Tina Fey under scrutiny after requesting ‘30 Rock’ blackface episodes be removed

Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin of "30 Rock."
Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin in “30 Rock.”

Episodes of the NBC comedy “30 Rock” featuring characters in blackface will no longer be available in rerun or streaming form, at the behest of executive producers Robert Carlock and Tina Fey.

According to Vulture, the network has promised to pull four episodes — including two featuring Jane Krakowski’s character, Jenna, in blackface — from entertainment platforms Hulu, Amazon Prime, iTunes and Google Play. Traditional TV stations have also agreed not to rebroadcast the episodes going forward.

“30 Rock” ran for seven seasons, from 2006 to 2013.

“As we strive to do the work and do better in regards to race in America, we believe that these episodes featuring actors in race-changing makeup are best taken out of circulation,” Fey wrote in a letter to the platforms that streamed or sold “30 Rock,” obtained Monday by Vulture.

“I understand now that ‘intent’ is not a free pass for white people to use these images. I apologize for pain they have caused. Going forward, no comedy-loving kid needs to stumble on these tropes and be stung by their ugliness. I thank NBCUniversal for honoring this request.”


In the third season of “30 Rock,” Krakowski’s Jenna wore blackface while swapping identities with Tracy (Tracy Morgan) to experience life as a Black man. Jenna later appeared in blackface for a second time in Season 5 when attending a costume party dressed as former Pittsburgh Steelers star Lynn Swann.

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Actor Jon Hamm also wore blackface on “30 Rock,” appearing as a guest star on the sixth season. Hamm’s character donned blackface and a wig alongside Morgan in a parody of the racist radio and TV program “Amos ‘n’ Andy.”

Fey’s apology sparked a backlash from many online who pointed out other racist stereotypes in her past work. For example, Fey’s Netflix comedy “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” features a Native American character played by Krakowski, who is white.

As noted by Vox’s Alex Abad-Santos, Tituss Burgess’ “Kimmy Schmidt” character once appeared in yellowface as a geisha — an offensive move that was criticized in the show by a fictional Asian activist group with the acronym RAPE (Respectful Asian Portrayals in Entertainment).

Addressing some of the outrage surrounding “Kimmy Schmidt” in 2015, Fey told Net-a-Porter back then, “We did an [‘Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’] episode and the internet was in a whirlwind, calling it ‘racist,’ but my new goal is not to explain jokes. I feel like we put so much effort into writing and crafting everything, they need to speak for themselves. There’s a real culture of demanding apologies, and I’m opting out of that.”


After her Tuesday statement about “30 Rock,” several Twitter users also mentioned a subplot in Fey’s 2004 film, “Mean Girls,” that involved gym teacher Coach Carr sexually assaulting two underaged Asian students named Trang Pak and Sun Jin Dinh.

“What’s up with Tina Fey’s weirdness with Asians?” wrote @slobear on Twitter. “In Mean Girls, underaged girls being raped by Coach Carr are Trang Pak and Sun Jin Dinh. And it’s played for laughs as the 2 girls fight over him.”

Representatives for Fey did not immediately respond Tuesday to The Times’ request for comment.

NBC isn’t the only distributor making moves to scrap racist content in recent weeks. Earlier this month, WarnerMedia made headlines for pulling the 1939 Civil War drama “Gone With the Wind” from its new streaming service, HBO Max. The entertainment giant announced plans to return “Gone With the Wind” to HBO Max, along with “a discussion of its historical context and a denouncement” of its racist depictions.

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Last month, comedian Jimmy Fallon came under fire when a clip of him wearing blackface on a 2000 episode of “Saturday Night Live” resurfaced. The TV host later apologized for the “unquestionably offensive” incident on Twitter and “The Tonight Show.”

On Tuesday, Fallon’s late-night TV peer Jimmy Kimmel also apologized for appearing in blackface on “The Man Show,” which aired from 1999 to 2004, and for using the N-word multiple times while imitating Snoop Dogg’s rapping style in a 1996 song called “Christmastime in the LBC.”

“I have long been reluctant to address this, as I knew doing so would be celebrated as a victory by those who equate apologies with weakness and cheer for leaders who use prejudice to divide us,” Kimmel wrote in a lengthy statement provided to Entertainment Tonight.

“That delay was a mistake. There is nothing more important to me than your respect, and I apologize to those who were genuinely hurt or offended by the makeup I wore or the words I spoke.”