CNN talked to cast members ahead of the series finale about what they'll miss most
Scott Adsit: "(The show) kind of opened the door for really dense comedy"
"30 Rock" has won 14 Emmys and 12 Screen Actors Guild Awards
After narrowly avoiding getting the axe following its 2006 debut, Tina Fey’s “30 Rock” went on to win 14 Emmys and 12 Screen Actors Guild Awards, establish a cult following, and spawn more catchphrases than Frank (Judah Friedlander) has trucker hats.
After seven seasons, fans of the NBC series aren’t the only ones struggling to say goodbye to Liz Lemon and “TGS.”
CNN caught up with some of the cast members ahead of the series finale to find out what they’ll miss the most. They shared their favorite “30 Rock” moments, what props they pinched from the set, and the ways in which Fey’s masterpiece of a sitcom changed comedy forever.
On the cast:
Tracy Morgan (“Tracy Jordan”): I was working with some of the best people in show business. Great actors like Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin and Jane (Krakowski) and Jack (McBrayer). Those are some of the better actors in show business. It’s like playing for the Chicago Bulls. When you’re playing with Michael Jordan, you don’t have any other choice but to get better.
I love Jack. Jack was the kindest, most sincere, generous person around me. He always treated me kindly and with respect and I love him for that.
Grizz Chapman (“Grizz”): Tracy and I were pretty good friends before “30 Rock.” The chemistry you see on camera – that’s what it is. What you see on camera – that’s just friends, so that’s why it comes across so well on TV.
Kevin Brown (“Dot Com”): (Grizz and I) met at the audition. I’m rarely around people that are bigger than me. So when I see someone bigger than me, that gets my attention.
Jack McBrayer (“Kenneth Parcell”): We were so lucky to have so many incredible guest stars. Tim Conway in season two was one of my comedy legends from way back. It was a sincere honor working with him, and just chatting with him on set. He was a class act.
Scott Adsit (“Pete Hornberger”): I’ve worked with these people a long time – seven years. But I also knew a good deal of them before that. … I’ve known Tina since ’93 or something. … I’ve known McBrayer almost as long, from Second City. And there are people on the crew that I’ve worked with on other things. So it’s sad, but I feel like it was nice that we had our time, as well. It’s rare that you get to work with people you love even before the project starts.
The sad thing is just leaving our friends and breaking up this … group that’s been together all these years. We know each other so well that jumping into something else and something new is exciting, but not as cozy.
Judah Friedlander (“Frank Rossitano”): We did something and we finished it – it’s an awesome feeling. It’s a bummer that you won’t get to work with a lot of the people anymore. But I was happy. It was a great experience and I look forward to other great experiences – Tina’s next project, Alec’s next project, Jane’s next project, I’m looking forward to seeing what they do. I’d love to work with any of them again. That’d be great. That goes without saying.
On changing comedy:
Adsit: (The show) kind of opened the door for really dense comedy. A DVR comedy is what I would call it, in that it goes by so quickly, and all the jokes are so densely packed one on top of the other, that you almost have to rewind to catch everything. I have friends who say they watch the show but are constantly rewinding it because they’re laughing through the next three jokes.
So maybe we’re training the world to think faster. That’ll be our legacy.
On the props they pinched from the set:
Morgan: I took my TJ chain. … I wouldn’t wear it off the set. I don’t want to confuse people.
Adsit: Pete has a prop mug on his desk, and he sometimes holds it, which is apparently made by one of his kids and he feels really obligated to use it. … It’s big, yellow and bulky and ugly and has cracks in it. We never see this, but in my mind he’s always cleaning up from all the leaks in it. So I plan to take that home.
On working with Tracy Morgan:
Brown: Tracy is a wild child. But he is tamer now than he was when we first met.
Tracy Morgan off camera is the most entertaining person you ever want to be around. Tracy doesn’t go to the clubs – he does his show between scenes. He’s loud and hilarious and gets everyone’s attention, and keeps us cracking up.
He goes off script all the time. He goes off script because he never looked at the script!
Morgan: If I didn’t read the script, I wouldn’t have been able to do my lines. I read the script all the time. Every day. It’s just that (Brown) never saw me reading the script. I like to have fun. … I come from a stand-up background and the first three letters in the word funny are fun. So I always had fun with it and I guess I made it look easy. I made it look like I wasn’t reading the script.
