Mary Tyler Moore turned the world on with her smile. Tina Fey turned the world on with her "Blerg!" "Dorp!" "Nerds!" and other off-kilter utterances as Liz Lemon on "30 Rock." That farcical NBC comedy about a late-night sketch show, echoing Fey's experience as the first female head writer of "Saturday Night Live," won boatloads of Emmys and helped make Fey a movie leading-lady with comedies such as "Baby Mama" (2008), "Date Night" (2010) and "Admission" (2013).
In "Muppets Most Wanted," opening Friday, Fey, 43, plays Nadya, a guard at the Siberian gulag where Kermit the Frog has been imprisoned. She spoke with Newsday contributor Frank Lovece.
I'll ask you what I asked Alec Baldwin when he did a Russian accent in "Rise of the Guardians": How do you choose between realistic and Boris Badenov?
What did Alec say?
Hmm. I'd have to look it up. Keep talking while I do that.
I feel like it's a fine line between the two -- it's a pretty crazy accent. I tried to do a real one, but then I think we all jacked it up on certain words, like, obviously, "Kyier-mit" -- a really great name for a Russian accent.
OK, here's what Alec said: "It wound up being pretty Boris Badenov, but that was a choice."
Alec is pretty good at accents. We had a dialect coach for this movie, Jill McCullough. From the time you got there in the morning, she would talk to you in whatever accent you were supposed to be doing, and then she'd turn around to, like, an Irish crew guy and talk to him in an Irish dialect and then talk to someone from North London in a North London accent. I love her.
I should probably ask, what's your take on Alec's New York magazine article .
I didn't read it, because I think I thought, "Yeah, I pretty much know this spiel."
You've talked about being awkward-looking in your youth. But you ranked in Maxim one year and on People's "Most Beautiful People" list. When did you get hot?
That remains to be seen, Frank. It comes and goes like the wind.
You're too modest. Even in "Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee," where it's not like your Vanity Fair cover with full hair and makeup, you look great.
Thank you! Look, it's part of being a woman and it's kind of a shame, but you have to be a little conscious of the way you look. I can't roll like Louis CK and just be, "Hey, let's shoot."
You and writing partner Robert Carlock were doing a TV pilot set on Fire Island.
We may eventually do that -- we have a couple of pilots we're producing, and that one hasn't gone forward yet. We're doing a pilot out here with [writer] Matt Hubbard, set at a women's college, and Robert and I wrote a pilot for Ellie Kemper ["The Office"] that we're going to shoot next month.
So you were at Second City, and landed a writing position at "Saturday Night Live." What was it like getting the news?
I think the first person I called when I heard was Amy Poehler. She was already living in New York, and I started crying because I was sort of overwhelmed -- they literally gave me one week to pack up my apartment in Chicago and move to New York. And my boyfriend at the time -- now my husband -- was going to have to stay in Chicago for work, and I was kind of overwhelmed.... I remember Amy laughing and she was like, "How much money is it?" It was certainly the most money any of us had made, and she was, like, laughing really hard, like, "You gotta do this!"
Last thing: You have my favorite line in "Muppets Most Wanted."
Really! What is it?
"Goodnight, Danny Trejo!"
[Laughs] I think we may have come up with that on the fly, but I can't remember. I don't think it was in the script. I'd have to check. But I'm so glad it's your favorite line!
Well, then ... "Goodnight, Tina Fey!"