Standing wide-eyed witness to the zany goings-on at 30 Rock's "The Girlie Show" is mild-mannered country boy Kenneth, the NBC page who, to date, has frequently served as errand boy to Tracy Jordan and once bested Jack Donaghy at cards (thus earning the NBC-GE exec's premonition that one day, we might perhaps all die at Kenneth's hand). TVGuide.com spoke with Jack McBrayer — who can also be seen in Talledega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (now out on DVD) — about his unassuming, amusing TV alter ego, and how to tell a Tracy Jordan from a Morgan. (Hint: It's not easy.)
TVGuide.com: In your mind, as the actor playing him, how long has Kenneth been working as an NBC page?
Jack McBrayer: [Chuckles] I think Kenneth has been there for about five years, which is a long time for a page.
TVGuide.com: What do you think his ultimate aspirations are?
McBrayer: I would imagine he would want to move up the ranks and maybe not have Jack Donaghy's job, but one where he is making decisions about what people get to see [on TV].
TVGuide.com: Are you bonding with any of the real pages there at NBC, or does 30 Rock shoot across the river?
McBrayer: We are across the river at Silver Cup Studios in Queens, but the cast, we'll go to Saturday Night Live on Saturday, and I get to hang out with the pages a bit. Strangely enough, just about everybody who works at NBC was a page at one point.
TVGuide.com: What can you say about this week's episode, in which Tracy and Twofer attend, what, a sensitivity training seminar?
McBrayer: Oh, yeah, Twofer and Tracy [are forced to] go because someone says the N-word during the writers' meeting.
TVGuide.com: How funny, considering recent headlines.
McBrayer: I know! Actually, that was [scheduled to air] further down the line, but because of the timeliness of it, they moved it up.
TVGuide.com: What are we going to next learn about Kenneth? As of late we have seen that he clogs, and has some sort of affinity for Zach Braff....
McBrayer: Anybody related to NBC or television in general he's a huge fan of. You will see a page with which I had a romantic interest coming up.... I help Tracy Morgan — er, Tracy Jordan — market a product of his.
TVGuide.com: What is it, a George Foreman Grill or something?
McBrayer: That's almost exactly what it is! And in the episode that we're shooting now, Jack Donaghy, as part of a GE program, has to work with one of his subordinates for a week, so I have to train Jack on how to be a page. He dresses in the blazer and everything.
TVGuide.com: You must be looking forward to that, a whole story with Alec Baldwin.
McBrayer: I know! The one episode I had with him, we were playing poker and stuff, and I liked it a lot. I'm really excited.
TVGuide.com: I'm the same kind of card player Kenneth is: I have so little idea what I'm doing, it actually confounds the guys I play with.
McBrayer: [Laughs] And every now and then, when you actually win, you're like, "I have no idea how I did that."
TVGuide.com: What do you think of my theory that Kenneth and Cerie are having some secret torrid affair behind the scenes?
McBrayer: You know what's so funny? If it wasn't going to be too out of the ordinary, I was going to say,"What if Kenneth and Cerie had more scenes together?" Because I'm quite a fan of Katrina [Bowden]. We did dance on the yacht that one time....
TVGuide.com: You know what I miss? I miss, from the original 30 Rock pilot, the recurring joke with Rachel Dratch's character [then the star of "The Girlie Show"] and her severe, severe gastrointestinal distress problems.
McBrayer: That was the original pilot, right? What's so funny is that they changed it to hemorrhoid cream....
TVGuide.com: Yeah, they salvaged a bit of it. Considering your background – Second City, ImprovOlympics, Upright Citizens Brigade — did you have any SNL aspirations of your own?
McBrayer: Yes, and actually they had seen me a couple of times. I auditioned for them once in 2001, and I was part of a showcase at UCB here in New York in 2002. I think it's so cool that even though I never did get SNL, I'm able to do a show on TV that's kind of about SNL. I'm quite happy with how things worked out.
TVGuide.com: Acknowledging that everyone you work with is, of course, wonderful and talented, is there anyone you were particularly excited to be part of a cast with?
McBrayer: I've got to say that I was probably most scared to work with Alec Baldwin, but it's been a cool development to work with him as an actor. Getting to know Tracy Morgan has been an experience, once you kind of get a grip on how to handle him. Oh, man, that fella can talk. [Laughs] Katrina has such a good story about how she popped in his dressing room one time to say hey, and 20 minutes later she's walking on set with five sticks of burning incense, having no idea how it all happened.
TVGuide.com: I always had the feeling that the line between the two Tracys is a bit blurry.
McBrayer: I'm telling you... [executive producer] Tina [Fey] admits they just kind of follow him around and use what he says in the script. And Jane Krakowski is such a dear. We've all seen her on Ally McBeal, and I'm sure you know that she was in National Lampoon's Vacation. She's been so good about making sure that the cast gets along and has fun and stuff. She's a team player.
TVGuide.com: Is the improv artist in you ever tempted to add anything to Kenneth's exploits?
McBrayer: Honestly, I would if I didn't think that the writing was so dead-on in the first place. Tina and the other writers have really captured his voice, they know what I can say and how I can deliver lines.... I literally just read the lines, and they're great.
TVGuide.com: Yeah, I guess if anything, there might be little physical flourishes you add to the performance.
McBrayer: Yes, sir, yes, sir. But not a lot.... It's kind of a fine line between Jack McBrayer and Kenneth. Only a navy blazer separates the two!
TVGuide.com: Did working with the likes of Will Ferrell on Ricky Bobby prepare you for 30 Rock's own comedic heavy hitters?
McBrayer: Absolutely. I will say that they did encourage a lot of improvisation on that film, which was both exhilarating and intimidating, because you're there improvising a scene with John C. Reilly and Sacha Baron Cohen and Michael Clarke Duncan.... You're like, "Ohh, my gosh."
TVGuide.com: Did you learn a single thing about race cars?
McBrayer: We had to go to pit-crew school, for about two weeks! They wouldn't let me change tires, so I had this job called "catch can," where essentially I use this lunchbox thing to catch any gas that spills out [during refueling]. But it is a necessary part, sir! It is a necessary part.
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