Tina Fey and Steve Carell have come a long way from the writer's room at Saturday Night Live and The Dana Carvey Show. They have sailed past creating their own memorable onscreen personas on long-running hit TV shows. They surged past fame into true comedic superstardom. They added the key word 'executive' to their TV status and moved into the world of movies, seemingly without a pause. And now, two of TV's biggest stars are opening a cinematic romantic comedy together for the first time. Buzzine's Izumi Hasegawa sat down with Tina and Steve in Los Angeles, CA to talk stripper poles, body parts and avoiding boredom within a loving relationship...
Izumi Hasegawa: We know NBC is having a little bit of trouble these days… Do they get any bulk rate for loaning you out to Twentieth Century Fox?
Tina Fey: I first will say thank God NBC is having trouble or my show would not be on the air.
Steve Carell: Neither of our shows would be on the air if NBC wasn’t in trouble.
TF: I think we are certainly happy that Fox wants to advertise the movie on NBC. That’s good for them.
SC: Yeah, they are making something off the ad campaign.
IH: Tina, you did a great job ad-libbing and I wonder how hard that was…
TF: Once I lose my purse and coat, it was just me and my arms and the night. Just my bare arms, and I was trying to hide my arms behind a doorjamb. The only thing they didn’t take was my high heels.
IH: You didn’t really wear the heels all the time, right?
TF: I took them off when we were in the car sometimes. I would cheat a little bit, and I think we had several sets [of heels]. We had this sort of grandma set and a higher set, and then the higher set. There was a steel reinforcement in the heel. Really, Steve built all those shoes for me. He is also a cobbler.
SC: I am.
IH: Can you talk about the ad-libbing?
SC: It was 65 ad-libs, and you can probably pick them out. We would always do the script as written because it was very strong and the script didn’t need to be changed, but then once we had it to our satisfaction, we would open it up and play around. So it’s hard to determine what necessarily was ad-libbed and what wasn’t.
IH: Both of you are married, and I was wondering: do you actually do date nights, and have you ever had weird experiences on those nights?
TF: We definitely try. We don’t have it as formally. Maybe once a month my husband and I get out, and it is a massive effort to get a baby-sitter. If we get more than ten blocks from our house, it’s a miracle and I am exhausted. So I definitely related to the idea of, “Okay. Oh good. It’s our date night.” That made sense to me. But Steve has had tons of weird stuff happen.
SC: Lots. We are always happy when we get invited to an award show because that is it. That’s our excuse to get dressed up and go out somewhere, and even on those nights, we are generally back by about 10:00. As most people with kids know, you pay for it. If you really go out late and whoop it up, the kids are up at 5:30 the next day, and so are you. So that kind of determines how crazy our date nights get. Generally our best date nights are very, very simple, and we spend a good deal of them talking about our children anyway. So there is no escape.
IH: Steve you made many, many movies while this was still on TV, and Tina, you make one about every two years, obviously. Can you compare the two? And both of your shows have been on for a while. Are you working toward just having movie careers in a couple of years?
TF: Well, one every two years is about all I can handle because, being the creator at 30 Rock, my year starts in the middle of June and goes back around ’til March, so I look forward to writing movies again, and this is certainly fun and good times, but to be in movies, I am just going to take it as it comes.
SC: I am going to move toward voicing video games. I am always just happy to be employed, so that is sort of what I am looking for.
IH: Were you looking for something to do together specifically? How did it all come about with you making this one?
SC: Our interest was weighed initially, and we spoke on the phone and kind of sussed each other out in terms of what each of us was thinking, and Tina said the funniest thing. She said, “Wouldn’t it be fun to just be hanging off a car bobbing through New York City?” And I am like, “Yeah. I’m in. That sounds great.” When I heard that she was the other component, I was very, very eager to do it.
TF: For me, I really wanted to do something with Steve, and the idea that it was a married couple who are grown people appealed to me because I felt like that’s what we are in real life, and at a certain point, you can’t be making a movie about your GD wedding. It gets to a point where you’re getting up there and I just felt like this is a movie that, if my husband and I got out, we would actually want to go see this movie — this topic. So that appealed to me too.
SC: Oh…until you just said it, I did not realize it was an homage to 40-Year-Old Virgin. I know exactly…the Breathe Right gambit…but no, I hadn’t even… But I hope to rip something off of my body in every movie.
