Tina Fey's Lasting Impression
Since 30 Rock premiered in 2006, many famous faces have guest-starred alongside Tina. From former Vice President Al Gore to Jerry Seinfeld, fans never know who might pop up on the screen.
When Tina made her first Oprah Show appearance in May 2008, she said there was one person she'd love to have on the show...Oprah! "I always say I want Oprah to come on and play my best friend, and we'll hang out," she said. "I start talking about it so much, the reporter kind of backs out of the room."
Oprah says the next thing she knew, she had a script and was learning her lines! "We are so grateful that you're a woman of your word," Tina says to Oprah. "A lot of other people would have wriggled out and tried to get out of doing it."
To cut down on production time, their scene was shot in one location—an airplane. "It was almost like you were a tiger we were trying to capture," Tina says. "We were like, 'If we can get Oprah in this enclosed area, we can just put cameras everywhere.'"
In the scene, Tina's character, Liz Lemon, gets seated next to Oprah and hilarity ensues! "As probably happens to you in real life, [my character] is kind of bugging you a lot and wants to talk to you a lot," Tina says. "I get you to tell me about some of your 'favorite things.'"
Oprah says she had a great time on the set with Tina and the 30 Rock crew. Would Tina invite her back to reprise her role? "You were very professional. You took direction well. You knew all your lines," Tina says. "We will have you back anytime you want to come back!'"
Photos: AP/Wide World Photos & Broadway Video Enterprises/NBC Studios, Inc.
When Oprah saw Governor Palin on television for the first time, she says she immediately thought of Tina. "The moment she came out, she'd not spoken 10 words, and I went, 'Oh my God. She's Tina Fey!'" Oprah says.
At first, Tina says she tried to argue her way out of portraying Governor Palin, but even her husband, composer Jeff Richmond, saw the similarities. "My husband was like, 'No, you have to admit it. You guys really do look alike,'" she says.
Tina says her 3-year-old daughter is particularly perplexed. "You can show her the New York Post with Sarah Palin, and she'll be like, 'That's Mommy,'" Tina says. "She's still confused about it."
In the beginning, Tina says she was reluctant to don the wig and fake an Alaskan accent. "I was never an impressionist, and I think a lot of people who saw her and said, 'Oh, that looks like Tina Fey,' maybe didn't even realize I didn't work at SNL anymore," she says. "I didn't know if I could do a good job."
Tina says she was also worried the sketches would cross the line and be mean-spirited. "It's such a tricky thing because you want the skits to be funny, but you don't want to feel like you're being mean to anybody," she says. "It's just a hard thing to do because it's a woman, and you don't want it to feel like a woman just going after another woman."
Looking back, Tina thinks they managed to make people laugh without being offensive. "There was enough good stuff to make jokes about without having to be mean-spirited," she says. "She just has such a colorful way of speaking, just the way she really talks is so entertaining that we didn't have to do that much."
Tina even got to meet the governor in person when she guest-starred on SNL. "We chatted a little bit, and she was a very good sport," she says. "I told her she should come back and host sometime in the future, because I think she's got a real future in TV."
Tina says she's happy she did the impression, but now, she says she's retiring her wig, once and for all. "For me, it was like this wonderful chance to kind of go home again and be with all my friends at Saturday Night Live," she says. "It's just the strangest thing that's ever happened—to have been a part of the excitement of this election. SNL was a really big part of that excitement, and I'm definitely going to look back on this as a very special time."