The Real Reason We Don't See Tina Fey In Movies Anymore

There was something about Liz Lemon that spoke to everyone who was a fan of 30 Rock — which was most people. When the show came to an end, we were left wondering what would be next for the writer-turned-actor who made everyone feel as though she'd be the most awesome friend in the world, and the best ally to have on your side. We've seen her on the big screen a couple of times, often alongside BFF Amy Poehler, but lately? Not so much. So what's going on with Tina Fey now, and why does she seem to be giving movies a miss?

She's said she likes TV better

When it comes to why we haven't been seeing Tina Fey on the big screen much anymore, the answer is a pretty straightforward one: not only does she like television better, but she has the star power to decide these days.

She sat down to chat with David Letterman in December 2016 (for an interview in The Hollywood Reporter), and when it came to the subject of the state of movies, she wasn't pulling any punches. When Letterman asked her about the funniest movie she'd seen recently, she replied, "We showed our 5-year-old Little Shop of Horrors the other night, which is very good. Frank Oz directed it, and Rick Moranis is a treasure. Recently? Hmm. I went to vote for the People's Choice Awards online because actors in our show got nominated, and I realized that I hate everything. Every movie. 'That was dumb, didn't see it, haven't seen it, hated it.' TV might be better than movies. Shh, don't tell anyone."

They're incredibly harsh words, that's for sure. When Letterman asked if those thoughts were off the record, she clarified that it absolutely wasn't.

"No, I stand by it," Fey continued. "TV's better than movies. Everybody knows it. I mean, we act like they're so great, but what was the last great movie you saw?"

Her dedication to television hasn't gone unnoticed, either. According to Donald Glover's interview with Wired, he chose to write for television because of Fey. When she hired him for 30 Rock, he said, "I decided I wanted to write for television because of Tina. She was always so happy, and I was like, I want to be happy like that, too."

She's concentrating on writing

"Only in comedy does an obedient white girl from the suburbs count as diversity," she wrote in a piece for The New Yorker. Fey was, of course, a writer first, getting her break on Saturday Night Live. She told NPR it was when she made the jump to anchoring Weekend Update she felt something different, and that's the idea that she wasn't just a writer any more, but she was a writer who wasn't going to have her sketches cut.

"You never have that fear and disappointment that the sketch players have," she said. "And it's the only segment week after week where you look directly into the camera and tell America your name [...]"

And while Fey might be disappearing from the big screen, that's because she has a lot going on behind the scenes. After a disappointing reception for Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (according to Rotten Tomatoes, the audience score was a measly 55 percent), she's turned to the pen. Just in time for the holidays, she announced she was going to be working on a screenplay for the incredibly inspiring tale of the real-life Miracle on 22nd Street, the story of a New York City couple who decided to answer the letters to Santa that were delivered by mistake. And then there's Mean Girls, one of Fey's breakout works, that she began adapting into a musical. All that means less and less time for the big screen, but by all accounts, that's how she likes it.

She likes the advantages of working on a Netflix TV show

Fey is definitely a writer and performer who has more than one iron in the fire, and that includes the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. The show, starring Ellie Kemper, was axed by NBC before it even aired, a pretty shocking development for the network. Fortunately, Fey and her partner, Robert Carlock, worked out a deal to move the show to Netflix.

Netflix has taken the entertainment world by storm, and when Fey sat down at the Television Critics Association press tour (via NPR), she talked a little bit about how Netflix has some serious advantages over traditional television networks. Not only are they able to take more risks with a medium that involves viewers actively choosing to watch a show rather than just having it pop up on easily accessible television, they're also not restricted by the relatively tiny window of time that's all they have to work with on a network show. Both of those benefits are huge when you're trying to shave seconds — or content — off of a show to get it to air. That, in turn, makes the entire thing a lot more flexible, and gives them opportunities they just wouldn't have on network TV.

Her attempts at breaking the mold fell flat

When it comes to actors and writers like Tina Fey, most audiences know what to expect. After spending so much time with Liz Lemon, audiences came to know her in a certain way. When The Wrap looked at just why her 2016 Whiskey Tango Foxtrot had such mixed reviews, an undefinable genre was just one of the issues. Full of serious content but marketed as a comedy, it was too recent and too strange for most audiences. The idea of a war comedy is tough to pull off, especially when it's set in something that's still recent memory.

They also cited things like poor marketing, a title that might have been unclear to some, stiff competition at the box office, and Fey's attempt to jump from comedy to a more dramatic role all as causes that contributed to audience confusion over the film. According to LA Weekly, the problem was even bigger than that, saying, "Movies don't get Tina Fey."

LA Weekly wasn't kind in suggesting the big screen isn't the best place for Fey to be showcasing her comedic muscles, calling out her "limited acting range" and "extreme cognitive dissonance." At the same time, they suggest it's those same things that make her such a hit on the small screen. Regardless of whatever good they had to say, the bad isn't easy for anyone to hear.

