Mary Tyler Moore turned the world on with her smile. Tina Fey turned the world on with her "Blerg!" "Dorp!" "Nerds!" and other off-kilter utterances as Liz Lemon on "30 Rock."
That farcical NBC comedy about a late-night sketch show, echoing Fey's experience as the first female head writer at "Saturday Night Live," won boatloads of Emmys and helped make Fey a movie leading lady in comedies such as "Baby Mama" (2008), "Date Night" (2010) and "Admission" (2013).
In "Muppets Most Wanted," Fey plays Nadya, a guard at the Siberian gulag where Kermit the Frog has been imprisoned.
By phone I interviewed Fey, 43, about the movie and her role. Here are excepts from the conversation.
Q I'll ask you what I asked ("30 Rock" co-star) Alec Baldwin when he did a Russian accent in "Rise of the Guardians": How do you choose between realistic and Boris Badenov?
A What did Alec say?
Q Hmm, I have to look it up. Keep talking while I do that.
A I feel like it's a fine line between the two -- it's a pretty crazy accent. I tried to do a real one, but then I think we all jacked it up on certain words, like, obviously, "Kyier-mit" -- a really great name for a Russian accent.
Q OK, here's what Alec said: "It wound up being pretty Boris Badenov, but that was a choice."
A Alec is pretty good at accents. We had a dialect coach for this movie, Jill McCullough. From the time you got there in the morning, she would talk to you in whatever accent you were supposed to be doing. And then she'd turn around to, like, an Irish crew guy and talk to him in an Irish dialect and then talk to someone from North London in a North London accent. I love her.
Q You've talked about being awkward-looking in your youth. But you ranked in Maxim one year and on People's "Most Beautiful People" list. When did you get hot?
A That remains to be seen, Frank. It comes and goes like the wind.
Q You're too modest. Even in (the web series) "Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee," where it's not like your Vanity Fair cover with full hair and makeup, you look great.
A Thank you! Look, it's part of being a woman, and it's kind of a shame, but you have to be a little conscious of the way you look. I can't roll like Louis CK and just be, "Hey, let's shoot."
Q So you were at Second City, and landed a writing position at "Saturday Night Live." What was it like getting the news?
A I think the first person I called when I heard was (former Second City cast member) Amy Poehler. She was already living in New York, and I started crying because I was sort of overwhelmed. They ... gave me one week to pack up my apartment in Chicago and move to New York. And my boyfriend at the time -- now my husband -- was going to have to stay in Chicago for work. ... I remember Amy laughing, and she was like, "How much money is it?" It was certainly the most money any of us had made, and she was, like, laughing really hard, like, "You gotta do this!"