Jack McBrayer and Robert Carlock Tease the new 30 ROCK season

Jack McBrayer on 30 Rock

NBC’s 30 ROCK returns for its fifth hilarious season Thursday, September 23 and Daemon’s TV was there when executive producer Robert Carlock and star Jack McBrayer (Kenneth Parcell) talked to the press about the upcoming live episode, what to expect in the new season, and how Kenneth’s backstory is the show’s “Lost mystery”. There are some spoilers.

On how Jack and Kenneth are similar

Jack said that like Kenneth, he’s a people-pleaser and he wants to be good at his job, and that it’s no surprise Jack McBrayer enjoys eating chick peas out of a can with a plastic spoon. He added that he is hopefully less annoying than Kenneth, though his co-workers might say otherwise.

On who Kenneth is modeled on

When it was suggested that The Golden Girls’ Rose Nyland might be one influence on Kenneth, Jack readily agreed, adding that Barney Fife was another. Jack said that it all comes from the minds of the writers and he just “puts on the suit and smiles real big.”

Robert jumped in to say what a crucial character Kenneth has been, especially in the beginning, because he helped set the tone and gave Tracy someone to believe in him.

On Kenneth’s intellect

When asked if Kenneth were the smartest or dumbest persona in the room, Jack laughed and said that he really wants to believe Kenneth has some idea what he’s doing and some tricks up his sleeve, sometimes he just says, “Oh, Kenneth.”

Robert said that the series really is the moral education of Kenneth Parcell. Jack snorted, “Moral breakdown.”

On Kenneth’s backstory

Jack said that he will sometimes get a script with a crazy, random flashback and he’ll just say “What the hell? He wishes he knew more about Kenneth’s past.

Robert called Kenneth’s backstory 30 Rock’s Lost mystery,” and that he has an idea of what it really is, and he likes the different flashbacks they’ve done like Normandy Beach and one from the 1950s.

Jack and Robert decided the series ending should be like The Shining with Kenneth in the 1932 picture with Jack Nicholson.

On Jack and Liz relationship

When asked about whether writers would continue to play with the Jack-Liz dynamic, Robert said that they have set the tone where they can do winky things with Jack and Liz so long as the fans enjoy it. He admitted it would be more difficult this season with both Liz and Jack in relationships, but when possible, they would tease that angle.

Jack, who professed to not know the term shipper, was surprised to hear fans wanted a Jack-Liz relationship, but later agreed when Robert joked he was a big shipper.

On the balance between workplace and outside

Robert said that they made a conscious decision last season to broaden the show and bring it out of the workplace. This season is more about taking the new conditions that have been created and bringing them back into TGS.

On what to expect in the new season

Robert said the motto is “more of the same,” while Jack said the tradition of great guest stars will continue and the storylines will continue to be absurd and fun. The writers will continue to look to headlines and each others’ lives for inspiration.

When asked what storylines had been taken from real events, Robert said that when Jenna faked a back injury in season 3’s “Goodbye, My Friend” because she didn’t want Tracy stealing her birthday thunder actually came from another show where an actress did that.

On the new season’s storylines and guest stars

Robert said that the premiere will pick up all the threads from the finale and that the season will be about how all the changes will affect the characters and how the TGS dynamics change because all of all the outside changes.

Jack said that since Kenneth was fired in last season’s finale, he will get a chance to explore life outside TGS with Tracy Jordan and that it will affect Tracy (Tracy Morgan). He also mentioned that Jack (Alec Baldwin) will have to deal with pregnant girlfriend Avery (a returning Elizabeth Banks).

Liz (Tina Fey) is finally in a real, working relationship and Matt Damon will return as Carol.

Tracy will have some life changes coming up. He did a gritty movie over the summer and starts to be taken seriously as an actor, and doesn’t know how to deal with that.

Jack will give up drinking in an upcoming episode to show solidarity with his pregnant girlfriend. It won’t be as easy as he thinks.

The NBC/Kabletown story continues and Queen Latifah will guest star in the third episode (and possibly one or two more episodes) as a Congresswoman who wants to kill the deal.

Paul Giamatti will play an NBC editor in the second episode.

Rob Reiner will appear in episode 3 with Queen Latifah.

On the live episode

Robert said the idea of doing a live episode came up very early on in the series because so many of the cast have theater or improv experience. During the writers’ strike, the cast did a benefit where they performed an episode on stage.

Jack said the energy during that benefit was great and they had a lot of fun, so he and the other actors are excited about the live episode. Scared, but excited. He said that he’s worried mostly about the number of mistakes they make on a usual shoot, but Robert said the mistakes are part of the fun of the episode.

According to Robert, they are mostly preparing for the live episode by trying to stay ahead of it. They read an early draft today and have the set layout for 8H, so they know what they can and can’t do. They’ll have three sets and a moveable wall.

The big challenge with the live show is trying to do all the normal 30 Rock things within the limitations of the live format and 8H stage. They’re even looking at doing character flashbacks with different actors.

The live episode will air during an off-week for Saturday Night Live, so rehearsals will be Monday and Tuesday, camera blocking Wednesday, and then the airing on Thursday October 14.

The fifth season of 30 Rock premieres on NBC Thursday, September 23 at 8:30pm/7:30 central. You can find all our 30 Rock coverage here.

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