She has no interest in directing

In 2016, Fey was awarded The Hollywood Reporter's Sherry Lansing Leadership Award, in recognition of her role as a leader in the entertainment industry. Ryan Murphy, who was also there to receive the first Equality in Entertainment Award, talked a bit about the gender disparity that's happening behind the scenes in Hollywood. He came prepared with numbers, saying that only about 15 percent of directors were women.

When Fey spoke, she, too, called attention to the fact that not only was she going to keep telling stories about women and girls, but that she was going to keep giving jobs to women, too. She's serious about that commitment, and she's already been following through. In 2014, Indiewire took a look at the gender divide on some of the top grossing films of the previous two decades, and found that the film that had the highest ratio of woman behind the camera and on the crew was Fey's own Mean Girls. So, while Fey is clearly dedicated to giving women more jobs, does that mean she's going to make the jump into directing? It seems like it might be the next logical step, but she says you won't be seeing her in movies that way, either.

When she spoke with Damian Holbrook at the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival, she said, "I just don't understand or really care about cameras." Pretty honest!

She's not heading to late-night, either

Amid a call for more females in the entertainment industry, there have been questions of whether or not she'll be heading to late night for her own show. Ask any number of people, and they probably think she'd be brilliant at it. She has other opinions, though, and when E! News asked her if there was any chance she'd be joining the late-night giants, she was quick to decline.

"I don't know if I would be good at it," she told them. "The thing that makes Jimmy [Fallon] so good at it is that he really, really loves talking to people. You can't walk down the street with him, he'll talk to everyone. I'm sorta shy, so I feel like I'd be too shy to talk to people every single day."

She told E! she thought either Ellen DeGeneres or her good friend Amy Poehler would make great hosts before her, but she's told Seth Meyers (via Refinery 29) that she's pretty sure she knows what the issue with having women as late night hosts would be, and that's wardrobe. The problem is that every woman is eventually faced with the realization that clothes that were the height of fashion for a 30-something suddenly aren't appropriate any more, and what's a wardrobe department to do then? It's a brilliant comedic piece of wisdom... that might have some truth to it.

Or doing a series with BFF Amy Poehler

Every time Fey gets together with Amy Poehler, comedy gold happens. They've worked together before, they've both shown they can succeed with their own shows, so the ideal thing seems to be that they both give movies a miss and write their own television show. Unfortunately for the world of comedy, Fey says that isn't going to happen, either.

When she sat down with Damian Holbrook at the 2016 Tribeca FIlm Festival, she seemed to dash any ideas of a series helmed by both her and Poehler.

"We're regarded as a comedy team, which is certainly fine by me," she said. "We're actually both alphas. So it works in short spurts, but I don't know if we would make a real dynasty."

There are plenty of people out there who would disagree, and plenty who want to find out for sure, one way or the other. It does seem like it would be a natural fit, especially since the two have been friends since they first met at Chicago's ImprovOlympic in 1993. Vulture took at look at how their friendship has developed over the years, and according to Second City Executive Vice President Kelly Leonard, "They were inseparable walking around, and kept trying to get put in casts together."

We can only hope that continues!

She's simply comfortable saying "no"

But, talking about all the things Fey doesn't want to do leaves us wondering just where we're going to be seeing her again. At the 2016 Women in Entertainment breakfast, Fey talked a bit about reaching a crossroads in her career. For her — and many of those she works with on a regular basis — she says they're assessing not only where they are, but what they want.

"We may not be quite as thirsty as we used to be," she said. "We love to work and to do good work, but we don't need approval in the same way. We're adults now, and I think we're really starting to ask ourselves, 'What's next for me?'"

She also says it's not as much about knowing when to say yes to projects, but it's about knowing how and when to say no, too.

"Whether it's writing a pilot for a bad actor or the butter scene in Last Tango in Paris or telling Roger Ailes to put his hamburger meat back in the freezer, feeling like you can say 'no' without any negative repercussions is an important kind of power. And, it's one that we can help give each other. I have that power, and I promise to help other women have it, too."

Fighting the good fight

So, while Fey might not be as visible on the big screen as she once was, she's made it clear where her priorities are. In an interview with Town & Country, she talked a bit about one of the most frustrating sentiments she regularly comes across, and that's the idea that it's a good time to be a woman in the comedy industry.

"People really wanted us to be openly grateful — 'Thank you so much!' — and we were like, 'No, it's a terrible time. If you were to really look at it, the boys are still getting more money for a lot of garbage, while the ladies are hustling and doing amazing work for less.'"

It was particularly bad when she and Poehler were doing press tours for Sisters, she said. There were always journalists who would allude to the idea that women just aren't as funny as men, and at the end of the day, it's that attitude that makes the gender divide that much farther apart. So, while she might be giving movies a rest, she's definitely not taking a break from proving that the girls are just as funny as the guys.