On memorable on-screen moments:
Adsit: I don’t know how often I repeated it on the show, but it seems to be the one that people mention to me on the street, which is just yelling the name Hornberger in a moment of meek victory. I think Pete got some ridiculous little victory over Jack and yelled “Hornberger!” It may have happened once or twice more. … That seems to be Pete’s catch phrase.
If I can be the symbol of meek victory for the rest of my life, that’ll be something. That’ll be a meek victory for myself. Hornberger!
McBrayer: I was so happy that they were able to come up with anything for Kenneth. It could easily be this one-trick pony that got played out very quickly. They managed to stretch it out for a while and hopefully not make people hate it too, too much – all 13 people who watched the show.
There’s one episode where they make me Tracy’s assistant essentially. That was an important episode because they realized Kenneth and Tracy have a good dynamic. Another one where he was playing poker with Jack – they discovered Jack may despise Kenneth but also like him.
I can tell you the ones I wasn’t excited about were exterior shots in the middle of winter. I’m not a big fan of winter in the first place. I think they decided early on for the most part, Kenneth would never wear an overcoat. Really?!
Brown: The one I enjoy the most is a scene I did with Tina Fey, and she was trying to get the condo next door to her. She had me pretend to be her boyfriend, astronaut Mike Dexter. I am supposed to intimidate her neighbor to get him to move out. It turns out he is a gay hipster cop. He attacks me from behind, and beats me with a billy club and throws the cuffs on me – that was a fun moment, getting to work with Tina Fey.
Chapman: My favorite episode would definitely be “Midnight Train to Georgia,” when we got to show off a different side with our singing and dancing. Also the episode when we had to go into the woods and save Tracy in the woods, and he shot off the back of the car. That was a good one also.
Morgan: A favorite moment for me is when they said “Action!” the very first shot that we did of the pilot. The second best moment was when we got the back nine (episodes). … That meant we were going to be around for a little while.
On how this gig has changed everything:
Brown: The show has changed my life. As an actor, it’s one of those things where there are trained actors who have been working at this craft for decades, and they’ll never get the exposure I got. It definitely changed everything for me.
McBrayer: It is rare for a great show to last that long. I know how good I got it. I realize how high the bar has been set. I know something like this may never happen to me again. But I just want to work on fun projects with fun people, and I think I’m going to be just fine.
Morgan: Obviously the show was good for my career. As far as my life, my life is different from my career. My life is good because I’m alive.
Friedlander: I didn’t plan to do a sitcom. I don’t think I watched a sitcom since “Family Ties.” My plan was always stand-up and doing movies. “30 Rock” came along and I thought, all right, this films in New York and I’m in New York, and I was a big fan of Tina Fey. I thought, “Oh, she’s doing a show, I’ll audition for that.” I wound up getting it and it was a great experience.
Chapman: I’m very thankful for everything I experienced this seven years, and if I don’t do anything else in TV, you can’t take that away from me. You can’t take away that Liz Lemon is my boo, you can’t take that away.
On life after “30 Rock”:
Tina Fey (“Liz Lemon”): I really hope “30 rock” has a long life in syndication. I look forward to another generation of nerds finding it and enjoying it.
McBrayer: The most emotional part of the (last) show for me was the two weeks leading up to it – you realize this is the last time I will wear a page uniform, this is the last time I will have this catering – that kind of stuff. The last two weeks in anticipation of the end were worse than the actual end.
(Next up,) I’m in “Wander Over Yonder,” a cartoon for the Disney Channel.
Brown: Grizz and I have some show concepts that only make sense that we do together. We’re working on a comic book together and a couple of reality show concepts together. Grizz and Dot Com were indelibly connected in television history.
Friedlander: I’m always doing stand-up around the country with more big projects on the way.
Chapman: “Lucky N#Mber” with Method Man.
Adsit: I am doing a cartoon series for Fox called “High School USA.”
Morgan: My 50-city comedy tour, “Excuse My French.” The tour is going to be funny. Hilarious. It’s going to feel good to hear my voice again. … Tracy Jordan was really naive. … Tracy Morgan is nothing like that. And people will get a sense of who I am now. … I’ll be back.
CNN’s Alan Duke contributed to this report