For awhile, Tina Fey has danced a bit around the subject of a Broadway musical adaptation of her 2004 film Mean Girls. On Tuesday evening at the Tribeca Film Festival, however, Fey said that star Ellie Kemper’s pregnancy — conveniently between shooting seasons of The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Fey’s Netflix hit — has given her the opportunity to work with her husband, composer Jeff Richmond, and lyricist Nell Benjamin, fulltime putting the show together.
“We’re working on the musical adaptation, and thanks to Ellie Kemper’s pregnancy, we have this whole summer to work on it,” she told a packed audience at the festival, where she was interviewed by TV Guide‘s Damian Holbrook. Discussing Mean Girls, they even managed to work in a reference to yesterday’s Pulitzer Prize winner Hamilton as Fey broke into a brief rap about her mean girl heroine. Will the story be updated to include social media? Holbrook wondered. “The thing about social media,” Fey responded, “is, it doesn’t dramatize well?” — finishing the sentence, as she does many sentences, question-like.
The hourlong chat ranged across Fey’s career from Second City to Saturday Night Live, 30 Rock and her current back-to-back films, the comedy Sisters with frequent collaborator Amy Poehler, and the more serious dramedy Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, along with the changes that Kimmy Schmidt has undergone over two seasons. The latter was clearly a favorite topic of both the subject and her chummy questioner.
“We made most of Kimmy Schmidt season one thinking it was going to be on NBC,” Fey recalled, “and it wasn’t until we were shooting the second-to-last episode that we started to realize we were probably not going to be on NBC. We’d made the show clean, which I liked, but it was not really a broadcast show, it was darker.
“The main difference between season one and season two is that the episodes can be longer,” she added. A half-hour show on “NBC is 21 minutes and 15 seconds after you take out the commercials. On Netflix, they really want you to make the episodes as long as possible for the amount of time you have.”
The subject of SNL also was never far from the front of the conversation. “Do you miss that outlet of doing regular political commentary that you had at SNL?” Holbrook asked.
“Yeah, I do,” Fey replied, no question mark. “I feel like, looking back at 2008, it’s like an episode of The Andy Griffith Show. Now, it’s like ‘Ryan Murphy brings you Horror Election!‘ Like everybody you know, I’m yelling at my TV every morning. It’s darker, it feels darker in here. It is thrilling to work at SNL during this election season so I do miss it a little bit. I was there twice this season. If Lorne calls me, I’m down there.”