Tina takes on corporate America
TINA FEY, actor and producer
(FORTUNE Magazine) -- In late July, Saturday Night Live head writer and "Weekend Update" co-anchor Tina Fey announced her departure from the comedy-sketch show to focus on 30 Rock, a new NBC show about, well, the female head writer of a live comedy-sketch show.
Fey, who writes, produces, and stars in the show, which will air this fall, recently spoke with FORTUNE's Stephanie Mehta about the television business, working for a large company, and Six Sigma. That's right, Six Sigma.
Your new show, 30 Rock, makes fun of the fact that the network is owned by a huge conglomerate, which one character jokingly refers to as "GE NBC Universal Kmart." Isn't that biting the hand that feeds you?
We'll find out, I guess. My character is someone very much like me, a woman who does her tiny, little job and has no concept of how the world is actually run by these giant corporations, and so Alec Baldwin is going to play a GE (Charts) executive who hopefully, over time, will show me how things really work and how you get things done.
Is the Alec Baldwin character based on a real GE executive?
He is not, because I've never really met one. That's not really true. I have met Bob Wright a few times, and he's totally normal and nice and personable and not like an intimidating business figure.
So you've never met GE CEO Jeff Immelt?
Maybe. Now I'm embarrassed. I think I have met Mr. Immelt in passing. Now that's actually bad, if I say can't remember.
I think he reads FORTUNE.
Oh, this is really bad. We totally met. I'll say that, and that way, if he goes, "We have?" then he'll be embarrassed.
So I guess that means you're probably not going to be invited to participate in any of those famous GE training sessions in Crotonville?
We are hoping that at some point my character will get invited to become Six Sigma'd. We were learning about this yesterday. I guess for Six Sigma, as you go, you're like a green belt or a black belt or a super black belt. Which I think is really funny, because if you're making up your own system, why not use three different colors? Why is it green belt, black belt, and super black belt? It sounds like little kids made it up.
30 Rock is essentially a workplace comedy. Do you think television is a more dysfunctional industry than most, or are all workplaces inherently screwed up?
The workplaces I've known have had fewer boundaries than a regular workplace, which hopefully will be good, because it will give these characters a little more room to be inappropriate at times. But I think that's going to be part of it too--this guy coming from a real workplace trying to deal with these people, basically children, who are unemployable in any other field.
From the September 4, 2006 issue