Tina Fey: One Hot 'Mama'

Tina Fey
Image credit: PHOTOGRAPH BY JUSTIN STEPHENS

What the film does have is Fey's sharp edge (sample line: ''I think she wants me to rub olive oil on your taint''), as well as a surprisingly soft side, requiring the writer-turned-actress to venture into Big Emotions territory. Not only is there a tearful confrontation with Angie at a botched baby shower, but Fey had to pucker up for a swoony Hollywood kiss with onscreen love interest Greg Kinnear. ''There is more to her in this movie than there is on 30 Rock,'' says McCullers. ''There's a lot more heart.''

Will that big-screen heart translate to a bigger audience for Fey? At least two industry execs hope so. ''Tina is so connected to the zeitgeist,'' says Donna Langley, president of production at Universal, the studio producing Baby Mama. ''We could really catch a wave with her, and I think we have in terms of timing — after the Emmy, the SAG, and the Golden Globe.'' Adds NBC entertainment co-chairman Ben Silverman, who recently picked up 30 Rock for the 2008–09 season, ''Watching Steve Carell's very human performance in The 40 Year-Old Virgin translate into acceptance of his character, Michael Scott, on The Office — I think there's a very strong possibility of Baby Mama expanding Tina's audience and the 30 Rock audience.''

Whether Fey wants a larger audience — well, that's another issue entirely. ''They should draw up an equation: What level of fame do you need to achieve to keep doing what you want? Because you don't want any more than that,'' she says. ''You don't want someone to take a picture of your butt on the beach.... How do you get to be Christopher Guest? Just live your life, make hilarious movies with your friends, and then go home.'' 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,'' says Fey. ''Pretty soon my kid's going to understand what I'm saying and be able to access it on the computer. I screwed up something a few months ago and I was like, 'You know who wouldn't do that? Tom Hanks. You know who would keep his mouth shut? Tom Hanks. I should try to be like Tom Hanks.'''

Fey even feels a slight bit of comedian's remorse about the ferociously funny Hillary Clinton rant she unleashed while hosting SNL in February. She says the piece started as a bit about gender politics, but turned into what many saw as a full-on Clinton endorsement due to a last-minute tweak to the ending between dress rehearsal and showtime. ''The original ending we wrote was the one Tracy Morgan used [on the March 15 SNL], which was 'Bitch is the new black, but black is the new president.' It was sort of conceding, 'You're getting a raw deal — but guess what, you're done.' But it felt like a negative way to go out, so we said, let's just end on 'Bitch is the new black.''' The phrase (which was suggested by Fey's makeup artist, Richard Dean) immediately entered the country's political lexicon, and Fey was crowned Hillary's No. 1 Fan — a title she wasn't ready to accept. ''It was a weird position because I wasn't comfortable, but then I felt bad, like, 'I do think she's a very smart woman. I should be fine with it.''' Not surprisingly, Fey now declines to reveal which candidate she supports. ''I think all of the remaining candidates are intelligent people who truly want to serve our country and...well, I'll keep my mouth shut.'' She pauses. ''I was going to say, 'and who wouldn't rather just be commissioner of baseball.' Once again, why can't I keep my mouth shut?''

NEXT PAGE: ''If we were on HBO and [30 Rock] had this same rating — but it was OK because we were on HBO — I would be completely fine with that. [But] I feel like with network...you've gotta sell ads, you've gotta have a higher number.''