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30 Rock: Alec Baldwin’s Mom is Back

30 Rock is bringing back Colleen Donaghy to make trouble for Jack on Mother’s Day. Elaine Stritch returns for an episode as Colleen, right when Jack (Alec Baldwin)’s life is its most chaotic. Jack is balancing two lovers, the cable news pundit Avery Jessup (Elizabeth Banks) and recent divorce Nancy Donovan (Julianne Moore.)

“She thinks he’s got to catch up for God’s sakes,” Stritch said about Colleen’s reaction to her son’s love triangle, in a conference call with the media. “Grow up, grow up is what she’s telling him. She loves him. This is the wonderful part.”

One could imagine Colleen has some strong words for Avery and Nancy too, but Jack manages to keep her away from them. “I usually work with either Tina [Fey] or Alec,” Stritch said. “This time I got a chance to work with that divine character actor, the real silly giddy one, Jack McBrayer. Oh, it’s heaven. Absolute heaven. He really is funny. He’s legitimate and he’s real. He’s some actor. You’ll always find that at the bottom of a real comedian. He’s an actor as well, or first and foremost and actor and then he chooses what he does.”

Mainly, if it ain’t broke, 30 Rock isn’t going to try to fix it. There’s some magic when Stritch and Baldwin get together, so Fey and the writers have crafted more mother/son scenes.

“Well, just another stab at trying to get her to stay out of his life. He’s involved in a lot of romantic bullsh*t. she tries to straighten him out and I don’t think he wants her to try to straighten her out but as it turns out, he’s very grateful because she’s very straightforward with him. They really have a wonderful relationship and they really love each other very deeply. Not to get serious about 30 Rock but real comedy comes out of reality. I always say if you can’t give a reason for the banana peel being in the alley then don’t have the comic slide over it. First explain how the banana peel got there, quickly, and then there’s a reason for all the comedy and that’s good in 30 Rock because they usually do that.”

The chemistry Stritch has with Baldwin is one of the reasons she keeps going back to 30 Rock. “I can’t explain chemistry. I really can’t. I haven’t got a clue what it’s all about. It just happens. It’s like falling in love. You can’t explain why you fall in love or explain why it’s this particular person. The whole questionnaire of falling in love is out to lunch as far as I’m concerned, but this chemistry idea of actors who work together, wow, it just happens. You can’t put your finger on it. That’s what makes it exciting. I feel that with Alec and also it’s so much easier. You come on the set. You’ve learned your lines. You hope you have. And you start out and it happens. My reactions to him, he doesn’t talk about it, I don’t think I’ve ever discussed our ‘relationship.’ We don’t go there. I think we passed by the studio and went to 8th Avenue and had a drink. I know that’s what I did so you’ll have to act Alec. I think it’s probably a similar experience he has.” 

Stritch continues to sing Baldwin’s praises. “I’ll tell you what happened with Alec Baldwin and myself. This is a couple acting together just this side of heaven. He’s one of the best actors I’ve ever worked with in my whole life. I’m not overdoing it. I just think he’s about the best around today. So I got lucky. I got lucky and I enjoy it thoroughly. He works very hard at everything he does and I think he’s always on it. He’s not always successful but who is? He tries. God knows, he tries. A very lovable fellow. I don’t think he’s aware of it. He’s got an attitude, he’s got a look in his eyes. Every woman he looks at, he says I’m very willing to take care of myself but please help. I think that’s a lovely invitation to women. I think women adore Alec Baldwin.”

All those Baldwin groupies include Stritch herself, even though she plays his mom on the show. “I’m getting up in years. That doesn’t change anything in that department. Well, you have to behave yourself a little better than one would if I was closer to his age, but he is a lovable guy. He really is. And humor up the wazoo. He’s so, so full of humor that it’s delightful to be around him, and he’s very smart. He’s very smart. I don’t want to go overboard praising Alec Baldwin but in many ways he’s a pain in the ass. I really don’t feel like talking about that.”

The show’s creator, Tina Fey, gets a lot of credit for giving Stritch so much to do at work. “Well, Tina is a trip. That’s a good word for her. You don’t know where you’re going but you’re more than willing to get on board. She’s an original piece of work. She really is and that is what is almost demanded today to be a full fledged performer star quality all that. All that terrific mish mash stuff, she’s got it in spades. That’s all I can say about Tina. I think she’s enjoying it. I hope she is. She does seem to be. It’s effortless, you know. I know she’s scared to death. She wouldn’t have the kind of talent she has if she were not scared to death. So when she walks on to collect those Emmys that she’s so good at doing, she’s basically scared to death. This is my opinion of Tina, this is my guess and I think I’m right but the audience doesn’t know it until I tell them two weeks later.”

Having been around Hollywood for nearly 60 years, Stritch considers 30 Rock the top of the entertainment game. “All the writing at 30 Rock is a joy to go into. It’s pretty hot stuff. If you can do it at all, you sail through it but it doesn’t take away from the fact, the old saying in the theater, dying is easy, comedy is hard. It’s been attributed to a lot of people who said that and I don’t really give a royal who it was but it certainly is true. Comedy is a pain in the ass, okay?”

Perhaps that’s why Stritch is happy to have a guest starring role on 30 Rock. She has no plans to make Colleen a regular. “I consider that I’m a running part now but no, I don’t think it’s a good thing to have her overkill for mother. I think she should come on once in a while. Maybe one or two or possibly a three shows a season. That’s enough. That’s enough for me but not just because I don’t want to do more. It’s enough because I think taste-wise, it’s the best thing to do with her. She comes on every once in a while, raises hell, changes the whole atmosphere and leaves for a while. I think that makes her not the boring mother. She just floats into New York with her furs and diamonds and tries to straighten him out a little bit and then she leaves. I like that about the part because you want her. When is Colleen coming back? I love to hear that.”

30 Rock airs Thursday on NBC.

THE BEST OF COLLEEN DONAGHY ON “30 ROCK”

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