington Post

The fact that Tina Fey has a new movie coming out next week seems like serendipitous timing. It was just a little over six weeks ago that her critically adored (but ratings deficient) television series, "30 Rock," ended its seven-season run. Now, having digested that, we're presented with the next chapter of Fey's career: full-time movie star. (Or "movie participant," as she says.)

In "Admission," Fey plays an admissions officer at Princeton who goes to bat for an academically lacking, yet brilliant student who was brought to her attention by a high school administrator, played by Paul Rudd. We spoke to Fey by phone (after she had just signed off Skype with a Russian dialect coach for her upcoming role in "The Muppets ... Again!") about finally working with Rudd, her favorite moments from the well-received finale of "30 Rock" and, if the day comes that Lorne Michaels decides to leave "Saturday Night Live," whether Fey would be interested in the job.

While watching "Admission," I couldn't help but think, "Why haven't Tina Fey and Paul Rudd done something together in the past?" Does that make sense?
Yeah, it makes sense because it's true -- the fact that we've never even done an "SNL" sketch together. It seems like just the odds that we would have done something, but, yes, this is the first time.

I went to the University of Missouri and, in comparison to what we see in this movie, it's not a hard school to get into. It's crazy, but I assume there's some accuracy to what we see people doing to get into Princeton.
Yeah, I think there is, because Jean Korelitz, who wrote the novel that the movie is based on, she worked in admissions there. And there are a lot of people who just put crazy stock into getting into one of the top three schools or top five schools -- and lose their minds in the process.

I believe you went to the University of Virginia?
Yes.

Were you like that at all?
I'm 42; I feel like the process was a little more reasonable then. I think people have gotten crazier and crazier with every passing year. So I think I applied to, like, six schools, and, you know, you have to pick your "safety school" and this, that and the other. But it was not as fraught. And I think, also, if people put their kids through private high school -- then they're like, "OK, I spent a lot of money on this private high school! He has to pay it off! We have to make it worth it!"

That kid is not going to a Big 12 school.
Yeah. And it spirals out of control.

When I spoke to Paul Rudd, he mentioned that he notices it now more because he has young kids and it's already on his mind.
Paul keeps saying in interviews, "I didn't even really apply to school. I just went." I'm like, "I don't think that's possible." It's like he just showed up at the University of Kansas and was never admitted.

Yeah, he said that to me, too. But I know what he means. At the time you know what the minimum requirements are for a school like Kansas or Missouri -- you send off your application and then just show up when and where they tell you to.
But that's maybe a good thing about the U.S. There's so many good, big state schools where you should be like, "I want to go to college near my house." Do you know what I mean? That's how it should be.

I know when you're filming, the release date isn't always a known thing at the time, but is this a nice segue for you? "30 Rock" ended, there's a couple of months in between and then you're back in a big movie.
Hopefully! Hopefully it will work out well. For me, the part of what would determine if I could even do a movie was that when we were doing "30 Rock," I would only have a little window of time in the late spring, early summer to shoot anything. In the middle of the summer, we'd go back to writing "30 Rock" and start shooting in the fall -- and that's like nine months of the year. So mostly it's just luck that it came together at all. And in terms of the release, yeah, hopefully that'll turn out to be a good plan.

It just seems like good timing: The show ends, and now here's "Tina Fey, movie star." Not that you haven't done movies before.
I like the term "movie participant." I think that's more accurate.

Everything I read about the new Muppets movie compares it to "The Great Muppet Caper," which was my favorite of the first three. You're going to be the Charles Grodin of "The Muppets ... Again!"
Oh, God, I hope so. I hope so.

You're playing a Russian villain? Is that right?
I actually play a Russian good guy, kind of. Who knows? Maybe she seems like the bad guy. But just before I called you I was on Skype with a dialect coach. And I was like, "Oh my gosh, this is for real. I have to try and do this!"

I had just assumed that you had done that kind of accent somewhere along the line.
I have, but probably not well. But they offered it, and I was like, "Yeah, great!" I think that's a fun thing to do and try to practice.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I feel like you've been in more "SNL" sketches since you left the show than when you were on it.
Oh, for sure! Because, yeah, I only did "Update" when I was there. And I've hosted twice now, and you're in way more things when you host.

When you've hosted, did you ever think what it would have been like to be a cast member who was primarily in sketches instead of doing "Update" every week?
It's really fun to do sketches, but I was always very aware that I was so lucky to get "Update" and be able to do "Update." Because you can kind of goof around within "Update" and you can use a crazy voice and you can do whatever you want. But the people who are really legitimately great at sketch -- like Amy Poehler and Maya Rudolph and [Kristen] Wiig -- I can't do what they do. I can go out and try to imitate what they do, but they are the best. They are really legit players.

But since then, you've turned into an extremely successful actor. Is that not something you wanted to do at one point?
Oh, no. I think I feel like, by the end of "30 Rock," I feel like I know for sure how to do that kind of stuff. But I just think in terms of people who are sketch players, who are like, "I've got 11 different characters." Like, I wouldn't have made it if I had to do what they had to do on the show. They just kind of really excel at that stuff.

Admittedly, it's odd that I have a job in which I have to think about what strangers are going to do with their careers.
Well, somebody has to think about it.

So you're a very successful actor and you're doing big movies. But the day that Lorne Michaels decides that he doesn't want to do the show any longer, is that something that would interest you at all?
Oh, "SNL"? I mean, I feel like "SNL" is so defined by Lorne's taste and his sensibility. That's why any time people have tried to imitate the format and make their own version of it, you'll notice it never really quite happens. And I think that's because he is the center of that show, and I think it should just -- when he wants to stop, it should just stop.

What do you think about the Dick Ebersol era at "SNL"? I mean, it's been done before without Michaels.
It's off. Like, Eddie Murphy is amazing. But the voice of the show is off. No, you have to have Lorne there.

I don't disagree with you, but if anyone were going to do it, I think a lot of people would have you at the top of their lists.
Well, thank you. That's very flattering.

The finale of "30 Rock" was great. Were you happy with the reception? Everyone seems to have a favorite part -- mine was Jack's boat turning around so quickly.
Oh, good! I'm glad you liked that. Yeah, I was so happy, because, you know, especially our fans who stuck with us the whole time are really smart. And they really care about the show almost as much as we do. So I was just afraid that people would be like, "That's not what I wanted!" And it felt like, from what I could see, people were very satisfied with it as an ending to their time with these characters.

Did you have a favorite moment?
Oh my gosh, I have a lot of favorite moments. For me, the whole Lutz storyline -- like, Lutz giving his big speech how he's having his revenge on everyone. And Pete's wife pulling up in the tag and saying, "Get in the car."

"Hey, buddies."
"Hey, buddies." [Laughs] I have a lot of favorite moments in that.

Mike Ryan is senior writer for Huffington Post Entertainment. You can contact him directly on Twitter.

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