You probably know Jane Krakowski from
30 Rock or her time on Ally McBeal, but the New Jersey native isn't just a television actress. She's also a very talented, Tony-winning stage actress. And now that 30 Rock has wrapped up its penultimate season the new mom is heading to Town Hall on June 8 for a big version of her cabaret act. Amidst her rehearsals we chatted briefly with her about who in the cast of 30 Rock is running for mayor, baby music, and riding the subway—or not.
So tell me about the gig at Town Hall. What are you going to be doing?We are setting up a fun and frothy show for everybody. In these days and these times I want to keep it happy and light so expect a little bit of escapism from your daily routine when you come and see our show. And because it's such a big venue we're going to be extending our normal show. We've been lucky enough to tour this show around America and now we're finishing it up here at Town Hall. we're doing a lot of songs from our CD, The Laziest Gal In Town. We're going to be expanding it with special guest stars and perhaps a 30 Rock salute. Some Broadway favorites and maybe even some dancing boys. It should be an entertaining and big show!
Despite all your other work, you've really stuck with the theater. I love it. It enthuses me and it indicates everything else I do creatively. Because I love doing it so much it satisfies me so much.
Do people recognize you for your Broadway stuff or do mostly get recognized for your TV work at this point? I hope people know me from both because I'm very proud of the shows that I've gotten to do on Broadway and I hope people know that side of me. It's a side that I get to express a lot more of myself creatively. I think many, many people, know me from TV of course, it's because of the exposure. Although done in a very comic way, in a send up kind of way, Jenna does get to sing on 30 Rock so I think people know I do that as an entity but when they come to see these shows they get to learn a lot more about it.
It struck me watching the last live 30 Rock that your performance in that, versus most of your peers, your stage work showed. You can really see that a lot of the other actors seem to have sketch responses to the audience and you've got that Broadway thing where it's, "I know the audience is there but I'm not going to give any tells." It was interesting. You know what, doing a live TV show was one of the great highlights of our time on 30 Rock, getting to do it twice now. After the first time we were so terrified and yet exhilarated. It was like the roller coaster you want to get back on. You survive and you're like, "Let's do it again!" I think right then and there we all wanted to do it again. So we knew it was going to be in the cards that we would hopefully get one the following season. And of course with our association with SNL and getting to do the show live at 8H is just so awesome to me.
Yes, many of our cast members...we were the right cast to do it because many of them are from stand-up or improv or SNL themselves. For me it was a very different experience. What I sort of got out of it was that it was like doing a Broadway show with no rehearsal! When we do Broadway shows people are like, "Why are you nervous? You shouldn't be nervous! You do Broadway shows all the time!" And I'm like, "Yeah but we rehearse for a month and then go out of town for a month!" We're pretty ready by the time the audience comes in.
In this case we rehearsed for about three days, at most, with all the quick changes and everything. It's definitely a hybrid experience. I still do get that same charge out of it that I do performing live in the theater. I think that same energy came out in me but I don't know if there was any other skill at work at the time.
One of the great, fun things about doing those live shows is that there's a musical pre-show. Myself and Cheyenne Jackson and Fred Armisen and lots of people get up and do musical numbers to warm the audiences up. The adrenaline gets so ridiculously high getting to perform with the SNL band. We tried to include that on our DVD of 30 Rock last year and this year but the musical rights were so expensive to all the songs we did that they couldn't include it. This year when we were picking songs for the live shows Tina was like, "Do you want to do any song that's in public domain so we can afford it?" I don't think those songs really get the crowd going...
Luckily your Town Hall show is more rehearsed than the live shows, right? We're still rehearsing fiendishly right now because we want to expand our show. We've got nine days left to open them all up and I'm hoping it will be a great way to finish this wonderful time with this show. Now we've bridged to the next show.
Do you know what the next show will be? There's the last season of 30 Rock first, right? Yeah we have the last season of 30 Rock but I meant the live shows, these kinds of shows. Tina Fey thinks I should sing "Camp Town Ladies" at the pre-show. [laughs] Those are all free! We did Janis Joplin instead this year instead and Tina Turner last year. After this I don't know what I'll do. I would love to return to Broadway, of course, because I love it so much. When I was doing the long run with Ally McBeal I came back to New York and had one of the best experiences of my career with the musical Nine. I would love to come back to do a big, Broadway musical, that would be ideal, after 30 Rock is over.
