The star of Kimmy Schmidt, 30 Rock and new period drama Dickinson discusses a career spent playing narcissists and some very strange souvenirs
There were two reasons that Jane Krakowski signed on for Dickinson, the new comedy-drama in which she plays the mother of the great American poet Emily. One was that her own mother was a fan of Dickinsons work, so much so that the young Krakowski could recite a few of the poets greatest hits by rote. The script, then, immediately piqued her interest. Its changed now, she explains, but in the original, it started with: Im Nobody! Who are you? And she reads the whole poem. At the end she looks into the camera and she goes: Im Emily. Im Emily fucking Dickinson. I was like, wait. What is this? She smiles: This is not your moms Emily Dickinson.
Krakowski also wanted to play a character who would be entirely unlike two of her best-known roles, 30 Rocks Jenna Listen up fives, a 10 is speaking Maroney and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidts Jacqueline White/Voorhees, another of her immaculate, iconic narcissists, a spoof of the 1%. They are two of the greatest comedy characters of recent times.
Krakowski is in London to promote her shift to the sort-of period, sort-of drama of Dickinson, but she is a devoted Anglophile, particularly when it comes to comedy. She had her first experience of panto last Christmas, when she took her son to see Julian Clary in Dick Whittington. He was hilarious. He seemed like the king of panto. I had the best time. I was like, why have I waited so long to go? My son didnt know all the double entendre jokes and he said, why are you guys all laughing so hard? I said, one day, youll understand.
Dickinson follows over a decade of Krakowski being Tina Feys favourite sort-of bad guy. Kimmy Schmidt and 30 Rock left her comedically fulfilled in a way that made her wonder what to do next. I think I came out of that going: Theres no way Ill be able to top that kind of comedic writing. So lets go for something entirely different, to have a whole other experience.
Whisper it, but the fact that Krakowski is playing the conservative mother of a 19th-century poet in a modern-historical hybrid with a thumping contemporary soundtrack, in which Wiz Khalifa has a cameo as Death, is quite, well, Jenna Maroney. Jenna is every excess of a celebrity turned up to 11; when Tina Feys Liz Lemon describes her as a high-strung perfectionist, she zings back: I prefer soul-sucking monster.
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