IH: Tina, can you talk about being on the stripper pole — the unusual way you were on that stripper pole…? Whose idea that was and how that was done?
TF: Shooting that sequence, Steve and Shawn [Levy, director] agreed that we should not plan it because then we would just get in our heads about it and try to learn too much…
SC: It would have been too good.
TF: He would have gotten aroused and it would have been embarrassing in the theaters. We only did like two long takes of the whole sequence, and the first take Steve picked me up and I just neglected to hold the pole. I was supposed to be going around the pole, and I remember you going, “Hold the pole.” But it was a sequence that I was kind of nervous going into – like, oh boy, what is this going to be? And then I kind of knew that I could count on Steve to deliver throughout it, which he did. One of my favorite things in the movie is Steve licking the pole. I mean, it made me nauseous. I would like to say that we went to a bunch of strip clubs and really studied and stuff, but we didn’t.
IH: Shawn mentioned that before you guys got on set, there was a long period of passing the script back and forth with notes. Could you guys talk about the things you were looking to steer the movie toward making it look like and feel like?
TF: We wanted the movie to feel like it was at the top of its intelligence in dealing with this couple and marriage, and we really wanted this couple to feel truthful and realistic to us, and that they weren’t a couple who hate each other who were fighting all the time. They were just a real couple who were kind of worn down by their everyday lives and were, in a way, struggling to try to come together, and that this night sparks that for them. So I think we tried to pursue jokes and speech that felt true to that.
IH: What is it that you do in real life to avoid this kind of boredom of marriage?
SC: I knew we would get questions like this on the press junket, and I thought I prepared, but I clearly haven’t because then you feel like you are giving relationship advice. I think every relationship is so different and so unique, so I don’t think there is any sort of blanket advice. For Nancy and myself, there is a lot of laughter. There is an open line of communication, and we just have fun with one another, and we never forget to make fun of ourselves and to not take it all too seriously. At least for us, that’s what helps…and amazing lovemaking.
IH: I wondered about playing into what everyone in the rest of the country feels about New York, like The Out of Towners has done — the two different versions of The Out of Towners really play up all the terrible things that could happen to you in the city, and Steve, you have lived in New York for a while, and I think Tina, you live there now… Is there certain defensiveness about that, or is there a certain kind of perverse pleasure in finding those aspects of the city?
TF: I definitely encountered people like the maitre de that we encounter in the movie. People are propping up their own self-worth by trying to make everyone feel terrible. How else is the city portrayed? It’s portrayed pretty good. We took out all the shots that had real rats in them.
SC: Such a cliché.
TF: A rat in New York City?
IH: Steve has done action comedy Get Smart, but for you, this was the first time doing something like this, right? So any particular scariest moment or thing where you thought, “I am a bad ass up here”?
TF: I thought all the action stuff was really fun to do, and I enjoyed those days where we spent several days and nights in those cars and being pulled on giant rigs, and I thought it was really fun. It was impressive. Our crew was awesome that they built these crazy… It involved like two monster trucks tethered to two cars… It was pretty cool. And I watched the movie and I was like, “Yeah and then I smash that window.” I didn’t smash that window. The last few days of the shoot, were on the roof in New York City, and that was good times. Pretending a helicopter is coming and screaming… Who doesn’t want to scream at Ray Liotta?
IH: How does your husband react to your schedule and all these wonderful things that have happened to you?
TF: He is very understanding about it, and he also works the same TV show that I work, so we are sort of all working toward a common goal. I think if we had truly separate jobs, it would be hard, but he is the house daddy in the morning if I have an early call, and so far so good. He is very good and helpful about it. He is a producer and he does all the music for the show.
IH: Tina, how long do you think you want to continue doing 30 Rock? Do you feel any fatigue at all, or do you want to do it for like ten more years?
TF: I feel constant fatigue, but I think we will see. I think we will keep going until we can’t anymore. I won’t know ’til I’m there.
IH: In 30 Rock, is Floyd’s wedding going to take us to the season finale, and how crazy is that wedding going to get?
TF: Yes, Floyd’s wedding…we are building to a multi-wedding season finale. It’s good because apparently people like weddings, so we are just trying to do a bunch of weddings. I think it will be kind of our version… I think Liz ends up actually having to function three weddings on the same day.
'Date Night' is in theaters now from 20th Century Fox.