Interview date: 09/25/2008
Run date: 09/30/2008
He might look like the clean-cut, all-American boy, but Jack McBrayer is not quite as innocent as Kenneth the Page, the character he plays on NBC’s “30 Rock.” Oh, sure, he’s just as nice as Kenneth, but when Bullz-Eye had the chance to speak with McBrayer about the impending DVD releases of “30 Rock: Season 2” and “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” he admitted that he’s not above the occasional moment of acting like a Hollywood douchebag. Of course, when you actually read what action he views as falling into this category, you’ll laugh and say, “That’s what he views as douchebaggery?” Yes, it is. And that’s why his real-life likeability shines through in his every performance, as well as in this interview.
Bullz-Eye: Hey, Jack, how’s it going?
Jack McBrayer: Hi! Doing good, Will! How are you doing?
BE: Great! Well, first of all, I should first say that Robert Cass says to say, “Hello.”
JM: Wait, how do you know him?
BE: He and I write together for Popdose.com.
JM: Oh, my gosh!
BE: Now, he also would like to know if there’s any truth to the comment on your IMDb message board that you made fun of a blind guy in Central Park. If so, then he’s sure the blind guy mouthed off to begin with.
JM: Wait, what?
BE: (Laughs) There is a comment on your IMDb message board that says that you made fun of a blind guy in Central Park.
BE: Which is apparently is untrue.
JM: Who did that? (Pauses) Did Robert put that on there?
BE: I do not think he did.
JM: Oh. (Pauses again.) Do I need to do something to get that off?
BE: I will look into it, if you’d like.
JM: What the heck? I mean, was it somebody being mean? Oh, no!
BE: I promise, I’ll look into it.
JM: (Uncertainly) Okay.
BE: So, with “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” how protective was Jason Segel of his screenplay? Did you see him develop any facial tics if you changed so much as a single syllable?
JM: (Laughs) No, he comes from the Apatow school, which is, like, “Hey, let’s get it twice as it is written in the script, and then let’s just have fun with it!” And I think, also, between him and Judd and Nick Stoller, the director, they cast people that they trusted enough, that they were confident that we weren’t going to sabotage the film. (Laughs)
BE: How interactive is Judd Apatow with a movie he’s producing rather than directing?
JM: Well, I’ll tell you this much: when I was doing “Talladega Nights” down in Charlotte, in 2005, he was down there the entire time. By the time we were doing “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” in 2007, I think he was doing seven different movies at that time, so he was in Hawaii maybe twice the entire time that I was there…but understandably, because he was doing “Pineapple Express” and had everything else going on.
BE: Now, how did you get into the Apatow circle, as it were?
JM: Let’s see. I guess I would have to owe it to Adam McKay and Will Ferrell. Adam McKay went to Second City in Chicago, as did I, and by the time he was in New York, working at “SNL” with Will Ferrell, eventually I moved to New York and started doing improv at the Upright Citizens Brigade, and that’s when they got familiar with my work. And they definitely threw me a bone with “Talladega Nights,” ‘cause they had pretty much wrote that little part for me…and I am very grateful for that! (Laughs)
BE: A lot of people have made comments about Jason’s full-frontal nude scenes in the film. Did you see that as writer’s prerogative that he kept them all for himself?
JM: Y’know, let him enjoy that. (Laughs) It was so funny. I remember stories…because that scene was Kristen Bell…and there would be some takes where it was from the chest up, and he would still be naked! And she was be, like, “Jason, you don’t have to be naked for this!” And he was, like, “I know…”
BE: How did you feel that your scenes in the film worked? Because I know a lot of critics have observed that, y’know, you’re funny, but they weren’t sure how well they served the overall plot arc of the film.
JM: Well, I mean, I guess. When you’re working on a film…I mean, at this point in my career, I’m still, like, “Please don’t let this get cut!” So I trust the words, and I have fun with it as much as I can, but, also, I trust the director and the editors. I’ve found that editors can make or break scenes. So, yeah, it was fine by me. I had a great time with it!
