Tina Fey: One Hot 'Mama'

Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, ...
Image credit: K.C. Bailey

''This is going to be just like Cribs,'' says Fey, standing in the doorway of her Upper West Side apartment. She launches a brief tour that includes a stop to feed the fish belonging to her husband (and 30 Rock's music supervisor), Jeff Richmond, and to move a few stray picture books to the edge of the living room couch. A video baby monitor sits next to the TV, broadcasting a fuzzy, black-and-white image of her two-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Alice, asleep in her room. Fey then pauses by a bookshelf, on top of which sit two Emmys, a Writers Guild award, a Golden Globe, a SAG award, and a yellow toy robot that Alice finds too scary to keep at eye level. (Mommy will have to make room for one more trophy: 30 Rock recently won the prestigious Peabody Award.) She pulls the 12-pound bronze and granite SAG statuette down and hands it over. ''Feel how heavy this thing is,'' she says. ''It's incredible!'' Fey, who memorably compared her acting abilities to those of a hat rack in her SAG acceptance speech, still won't admit to having more than ''four moves'' as an actress: ''Eye-rolling; the ability to eat food on camera in real time; I think I'm a decent straight man. Do I have a fourth move? Um, unpleasant dancing.''

Fey never gave much thought to acting when she moved to New York from Chicago in 1997 to take a writing job at Saturday Night Live. And she certainly never gave much thought to starring in movies — beyond writing a small part for herself in the 2004 hit Mean Girls. Occasionally Fey would get approached to audition for parts, like the sexually frustrated housewife Dorie in the 2004 remake of Alfie. ''I opened [the script] and it was the scene where she's astride Jude Law. I'm like, 'Yeah, guess what — I'm not going to get that. I'm not even going down there.''' (Her future 30 Rock costar Jane Krakowski tackled the role, so to speak.)

So when Michael McCullers, a former SNL writer and Fey's one-time officemate, approached her two years ago with the idea of directing a Tina-Amy buddy comedy, she was ''pleasantly surprised.'' The trio began meeting to hash out potential concepts, and while some were nonstarters — ''Cagney & Lacey came up a lot,'' says McCullers — eventually they landed on the perfect premise: Amy has Tina's baby. ''I liked the topicality of the fertility issues that affect so many people,'' says Fey. ''There's so much weirdness and emotion about it. If you start with something juicy, you end up with a better [movie] than if you just start with some jokes. And Amy liked that it did not have anything to do with a goddamn wedding.'' After McCullers wrote the initial Baby Mama script — casting Fey as Kate, the accomplished but infertile organic grocery store exec, and Poehler as her duplicitous surrogate Angie — the two women gave it a once-over. In went some more girl-bonding humor (Angie smashes the window of Kate's ex-boyfriend's car), while a few of McCullers' car jokes got the boot. ''Like, 'She borrowed my nice car and then I had to drive her yucky car,''' says Fey. ''We were like, 'We're not guys. We can't have this car humor.'''

NEXT PAGE: Staying on the edge of the Hollywood radar may be tough for a woman whose unfiltered (and sometimes hilariously brutal) honesty lands her in the spotlight — most famously when she called SNL host Paris Hilton uncooperative and a ''piece of s---'' on The Howard Stern Show. ''I should really strive to have better manners about those things.''


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