Monday, June 29, 2009

Interview: Jane Krakowski Loves Her Comedic Freedom

Jane Krakowski first came onto the Hollywood scene in the small, but very memorable, role of Cousin Vicki in National Lampoon’s Vacation. She then landed a few daytime parts (on Search for Tomorrow and Another World), as well as guest-starring roles on prime-time shows and some feature films.

It wasn’t until her turn as Elaine Vassal on Ally McBeal that she became a household name. And with her co-starring role in the critically acclaimed sitcom 30 Rock, she is a bona fide star.

While many would claim that her current character, Jenna Maroney, is a bit dimwitted, Jane refrains from playing the stereotypical “dumb blonde.” Jane explains: “I never think of playing any character as limited in the intelligence department. Like with Jenna, she is just so self-absorbed and deluded about her status in the world. There are different ways to go about it. They can be flighty, but they have their own agenda, basically. I am glad that people know I am purposely making these choices.

“I love the characters I get to play. The outrageous comedy that we are allowed to do on 30 Rock — since many of us are playing characters who are temperamental actors — it gives us so much freedom to do ridiculous things. We established a world of almost farcical comedy. It’s so much fun for us to be able to go so far in that realm.”

30 Rock has slowly but surely been gaining more and more respect and much-deserved praise since its debut in 2006. “The build of 30 Rock might seem pretty slow in comparison to when I was on Ally McBeal. Within 14 episodes, the show had won Best Comedy at the Golden Globes. I don’t think it happens very often that it happens that fast. You could feel the change in the air; it was really taking off.

“With 30 Rock, at first so few people knew we were even on the air. When we got to the Emmys after our first year, we were up for a few prizes but we weren’t winning any. We thought we were going to go home empty-handed. We were literally getting our cars checked out so we could get into them and go home, when suddenly they announced that 30 Rock had won for Best Comedy. That really took us all by surprise. That was the first big indication that more and more people knew we were around.”

Jane is quick to deliver praise where praise is due when it comes to the success of the show. “It all goes back to the writing. Every accolade that Tina Fey has won has been so well deserved, because she and the entire writing and producing team make this show happen. NBC gives her the freedom to do what she wants to do, because they love her so much and trust her so much.”

Another thing that sets 30 Rock apart from other sitcoms on the air nowadays is its ingenious use of famous-name guest stars. “Tina made a very conscious choice with the guest stars, which was never to write a part FOR somebody famous. If the guest star could fit into the story line once a part was written, then great. That’s what I think makes it work and not come off as gimmicky.”

In fact, the third season ended with a cavalcade of musical artists performing in a benefit show for Jack Donaghy’s father — another excellent example of great “famous-person use” with the casting of Alan Alda. “This year I felt that the writers kept topping themselves with each episode. It was a great season for all of us. The fact that we got to end the season with such a musical extravaganza with some of the greatest music stars in the world, made it a great celebration to end the third season.”