She clearly cherishes time with her daughter, who visited the set the previous day after school. "She's in nursery school. It's pretty cute," Fey says with a smile. "She has a backpack that takes up the entire size of her torso. She's really proud of it. If you said to her, 'What's in your backpack?' She's really cocky and says, 'Nothing.' There's nothing in it. She just carries it."
Indeed, Fey's dressing room seems more like a kindergarten then a den of Zen. The two candles on her coffee table have virgin wicks. Next to them is a cup of Dunkin' Donuts coffee and the last crumbs of a loaf of bread. The little room is crammed with all the accoutrements that a toddler requires. A little plastic pink chair sits near the couch, near a potty and a red wood rocking horse. In the other corner stands an Eddie Bauer highchair.
It's not exactly luxurious. She brushes a black speck resembling a rice kernel off the couch and cracks, "By the way, I do believe that's a mouse turd. It's the basement of an old bread factory. Remind me to wash my hands before I eat more."
Earlier that morning, she and McBrayer had been picking through an assortment of Dean & Deluca snacks sent over as a thank-you by Conan O'Brien for appearing on his show. She gave McBrayer a guided tour of the selection of spicy and salty nuts, candied cherries and chocolates.
"Those are peppery. Those are sweet. These are pretty good," she says, pointing to the coco nibs.
The snacks become fodder for her dry wit. Talking about her tasks for the day, she shrugs, "I always have to do something," setting up the quip: "But I've got my Smokehouse nuts."
She has just wrapped the first half of a scene set to air in December, in which her character, slightly loopy sketch comedy writer Liz Lemon, accompanied by her show star, Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan), and Kenneth visit a low-income apartment. They're making sure the Christmas gifts Lemon sent, as part of a charitable mission, were in fact delivered to children living there. Inadvertently, the well-meaning but gaffe-prone Liz clues the kids into a secret about Santa's existence.
"Yes, I know I made several mistakes," Fey says after the first take. After another, they break into laughter when Morgan messes up his closing line. And when the actor playing a little boy's dad admits that he can't keep one sentence straight, Fey is unfazed and reassures him, "We do this all the time."
Sweeter than Lemon
In between set-ups, she regales the crew with a story about the pregnant Poehler and how dad-to-be Will Arnett is dealing with the impending arrival. "She's 10 months pregnant," Fey joked. "She had some contractions, some Braxton-Hicks, and Will blew it in every possible way."
In some obvious ways, Fey and Liz Lemon are alike. They're both comedy writers. They're both smart and well-meaning, if not entirely polished or slick.
"A desire not to show her feet in public would be the main overlap between the two of them," Carlock quips. "They're both sincere in their desire to do good and are aware of their occasional inability to live up their own ideals."
Fey, who has been married seven years, can't relate to Liz's relationship travails, but she understands that the character appeals to women who don't see themselves in the sleek, skinny hotties on "Gossip Girl."
"What's the opposite of fantasy fulfillment? Nightmare reminding. That's good, if women like her," Fey says. "She's mostly me, with some neuroses and behaviors exaggerated."