Oprah: What was your original pitch?
Tina: I wanted to create a show about a cable news producer who has to deal with a conservative, overbearing pundit who is gold in the ratings. I kept thinking, "Wouldn't it be great to get Alec Baldwin?"—but I never felt I could. The network passed on my original idea. They wanted me to make the show feel more like my life as a sketch-comedy writer. I was resistant, but then I thought it could be funny to have a crazy triangle of people—especially if it included actors like Alec Baldwin and Tracy Morgan. Tracy is the complete opposite of me. We breathe oxygen, and that's about all we have in common. Well, I suppose there's more than that.
Oprah: Why did Tracy come to mind? Just because he's a little crazy?
Tina: He's not so crazy. He's funny in a very raw way.
Oprah: I mean crazy in a nice way.
Tina: Yes. He's crazy in the best possible way.
Oprah: And why did you want Alec Baldwin so badly?
Tina: I thought it would be fun and funny for Alec to play the complete opposite of his own politics [Baldwin, who is known for his liberal politics, plays Jack Donaghy, a politically conservative network executive]. Also, I knew him as an SNL host, and he is great at comedy. Sometimes on SNL, you get brilliant actors who just don't take to comedy.
Oprah: Other than a sense of humor, what do you need to take to comedy?
Tina: A willingness to drop your ego and let yourself look foolish. You almost have to enjoy looking vulnerable. You'd be surprised how many people don't want to do that.
Oprah: They don't even know how! For so many great actors, it's about being in control.
Oprah: 30 Rock wasn't a big hit at first—even though it's so well done. I know what it's like to work on a project and love it—then when you put it out, the world doesn't receive it the way you intended. That's what happened to me with the movie Beloved.
Tina: In the beginning, I would just cling to any good review we received. And the fact that when it was over, I'd at least have the DVDs.
Oprah: When you got an Emmy in 2007, I laughed when you said, "I'd like to thank our dozens and dozens of viewers."
Tina: Our ratings were scary!
We Hear You!