BE: So you have any interest in pursuing a full-fledged film career, or are you just happy right now doing the occasional guest spot between “30 Rock” episodes?
JM: Well, I’m quite content right now with the TV gig and then doing movies whenever I can. I kinda like playing second banana, too, because I don’t think I can carry anything on my own. (Laughs) But I’m thrilled to just be able to have a day job and get to do fun stuff in between.
BE: Do you even bother any more trying to convince people that Kenneth the Page isn’t the same as Jack McBrayer?
JM: Well, at this point, the good news is that people are nice if they just associate me with Kenneth. It would be different if they were, like, “Hey, you stupid idiot!” But that has not been the case. But, yeah, after awhile, sometimes, I have gotten to a point where, when people go, “Kenneth! Kenneth,” I’m just… (Sighs) My name is Jack…
BE: Congrats on the Emmy win for the show, by the way.
JM: Thank you very much. We were very excited about that.
BE: I’m sure. So how far into filming Season Three are you right now?
JM: I think we just finished our fifth episode. But, you know, we won’t even come on TV until the end of October.
BE: Right. You know, the show gets a lot of press – certainly lately – for all of the guest stars who are passing through its doors. Is it ever a point of contention within the ensemble? Has a “Less Oprah, More Toofer” campaign been started yet?
JM: (Laughs) I don’t think that one specifically. I think all of us as a cast just totally defer to the creative instincts of Tina and the writers, but I don’t think any of that has really come to pass, because we totally just trust what they are putting together and creating for us.
BE: Well, they’ve done very well at incorporating the guest stars into the show, certainly.
JM: Oh, absolutely. And it’s such a fine line, too, because some of them play themselves and some of them play characters. It’s an interesting gray area of reality that we’re straddling there.
BE: I’ve found a ton of news briefs recently where they’ve been quoting you about Jennifer Aniston’s upcoming appearance on the show, and how everyone was star struck, but that she was lovely to be around. Did her publicists require that you submit those comments for approval before releasing them to the press?
JM: (Lowers voice) Her publicists made me say those things.
BE: I knew it!
JM: (Laughs) Yeah, someone told me that those quotes were all over the place now. But it’s absolutely true! For me, it was just so strange…well, all of our guest stars, really, seeing people that I’ve seen on TV and on films for years and years and years, and here I am with them, and they are joining us on our show. It’s a very strange experience. It’s hard to wrap your head around.
BE: As a comedian, who’s been your favorite guest star? Not necessarily the biggest name, but someone who, given your field, had you going, “My God, I can’t believe I’m sharing a scene with this person?”
JM: Well, Tim Conway was a big deal for me, because he was very inspirational in my early exposure to comedy. With that being said, we just had Steve Martin, and, then, even people like Will Arnett, I’ve just always enjoyed his comedic instincts. Our casting people have been pretty spot on with who they bring in, so that’s been pretty great. Another one is Megan Mullally, who’s just hysterical.
BE: You mentioned Will Arnett. You had already worked with him earlier, of course, when you appeared on “Arrested Development.”
JM: Absolutely! And I knew him even before that, through improv in New York. His wife, Amy Poehler, helps run the Upright Citizens Brigade, so we would play around there as well.
BE: Speaking of improv, I understand you and Paul Scheer have an improv duo together.
JM: Yes! Yes, Paul Scheer, who plays my arch-nemesis, Donnie Lawson, on “30 Rock,” we do a two-man show. And it’s pretty great.
BE: Had you been friends prior to “30 Rock?” Was that partnership what led to him being cast as your nemesis?
JM: We were friends prior to that. In fact, we’ve been doing that show for several years before “30 Rock.” But I think that might have been instrumental in him getting cast. It was so great to be able to play with him…and to pretend that we hated each other, because we really are, like, very close friends.
BE: I’m sure everyone’s curious about whether the much-publicized new NBC page attire makes it into the plot of the show.
JM: You know what? It does make an appearance. I’ll have to leave it at that, but it does make an appearance.
