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Jack McBrayer and Robert Carlock – A Final Tour of 30 Rock With Kenneth, Your NBC Page


Copyright ©2012  All rights reserved.Posted: October 4, 2012.

The most amazing thing you learn when you get to speak with Jack McBrayer, a.k.a. Kenneth, your NBC page on 30 Rock, is how much he seems to have in common with his character.  McBrayer is a bit overly polite, extremely enthusiastic, very friendly, a touch goofy — basically  Kenneth with all the odd quirks sanded off.

With the critically acclaimed 30 Rock ending its seven-year run with a mini-season of thirteen final episodes, we were lucky enough to take part in a call with other media outlets, speaking with McBrayer and 30 Rock executive producer Robert Carlock about the close of the beloved sitcom.

What has the atmosphere been like on the set shooting this final season?

Robert Carlock: Well McBrayer is always trouble so… We always just have our head down and do the work. It hasn’t yet I think sunk in. I think in those last couple episodes maybe people will start to act out and pick fights to make breaking up easier. (McBrayer laughs) But so far, correct me if I’m wrong Jack, we’re trying to sort of do just normal 30 Rock stories and while at the same time driving towards endings for everybody. There’s a lot that we’re trying to take into account, but in terms of the day-to-day, we’re used to always feeling like tomorrow’s going to be the last day, so it hasn’t felt too different.

Jack McBrayer: That is true, but it is weird knowing that there are finite episodes and stuff. To me it feels like your senior year of high school where you’re having fun and “oh it doesn’t matter, I already got into college” and things don’t matter. But you know that there on graduation day, you’re going to be choking back tears and hugging people that you never even spoke to. (They laugh) It has been great fun and business as usual so far but towards the end it’s going to get real emotional.

Can you talk a bit about the impact that Catherine O’Hara and Bryan Cranston had on set and on you as an actor?

Jack McBrayer: I do have to say that was one of my favorite days of shooting. Catherine O’Hara played my mother and Bryan Cranston played my step-dad and actually Robert Carlock directed that episode. It was an entire day of me laughing and sometimes… oftentimes… unsuccessfully not laughing and ruining takes, but they were both so fun and so funny and so just pleasant to be around that it really will go down as one of my sincere absolute favorite days of shooting. They were just amazing.

With Bryan Cranston’s character, what exactly is his relationship to Kenneth?

Jack McBrayer: Well he does play my step-dad – or he plays my mom’s friend Ron. It ends up he is the sweetest, kindest person in the world, but I think Kenneth just has so much baggage with his mom and with his family that Ron can do no right in his eyes. We learn more and more about that relationship throughout the episode and it was a real treat for me.

What’s your favorite memory of working on 30 Rock over the years?

Robert Carlock: Doing these phone calls with Jack McBrayer. (They laugh) It’s such a fun show. Jack was just talking about working with Bryan and Catherine and we just shot a thing today where Kellan Lutz from Twilight plays our character Lutz’s grand-nephew. This show is so fun just because there’s these constant things. We had Muppets come. We had Elvis Costello and then all those musicians come one year. There’s so many weird things that have happened and every time you say, “Okay I can retire happy, my comedy life can end and I’ll be able to say I did that.” It’s hard to choose just one.

Jack McBrayer: I do have to say very generally it is absolutely true that A) we’ve gone for seven years, but B) that we’ve gone so long and we’ve had so many amazing guest stars and storylines and stuff. Everyone has been on board. Everyone has been game. People you would not expect to say yes to this kind of stuff. It’s very flattering for all of us that they would join us for this nonsense. But honestly, one more specific thing for me is we would have this Halloween party every year. It’s real fun because everybody’s kids would come and there would be like little costume things. They would set up little trick or treat things and a fake graveyard. That has been a real marker for me of just seeing how long the show has gone and how long people have been onboard. Because when people started they had infants and now it’s like you’re watching these seven year olds walking around in their Pokemon outfits or whatever seven year olds do. It has just been crazy to watch the progression of time from that perspective too. Because time marches on, closer to my death. (chuckles)

The show never really attracted high ratings and I just want both of you to reflect on why you think that is. I don’t understand, maybe you have some ideas as to why it is.

Robert Carlock: It’s a question we get a fair amount. If we had the answer we would’ve fixed it. We always wanted the show to be as broad-based as we can, but at the end of the day we only want the people who want us, so we’ll take our beloved fans. Honestly every year, including this year, we ask ourselves how can we make it the show that we wanted it to be back in 2006 in terms of just being a giant hit. We may be whistling in the wind at this point, but if we could answer it we would of done it. Less McBrayer.

Jack McBrayer: All right, nobody wants that. (laughs)

If there was any episode you could write that hasn’t been written for your character, what would you want to see happen and what would you write?

Jack McBrayer: I would love it if for some reason Kenneth was sent to Hawaii. (laughs)

Robert Carlock: We could green screen that. That’s a great idea.

Jack McBrayer: Oh, no!

Robert Carlock: We’ll do it on the roof.

Jack McBrayer: No, me Jack McBrayer, I’m just such a sucker for sunshine and beaches and swimming pools and all that. Oh come on the Brady‘s did it. Modern Family did it. I even think the Jefferson‘s did it. Send Kenneth to Hawaii…

To get married?

