Photo Courtesy of U.S. Army
Vanessa Minnillo might not be the first person that comes to mind when pondering the great comedic actress on the contemporary landscape. But the emerging actress, best known as an entertainment correspondent, recently landed a choice role on NBC’s hit sitcom 30 Rock. In a recent conference call interview, Minnillo talked about auditioning for the role, relating to the character and working with Tina Fey and the cast.
Minnillo recounted how she got the gig on 30 Rock. “I got a call there was an audition. I was going to be out of town. I was going to Cincinnati. We actually were having a little engagement party in [fiancée] Nick [Lachey]’s hometown and I was so bummed, but business first. So I said, ‘Is there any way that I can make this happen via tape?’ And they said, ‘Absolutely because it’s going to New York anyways.’”
Minnillo worked late to put the performance on video. She continued, “At 12 o’clock at night, the night before I left for a 5:00 am pickup, I put myself on tape. And [I] just went all out, because at this point you can’t meet the people, you can’t have conversations, you can’t redo it. They can’t direct you, so to speak — normally they do… I was kind of a little crazy, so I wanted them to really get a feel for me and what I thought Carmen Chao’s character was.”
She played around to really get in the character’s headspace. She revealed, “Even before I went into the lines, I had the camera running and just was bantering with my girlfriend… bossing her around as if I was on a real set in a real audition really being Carmen. And they sent it off to New York. New York liked it and loved it, and sent it off to the powers that be and finally said, ‘We need Tina’s approval.’ And I heard through the grapevine Tina saw it and was like, ‘Wow, this girl is crazy. She’s perfect.’ So while I was away on the weekend… they called and said I booked it and I literally left the next day to New York, the day after the party, and shot the episode. It was very quick and… I literally laid it all on the line.”
And as a result, Minnillo got to play a part that she could really sink her teeth into. “I enjoyed how she was, in a weird twisted way… she is a very strong and independent and outspoken business woman… I don’t think she’s malicious, but she’s definitely driven and… she knows exactly what she wants, and she will stop at nothing to get it. So I loved that part of her. I loved that she’s very, very on it.”
Minnillo said she could relate to the character on some levels. “[Carmen] is just everything that I think every professional woman, or just female, suppresses those thoughts, those looks, those glares… So I had so much fun being this woman because… she’s cut throat. She’s getting the job done and she’s taking names, and she is not looking back.”
And she believes that audiences can connect to that, too. She remarked, “I think that is in all of us a little as well, which is why it was fun to be able to exploit that part of it, because I’d like to think that it’s a very little part of all of us. But it’s acting. And that’s what so fun about acting, you can be whoever and you can make it however you want to make it.”
Carmen isn’t the only 30 Rock character that Minnillo said she could relate to. “Honestly when I get asked a question [like] ‘What animal would you be?’ I literally, and I mean it from the bottom of my heart, I’m a chameleon. So when I see Tina Fey’s character and… Jack, him and Lemon, and… she’s eager and she’s ready to go, but then she’s like a fish out of water. I feel like that character. But then when I see Elizabeth Banks’ character, Avery, and how she’s trying to keep it all together, but there’ so much going on internally, I feel like her as well.”
Minnillo connected with the actors off-screen, too. “It really is amazing when you work alongside people that are as talented and as accomplished as they are. It makes you better and it makes your work ethic and it makes you go through the process smoother, but also more efficiently. And I learned so much in the 24 hours that I was Tina Fey and Elizabeth that I definitely will take with me.”
And Minnillo really felt welcomed by the crew at 30 Rock. She acknowledged, “I felt like it just meshed. As soon as I walked in the door and I sat in the makeup chair… everyone was there because they… were shooting two episodes simultaneously. So while they were shooting one in the studio, we were getting ready in the studio, shot one scene and then left the studio to go on location. So everyone was there, except for I didn’t see Tracy or Alec. And… it’s like a big family, but it works because they’re all very easy going, they’re all very funny, they’re all very open… They’ve been doing this for a while now, and they’re comfortable in their setting and they just welcomed me like a new family member.”
As always seems to be the case, that off-screen harmony translates into on-screen success. Minnillo divulged why she thinks audiences connect to the series, “They definitely tapped into something where everyone can relate to situations or to characters. And it’s fun to see them kind of get themselves out the messes that they’ve created. We like to think that in our 30’s, 40’s and 50’s that we’ve got it all figured out and 60’s and so on, and that we know what we’re doing. But we’re all going through life one day at a time just like everyone else and we all make our mistakes and we all have our blunders, and I think that this show shows that.”
Catch Minnillo in her 30 Rock debut on Thursday, February 3 at 10 p.m. EST/9 p.m. Central on NBC.
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