BE: When you first heard about that, I presume you immediately knew they’d tackle it in some capacity.
JM: Well, I guess they had to, because, I mean, it was the biggest deal to happen to pages in a long time! I was, like, “Oh, boy! That’s my bread and butter! I don’t know if people are going to recognize me now!” (Laughs)
BE: I guess you hear from a lot of real NBC pages about your performance.
JM: Oh, yes, yes. Fortunately, I have not offended them completely yet or sullied their good name. One thing that has been extremely surprising to me is how many people who have gone on to much bigger and better things used to be NBC pages. I mean, people come out of the woodwork! It’s just amazing the sheer number of people who have worn the navy blazer. (Laughs)
BE: Will we be seeing any new episode of “Living ‘Neath the Law” anytime soon?
JM: Oh, you know what? That’s a good question. Those I did when I was in Los Angeles, and that was with a bunch of the kids who worked on the website FunnyOrDie.com, and so, y’know, that had the McKay and Ferrell stamp of approval. But, unfortunately, it’s only when I’m in Los Angeles, so it’s just a tighter schedule. But I’m more than willing. I love those things. And, plus, it’s funny for me, because in improv, I’m acting goofy and saying horrible things all the time, but I guess for people who’ve never seen me improvise before, they’re, like, “I can’t believe Kenneth would say that!” (Laughs)
BE: You do seem like you would be the poster boy for the clean-cut, all-American boy.
JM: I know, right? That’s weird!
BE: Have you been approached by any other musical divas to appear in videos since your work with Mariah Carey?
JM: (Laughs) Still waiting on them. Still waiting for T.I. or Li’l Mama to approach me.
BE: One can dream.
JM: That was a very strange experience, but it was a lot of fun.
BE: I’m sure you’ve been asked this often enough to last you, but how did that come about?
JM: Well, as it turns out, Mariah Carey is a fan of “30 Rock,” and so when it came time for them to come up with a concept of the video, they said, “Well, let’s just have some fun with it,” and they knew I’d say “Yes” to anything. (Laughs) No, it was really fun…but it was so strange! Like I said earlier, working with these people that you’ve seen tons of times before, and all of a sudden you’re in the same room with them and, more than that, you’re doing bits with them! It was so weird.
BE: Is there a particular favorite character on “30 Rock” that you enjoy having Kenneth teamed up with, one where you feel the chemistry is just really fantastic?
JM: You know, it’s been great over the past couple of years, but just over the past few episodes, I have so enjoyed working with Tracy Morgan. It’s just…that kid will crack me up with the smallest thing, and it’s just hysterical. He’s like a big kid. He’s like a child. A very wealthy, crazy child.
BE: Do you have a favorite episode from the previous two years?
JM: You know, one that still holds a very close place in my heart is from Season One, where I’m playing poker against Alec Baldwin, because I think that was, like, the third episode that we did, and it was kind of a big deal for me to even have a storyline, because, y’know, I’m essentially just a supporting player. But, also, it was fun, and I kind of feel that I proved my worth to Mr. Baldwin on that one.
BE: And, lastly, what’s the most TV-star thing you’ve done to date?
JM: (Sighs) Okay, there is one. My two-and-a-half year old nephew is obsessed with this Nick Jr. show called “Yo Gabba Gabba,” and so… (Hesitates) This is kind of a Hollywood douchebaggy thing that I did, but I called my agent and I was, like (Growls) “Get me on ‘Yo Gabba Gabba’!” (Laughs) And she did! She made it happen! So I’m doing an episode with Paul Scheer that should be airing in the next month or so.
BE: Excellent! Well, it’s been great talking to you, and, hey, anything you want me to pass on to Robert? I understand from Facebook that it’s actually his birthday today.
JM: What? Are you kidding me? Well, please tell him that I said, “Happy birthday,” and (Lowers voice) tell him I will see him in Central Park. (Laughs)
BE: I shall. Thanks, Jack! Good to talk to you.
JM: Take care!