Jack McBrayer plays NBC page Kenneth Parcell on ‘30 Rock‘, which is filmed in New York City. So what has the 36-year-old actor from Georgia been doing in sunny Los Angeles for the last few weeks?
“It’s 20 degrees in New York!” he explains in his Southern drawl. “We don’t have to go back until after [Sunday's] Golden Globes.”
McBrayer is so enamored with sunshine that he spent his entire summer vacation last year in LA, hanging out by various swimming pools, working on his tan and drinking beer. He also went back to the hotel in Hawaii where he filmed ‘Forgetting Sarah Marshall‘ for a week. The entire staff remembered him from the film shoot.
“I knew the bartenders and waiters and even had the same housekeeper. They would say, ‘Jack, what are doing here?’ It was the best summer of my life,” he says. “I did not do anything. I knew I had a job waiting for me in the fall. Even in high school, you had to get a summer job. So it was like being back in grade school.”
But summer ended and back he went to the set of ’30 Rock,’ where he co-exists with a high-profile cast that is often in the news. We chatted about some of them and his oddball character on the sitcom, which airs back-to-back new episodes on Thursday.
Your co-star Jane Krakowski is engaged, have you heard?
I just saw that myself! I emailed her, thank God for the Internet so I can hear about these things. To her defense, we’ve been on a break since Dec.18, She has other people to tell before me, but I was in top 300!”
Your co-stars are always in the news. Didn’t Alec Baldwin say again that he wanted to quit acting?
That is a fear I live with on a day to day basis over there. I take it with as much a grain of salt as I can, hoping it’s not true. If he leaves, I think the show leaves.
It is a cast of big personalities with Alec, Tina Fey, Tracy Morgan, Jane and then all those guest stars. How do you fit into all of that?
We all get along very well. I don’t think of myself as someone who has a lot of demands or anything. I don’t like tooting my own horn, but I’m pretty easy going. It’s easy for me to go with the flow and fit in where there’s the most room.
The Golden Globes and the SAG Awards are coming up. You had your first Emmy nod last year. You like putting in the tux and going to those affairs?
I gotta admit, I get a little thrill sitting with all the big stars and stuff but I don’t like getting all dressed up and doing that red carpet stuff and having people yell at you. It’s different from the first two years, you have a publicist shoving you out there and nobody knows who are.”
What’s coming up for your character on 30 Rock. What can you spill?
I can’t exactly remember. We’ve filmed so many episodes and not always in order. I believe right now Alec’s character is smitten with a crush of his played by Julianne Moore who is delight by the way. He tries to win her over and plans a road trip to Boston – the whole gang – and they bring along the page for some reason. Everyone is miserable and Alec and I are scooting around town getting dirt on her.
Your character is always smiling. Does that come easy for you?
It is, especially over there. The script is so funny and everyone is so funny with lines – even the crew is funny, It’s such a good vibe, easy to enjoy yourself all day long. That being said, I’ve had plenty of temp and restaurant jobs but you find the things you enjoy in them like coworkers or customers or thinking up jokes while you’re working, listening to all the voices in your head.
Is Kenneth really what he seems or is there some dark other side to him that will come out in say, season five?
I always wonder what the writers have in store. Half the time they don’t even know what’s gonna happen. Already we’ve seen a few glimpses of Kenneth’s world where something is a little off; he sees the world as Muppets and in front of high def camera, he is always seen as a Muppet. I go to the writers and ask, “Is Kenneth human?” That all is so fun. Anything that is in the script, we all eagerly looking forward to playing. That has made the whole journey so fun and easy when you trust the people in charge. Tina sets the tone and that lays the ground work.
You have appeared in character on Conan’s show – gonna pop up again soon?
I hope so. Anytime I’m in LA, I make sure the writers know I’m around. l got my start doing bits on his show in New York, little sketches before the guests come out. l’m of course terribly indebted to him. I’m always the first to say yes to any request. For some reason Julia Louis Dreyfus, every time she’s a guest, they try and incorporate a bit where she beats the crap out of Kenneth the page. We have created this whole fake world that blends into the real world.
You were in Mariah Carey’s music video. Did you really hit her in the face with a Frisbee during filming?
I did. I was mortified. it was one of those things. we are doing these jackass things, playing Guitar Hero and one of them was playing Frisbee. I’ve never done a music video before. I threw the Frisbee and she’s sitting there singing and didn’t see it coming and bolts her on the nose. Well, there goes my career. It was like time stood still. Everyone rushed over. She was fine, a good sport about it. everyone was cool but her bodyguard who was 8 foot 8 and says to me, ‘Dude you gotta be careful.”
One more question about ’30 Rock’ before I let you go: What are a couple of your favorite episodes?
Some of my favorites aren’t even Kenneth-centric. A couple were from season one. Alec’s character at first feels threatened by me and challenges me to a poker match. I keep winning and it infuriates him. In season three, I host a party at my apartment that gets out of hand. Then we cut to the next day and everyone is in the office saying, ‘You should be ashamed of yourself.” It’s very rarely that the whole cast is together for an episode.
’30 Rock’ airs Thursday at 9:30 on NBC