Jack McBrayer: Yes. To get married. To blow up something. I don’t even care why. Just send Jack McBrayer to Hawaii. No, I mean of course I’ve been so fortunate just with any storyline I get  in any script that I’ve not been wanting for anything. But if I had my druthers, there would have been one time that I’ve been sent to Hawaii. Who knows? We still got a few more episodes.

That’s the spin-off.

Jack McBrayer: That’s right, Kenneth in Hawaii. Aloha ha ha.

Robert Carlock: That’s good.

Jack McBrayer: More coming.

Jack I recently saw your film The Brass Teapot at a film festival and…

Jack McBrayer: No way.

I’m wondering what your plans are post-30 Rock and would you prefer to continue in TV or are you looking more towards film work at this point?

Jack McBrayer: You know sir, that is a very good question. I have to say I am a fan of television. My concern is what is the future of television right now? The good news is there’s so much great stuff on all these cable channels. I know that I do prefer comedy and the bar has been set pretty high for me just working on 30 Rock for seven years. So I have to be prepared for the next thing to maybe not live up to expectations creatively, but of course make it work. I think in a very general sense I just want to work on fun projects with fun people. Whether that’s movie or film, I’m down for anything. Really and truly I just enjoy the work. I’m’ a fan of television, I just don’t know what the future of television is.

You’ve worked with Tina Fey for many years of course. What do you like working about her? I mean it may be obvious, but what does it do really well?

Robert Carlock: Boy, she does everything well, but one of the best things that she does or sort of the thing that she has a sixth sense for is just her initial reaction to an idea or to a joke. If she thinks it’s going to work, it does. Her taste is just really good in a way of sensing how performance works and how an audience receives something. It’s kind of preternatural, her ability to hook into something, even if it’s not fully formed. If she likes it, it’s going to work and it makes you really trust when she doesn’t like something. Because so much of what I do is grinding out the ideas and trying to form them, having her parachute in and be a genius is an amazing thing.

Can you give me a general sense of where you guys are heading this final season? Any surprise couplings, like maybe Liz Lemon and Jack Donaghy?

Robert Carlock: I was just saying to McBrayer we don’t quite know what the ending is. (They laugh.) We have a shorter runway than usual to do a lot of stuff. We do want to give everyone closure, even if it’s in our own weird way. In the first season at one point Jack the character (Alec Baldwin) said that either everyone would, every one would die by Kenneth’s hand or they’d all be working for him. We want to try and achieve one of those goals at least. In terms of Jack and Liz, the core of the show, the spine of the show, the reason the show has worked has always been the chemistry between the two of them. The idea of them getting together always feels a little an uncle and a niece to me. We are certainly gratified that there are people who are so invested in that chemistry and in that relationship that they would want to see that go further, but I think they both have other goals for each other, McBrayer’s laughing at me and just disgusted at the thought of it.

Jack McBrayer: That’s funny.

Robert Carlock: That said, we want to play that relationship and that chemistry and what’s been built going on seven years to its hilt. We’ll see where that takes us.

What episode are you filming right now?

Robert Carlock: We have a tandem day which is two episodes – four and five, right?

Jack McBrayer: Yes. We’re on our fifth episode of our final season.

You have a shorter run this time around, only thirteen episodes. Is it a faster pace to get it done or…

Jack McBrayer: (in deep voice) Nope.

Robert Carlock: We always have a lot of story and event in our episodes but I think that maybe it will be more event episode to episode than even ordinarily. What we try to do, as I said earlier, we try to take a step back in these 13 and do stories that feel like normal 30 Rock stories. We’re trying to use the election to do a couple political stories with Jack and Liz and stuff. Yes for the most part we’re packing it in. It’s going to be done.

Was there always a thought to make this a seven season show? Were there thoughts of another season maybe, or was this it?

Robert Carlock: I don’t know.  I think we always thought creatively it would be around seven or eight. Somewhere in there. That’s not much of an answer. The one thing that Tina and I said from the beginning was just let this end on our on terms. The fact that we’re doing that at the end of seven years, I mean those slightly truncated seven years, is all we could ask for.

Jack McBrayer: Well and plus I mean considering that I have been expecting this show to end immediately since season one, it is a miracle that it’s lasted as long as it has.

Would NBC go yes if you all had another two or three episodes that you could finish up or is it 13 or nothing?

Robert Carlock: Maybe we could beg for a 14th, but we’re focusing on 13 and out. 13 and we’ll ride off into the sunset. 13 and promos.

It’s been a great seven years and it hasn’t seemed like it and it’s sad to see you go, but guys you are the best…

Robert Carlock: Thank you, it’s hard to believe it’s ending and hard to believe that it went this long.

Who has been your favorite guest star to work with?

Jack McBrayer: Oh gosh, after seven years it’s going to be tough. With that being said really and truly most recently working with Catherine O’Hara and Bryan Cranston has been pretty… that was a game changer. They’re so talented but just nice people. That has been a big lesson for me as we’ve had these huge stars on our show but they’re all such lovely human beings. That has been a real treat, a wonderful discovery for me. Working with Tim Conway in season two was a biggie for me as well. I love that dude, but we’re buddies now.

Robert Carlock: I have to say maybe throw Buzz Aldrin in there just for sheer weirdness of it, having Liz Lemon and Buzz Aldrin yelling at the moon together was certainly a highlight for me.

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