So you're not going to be running for Mayor? [laughs] No! I'm not sure of any cast member of 30 Rock will be running for mayor anytime soon!
Do you have a dream show that you'd love to do? I've been really lucky to play some great roles. I was lucky enough to do Guys and Dolls in the West End in a brilliant production directed by Michael Grandage with Ewan McGregor. I really wish that that production would come over to the States. They didn't transfer it right away and I wish that they had. Now there's another version of Guys and Dolls that might not happen now with the timing because with the revivals you have to plan it all out. I've always wanted to do Sunday in the Park With George but that was just done. A lot of my favorites you kind of have to wait for the cycle of revivals to turn around.
They're bringing back Sondheim shows at a brisk clip these days, they just come right back! They are, yes. I'm really looking forward to Into The Woods in the park.
Me too! I was a such a fan of Woods when I was little that, I'm sorry to admit, I initially refused to see Grand Hotel [which Krakowski was in] since it had taken over the theater. Though I did get there eventually. I'm so sorry about that! So I guess you'll be at the park too!
Oh yeah. You mentioned Ally McBeal earlier, do people ever bring that up to you? You've been on these two very big shows now! I've been very lucky to get on two shows that I've been extremely proud to be on because of their creativity and their writing. Yeah, people do all the time. Obviously it was a water cooler show but I think it touched a nerve with a lot of people. It's lovely, it's lovely to have that. I hope that 30 Rock will have that lasting power as well, a show that people still quote to me and remember in the zeitgeist of this time period. That's what Tina does so well. She has her finger on the zeitgeist of what's happening. Now that we're living in syndication—yaaaay!—30 Rock will live on as well.
Is it strange to see your face on subway posters? Syndication posters seem to be much more aggressive than NBC's regular posters. It is true, isn't it? But honey, I haven't been in the subway in years! [laughs]
Well they're there! I swear! But I've heard! My friends have taken pictures. No, I have seen all of the gazillions of posters in the subways and I think it's great. That was a big milestone for us. To be honest with you, I don't think anyone part of 30 Rock thought we would make it that far when we first started with the little engine that could show so that was a big deal for us.
It was going to be Studio 60. Exactly! We were the little show that was behind Studio 60 and their big, power machine.
So, I read on the internet that you had a baby last year. I did, yes! It's not just internet fodder, I actually did!
Are you going to teach that baby to be the next CGI dancing baby? [laughs] My baby loves dancing. I don't know if it's just his age or if it's something he learned from his mama but you throw on any music and he starts bouncing and dancing. It's awesome.
And are you enjoying being a mother in the city? I am. I love that he's a city kid. I grew up in New Jersey and always would talk about "The City" and coming into "The City," so I'm thrilled that my boy is a city kid. We're currently wrapped up in the world of Music For Aardvarks. People who have kids know it. It's all city-specific songs for kids about riding in a taxi or taking a walk down on Avenue A. Those are the songs...I should be working on my Sondheim and my classics and my Cole Porter! All I can keep singing is the "Taxi Song" from "Music For Aardvarks," which is the world I'm in at the moment.
So you're totally going to sing those at Town Hall? [laughs] We might be adding a section about my son that might bring us to some of those songs.
With the Tony's coming up—as someone who does a lot of theater and knows a lot of theater—do you have any horses that you're backing? Any shows that you recommend any shows that people see? Oh my gosh, I have to catch up! Now that we're finished filming 30 Rock I have to catch up on a lot of the shows I wanted to see. The last thing I got to see was Death of a Salesman and I loved it. I just think that Mike Nichols is the great director of our time. I thought it was a brilliant production, the performances in that were amazing. I've got to catch up now! As soon as this show at Town Hall is down I'll be racing to everything. I want to see Clybourne Park, I want to see Once. I haven't gotten to see them all yet. I'll be doing a summer excursion of theatre!
Last question: any recommendations for restaurants and stuff? I know you shoot in Long Island City. Where do you guys go? Long Island City is up and coming! They are getting some hot chefs and hot restaurants now....I didn't know I was going to get asked this. I wasn't expecting that! We live downtown so we kind of do all the downtown spots. But [laughs] I don't want to tell you where I go to eat! Then people will be following us!
Fair! My goal right now is to not let the papparazzi find out where we're eating and come take pictures of us. I don't know if I can help the Gothamist out on this one!