Interview with Jack McBrayer & Executive Producer Robert Carlock from 30 Rock

Executive Producer Robert Carlock and star Jack McBrayer recently talked to the press about the new season of their show, 30 Rock, which premieres tonight on NBC at 8:30/7:30c.

On similarities between Jack and his character, Kenneth:

Jack: Well to some extent. I tend to be a people pleaser and I always try to be good at my job but I would love to think I’m not nearly as annoying as Kenneth. But I don’t know, maybe my coworkers could say otherwise.

Robert: He refuses to take the costume off.

Jack: Oh it’s my costume. They didn’t even dress me in that.

To read more of the great questions and answers from the interview, jump with us!
When asked about preparing for the live episode:

Robert Carlock: Yes, well we just read an early draft of it today. We’re mainly preparing by trying to be as far ahead of it as we can be. It’s sort of a – you know it’s a new thing for us, it changes the way we write the show because we’re used to being able to do a lot of things really quickly and cut away in a lot of scenes and a lot of flashbacks. And trying to keep the tone and the pace of the show the same within the limitations of – just from a writing standpoint, the limitations of doing a live show is really different and really fun in a lot of ways.

So I think we have trying to do sort of a weird way we can still do flashbacks where maybe other actors play our actors in flashbacks just because we want to do all of it live and we can’t have people you know teleport across to another set. So we’re trying to make it – the challenge from the writing standpoint to us is try to make it feel like a 30 Rock show while only say having access to three sets when usually we’re out on location and that kind of thing. But mostly I’m preparing by trying to get a lot of sleep and doing pushups.

Jack McBrayer: From an acting standpoint I know one thing that I’m really worried about is the number of mistakes that we make on a usual shoot, we don’t necessarily have that luxury so cross your fingers friend.

Robert: Yes, the mistakes will be part of the fun Jack.

On what we should expect for the start of the season after the finale last season, with Kenneth leaving NBC:

Jack: Yes, well I know from the Kenneth story line is he’s dealing with at the end of last season he got fired and so I do get to explore like life after TGS with Tracy Jordan. And also it’s fun to see how some of the other employees, the NBC employees are dealing with my departure. Other than that I think Alec is dealing with his girlfriend being pregnant.

Robert: Yes, you know we sort of did – last year was about doing a lot of – trying to have some big changes in people’s lives and this season’s about how those changes affect the show as we know it. And McBrayer didn’t take the hand of us from Kenneth. He’s still here. But you know Liz is in this ongoing relationship with this guy Carol, you know Matt Damon’s going to be coming back some and Jack’s dealing with jumping into a relationship himself. And Tracy’s got some life changes and stuff. I think it’s – you know we’re picking up all of those threads to answer your question and the fun is seeing how it all kind of reverberates among our usual players.

And also getting to see McBrayer wearing something other than stage costume.

Jack: It’s jarring. It will frighten you.

Robert: You don’t recognize him. He’s beautiful.

On guest stars & upcoming storylines:

Jack: Well I think we do continue in the tradition of bringing in some wonderful and very talented guest stars so we’re all excited about that. You know the actors, we always just get a kick out of having any scene to do with any of our guests coming on board. Otherwise the storylines continue to be absolutely absurd and crazy and that’s super fun while also you know kind of tying up some strings that we left from the finale of last season.

Robert: And you know we were picking up as well – we didn’t mention before the kind of changes at NBC and the Kabletown fun we were having last year and I think we’re going to continue with that.

Queen Latifah’s coming on and I think episode 3 playing a congress woman who’s kind of got a bull’s-eye on that deal and trying to scuttle it. And she and Jack butt heads and that’s really fun. I think she’s coming back for one or two more episodes after that to sort of finish that out. So that’s another one of these sort of big things we’re dealing with.

One of the fun things of doing the show is that we get to take stuff from the news a little bit and from our own lives. And hopefully not cut too close to the bone. But you know we’ll – more of the same is our headline.

[As for other guest stars], from what we’ve done, Matt Damon is coming on, Rob Reiner does a very funny turn on the same episode as (Dana) – or as Queen Latifah.

Jack: Paul Giamatti joins.

Robert: Paul Giamatti of course, is in our second episode playing…

Jack: He is so funny.

Robert: Oh my golly, golly, how did I forget that? The weeks just blend into each other.

Jack: We’ve been sprinting through these episodes.

Robert: But he plays one of the editors at NBC.

Jack: And Elizabeth Banks is joining us again.

Robert: Of course.

On whether or not Kenneth was modeled after any actor or character, such as Rose Nylund from Golden Girls:

Jack: I think that’s a pretty great one. Between that and a little bit of Barney Fife from Andy Griffith, I think you’ve got some of that in there. But no, I think that Rose Nylund that kind of hits the nail on the head. But yes, it’s just you know out of the writer’s heads and so I just show up and put on the suit and smile real big, I hope I’m cutting close to what they’re aiming for.

Robert: One of the great things about Kenneth, especially early and this is not McBrayer, I’m not complimenting McBrayer. No, but that McBrayer can pull off that character is that he was kind of the glue – a lot of the times he remains it. But especially early in the life of the series in order to be able to allow someone like Tracy to do the crazy things that he does you needed someone who believed in him and no matter what he did. And it was a really crucial character for us from a writing standpoint in terms of setting the tone of the show.

So we’re very grateful to McBrayer for that.

Jack: Thank you sir.

On whether or not we’ll learn more about Kenneth’s back story & past:

Jack: Honestly wish I knew more. I do love every now and then when I get these random like crazy flashbacks. I’m like what the hell, where – who is this person, where did he come from? But it’s always a nice little treat every time you open a script and see something in there. But yes, I honestly…

Robert: It’s our lost mystery. I think it’s mythology, as long as we can stay on the air we’ll continue to – I have an idea in my mind of what it is but we will continue to play it out. I mean we’ve done jokes that hint that he was at Normandy Beach, we’ve had him in a flashback from the 50s.

Jack: I think maybe there’s just a carbon monoxide leak at NBC. I am a group hallucination.

Robert: I think the very end of the series is like the end of The Shining, you push in on a picture of the pages from 1932 and there among the other pages is Kenneth.

Jack: And Jack Nicolson.

On the “snub” at the Emmys

Robert: I mean you know you do the work and of course, it’s a long year. There are great shows out there and you know a lot of people don’t get nominated and we’re very happy to be there. And it just means – as one of our writers said immediately after, we just have to work harder. That’s what (Burnett) said after which I think might be impossible.

Jack: For real.

Robert: But we’ll do our best and I think you know the year so far is looking great. But it’s fun just to go to Los Angeles and see McBrayer at the pool.

Jack: Like a lizard on a rock.

Robert: Yes. But next year we’re going to come at them hard.

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