Adam Bernstein was one of the directors working on the first season of NBC’s Tina Fey-created critical darling “30 Rock.” While filming a scene during the show’s first season, he held up his thumbs to frame a shot. Alec Baldwin, who starred as Jack Donaghy in the show’s first season, was furious at this.
Baldwin wanted to know “30 Rock” co-star Tina Fey saw in her husband.©NBC/Courtesy Everett Collectio
“According to [editor Doug] Abel, Alec turned to [Bernstein] and said that if he did that one more time, he was going to assault him. And he didn’t say it with a smile on his face,”Mike Roe writes in his new book. “The 30 Rock Book: Inside the Iconic Show, from Blerg to EGOT,”(Abrams Press), available Nov. 30.
Baldwin allegedly threatened to attack “30 Rock”According to the book, Adam Bernstein was director. Vince Bucci
Abel believes that the animosity between the two was one reason why Bernstein — who went on to direct episodes of “Breaking Bad” “Fargo,” among others — left the show in 2007 after only 6 episodes.
On “30 Rock,” which premiered in October 2006 and ran for seven seasons, Baldwin won two Emmys and three Golden Globe Awards for his portrayal of Donaghy, one of television’s great all-time characters. But this new book shows that even though he was collaborating with good friend Fey, Baldwin’s reticence toward the show created a lot of unpleasantness along the way.
Baldwin was not the only director to have issues with Bernstein.
“Alec is a little challenging,”Paul Feig, whose credits include directing, admits “The Office,” “Bridesmaids,” and 2016’s “Ghostbusters”In addition to the 2007 “Cleveland”Episode of “30 Rock.” “[He] turned out to be the least fun to work with.”
Feig believes Baldwin was affected in part by uncertainty about the show’s success, which made Baldwin less open to improvised scenes.
Director Paul Feig (above), claims that Baldwin “turned out to be the least fun to work with.”WireImage
“In Alec’s case, he was like, I just want to get in and get out, [especially if] you wanted to do something elaborate…more than a few takes,”Feig is quoted saying.
“Alec is so brilliant that in two takes, you get something great. It’s just that as a director, then you go, ‘Ooh, try this,’ because I could maybe even make it ten percent greater, and he’s just like, ‘No, we got it.’”
Things might have been different when Baldwin and Fey first met many years ago if Fey hadn’t been romantically involved.
“When Baldwin first met Fey, he had asked SNL talent coordinator Marci Klein if Tina was single — at which time Klein pointed to Tina’s husband, [SNL music director] Jeff Richmond, off to the side,”Roe writes. “While Baldwin was initially dismissive of Richmond, wondering what she saw in him, he later developed respect and admiration for Richmond and his talent.”
Baldwin was to play the show when Fey pitched it to Kevin Reilly, an NBC executive. “a right-wing host, a la Fox News ratings champ/blowhard Bill O’Reilly.”
According to the book, Baldwin was initially dismissive of Fey’s husband, Jeff Richmond.Getty Images
Reilly died, so she suggested that she create a show based upon her SNL experience. Fey was not excited about the idea until Richmond, who would compose it, did. “30 Rock,”It was suggested that Baldwin’s conservative character be kept. This was Jack Donaghy.
Baldwin, who has a long film resume, felt that a television series was too much for him.
“When he was approached in 2006 about doing TV, it was something that he’d never wanted,”Roe “He was a film and theater actor before the rise of streaming, when the world still turned its nose up at the smaller screen.”
Matthew Broderick (right), who accompanied on “30 Rock,”According to the book, Baldwin complained “bitterly”Doing “30 Rock.”©NBC/Courtesy Everett Collectio
Matthew Broderick, actor, stated in the book that Baldwin had agreed to do the show once he was. “he was complaining bitterly,”Bernstein mentioned that the show “never really had him,” because Baldwin never agreed to a full-season deal until the show’s final season.
“Baldwin eventually agreed to do the pilot, but all he would commit to was six episodes per season, for up to six seasons,”Roe writes.
Baldwin agreed to film three days a week, Tuesday-Thursday, and would ultimately agree to stay on for a season once the show’s additional episodes were picked up by the network. (Sitcoms were often given 13-episode orders or less, with another nine added only if the network sees promising numbers early in the season.
The season after Baldwin failed to deliver.
Producer Lorne (above) tried to tell Baldwin “If you were capable of enjoying [working on ’30 Rock’], it would be even better.”Getty Images
“Every year, Alec would be like, ‘Welp, this has been really fun, but I can’t wait to go do this indie movie while you guys are shooting the back nine [episodes],” “30 Rock”Roe was told by Andrew Guest, writer. “He would dangle it over Tina’s and [showrunner Robert Carlock’s] heads every year, then he would stay and do them.”
Baldwin put all he had into creating a memorable character as the season progressed. However, his hatred for television was always evident.
“On a television show, precise acting isn’t the order of the day,”Baldwin once said. “It’s a sitcom. The idea is to hit certain beats, and we do it cleverly. But you do a television show, you become a pastry chef.”
Baldwin’s situation was summed up by the role’s inspiration, SNL head Lorne Michaels, who told Roe that Baldwin “guards against enjoyment.”
“‘I’ll say [to him], ‘Alec, you have one of the best writers in television writing this part for you,’”Michaels stated. “‘It’s shot in New York, where you chose to live. You work three days a week, you get paid a lot of money, you’re getting awards. It’s a great time in your life. And, if you were capable of enjoying it, it would be even better.’”
Elaine Stritch, who played Baldwin’s mother on the show, was apparently just as hard to work with.©NBC/Courtesy Everett Collection
As “30 Rock”Jack Donaghy was introduced to the audience, making Baldwin seem more easy-going than Baldwin.
Veteran Broadway actress Elaine Stritch played Jack’s cold, hard-boiled mother, and struck fear into the hearts of the cast with her suffer-no-fools approach to filming.
“She gave me this joke to say, but I didn’t understand it,” Emily Mortimer, who played one of Jack’s girlfriends, said. “I didn’t know what it was, but I was too scared of her by a million miles to say I don’t know what the joke is. So I couldn’t deliver it, and she got more and more angry. She turned on me — she was like, ‘Just do it! Can you not hear the rhythm of it?’ I was like, ‘No, say it again. How am I meant to say it?’ She was like, ‘Just say it as I f—ing say it!’”
Baldwin was as difficult as possible on set, but Stritch was more than equal. Stritch had filmmakers following Stritch for the documentary. “Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me.” “In the film, you can see them shooting a scene where Stritch improvs an extra line,”Roe writes.
“Baldwin’s reaction: ‘Don’t you last word me, you. It’s my laugh-line, you bitch.’ She could take it as well as she gave, bursting into laughter — but Baldwin’s patience was wearing thin.”
Emily Mortimer (right), a guest on the show, said she was afraid of Stritch.
Toward the end of the show’s run, Baldwin realized what he had with “30 Rock”He tried to keep the show going, offering to take a 20% pay cut if the show was renewed for seasons 7 or 8. Fey was ready for the end by this point. “30 Rock”Baldwin was officially on board for the final 13-episode season.
As “30 Rock” said goodbye, airing its final episode in January 2013, Baldwin at last understood that he’d been fortunate enough to star in one of the most inspired television comedies of all time. Reflecting on the final scene he filmed with Fey, Baldwin’s love for “30 Rock”It is simple.
“Freezing my ass off on a boat floating in a marina in Battery Park City, Jack groped his way toward telling Liz he loved her,” Baldwin said. “That night was tough. The best job I ever had, that I will ever have, was over.”