NEW YORK (Reuters) - She is known as the political and media-savvy comic from “Saturday Night Live,” the sketch comedy show that helped her launch her own award-winning “30 Rock.”
Now Tina Fey hopes to parlay that television success to the international big screen in her first major film role in “Baby Mama,” a humorous look at a single woman who pays a surrogate mother to give birth to her baby. It opens Manhattan’s Tribeca Film Festival on Wednesday in its world premiere.
Fey, 37, has become a female comic sensation after winning Emmy and Golden Globe awards. She became the first female head writer on “Saturday Night Live,” wrote the screenplay and co-starred in the 2004 hit movie “Mean Girls,” and is credited as creator, star and executive producer of “30 Rock.”
But she said she is not banking on the same buzz for her film, nor does she know whether her current success will last.
“Things are going well right now, but I am pragmatic and I am always like, ‘Now I need to be ready for a long silence,”‘ she told Reuters in a recent interview. “The hard work part will hopefully continue. You can’t be the new kid on the block forever.”
The former self-confessed high school “nerd” who grew up watching entertainers like Mary Tyler Moore and Benny Hill said she was careful to not let popularity affect her ego.
“You would be foolish to think, ‘Oh everyone has really discovered that I am truly, truly wonderful,”‘ said Fey, who honed her comic skills in the early 1990s at Chicago’s famed improvisational comedy troupe The Second City. “You can enjoy it without getting too high on your own supply, as they say.”
“Baby Mama” also stars Fey’s former “Saturday Night Live” castmate Amy Poehler. It was directed and written by another of the show’s writers, Michael McCullers.
Fey, who is married with a 2-year-old daughter, said it was natural to work with her “old friends” and wasn’t worried about being criticized for making a commercial, mainstream film.
“It’s OK to make something people like. It is not entirely selling out,” she said.
Her sitcom “30 Rock,” which co-stars Alec Baldwin, is loosely based on her experiences at “Saturday Night Live” and her role as a conscientious television show producer is close to her real self.
“I am a lot like my character; I love rules. I guess I am the opposite to other comedians in that way,” she said.
With her trademark black-rimmed glasses, she wins praise for her ability to create complex and farcical female characters without degrading them. She said she considers herself a feminist.
“I feel like a lot of women my age and younger are afraid of the word,” she said. “I’m like, ‘Say yes, who cares?’ Like, ‘Do you want to be paid the same as the guy doing the same job?’ Yes!”
But she also cited the “mixed messages” given to women in society.
“There is the kind of, ‘You can have it all and be serious,’ but also, ‘It’s great to get Botox’ and, ‘You should be really skinny but don’t be, but don’t not be!,”‘ she said. “I do like to call out those double standards as much as I can.”
She is filming a small part — what she called “a sausage of a role” — in a film by British comic and “The Office” creator Ricky Gervais and will continue with “30 Rock.”
After that, she said, if her film career fails, there is always stand-up comedy, which she has only ever performed at an “amateurish” level.
“When it is all over, that will be my sanity in my forties and fifties,” she said. “I will just go around to little coffee houses and do my stand-up. My filthy, filthy stand-up.”
Editing by Daniel Trotta and Eric Walsh