In p. 188 of Bossypants, Tina Fey provides a glimpse of her schedule. Every day she’d be on set from 6AM to 8PM to shoot, in between takes she’d do her task work, like reviewing audition tapes or script edits, etc.), after which she’d finally get home to work with the writing team:
“After each fourteen-hour acting class was over, I would meet up with five or six writers at my apartment to catch up on what they had written during the day. During those early days we’d order food and work until one or two in the morning…
Another night to remember: Around three A.M., Carlock and I were leading a rewrite in my living room and realized that we had both fallen asleep while talking. When we woke up a few moments (or hours?) later, the other writers were just sitting politely, awaiting further instruction. That is a dedicated staff.
She says of shooting the first episode, “I felt like I was still on maternity leave when we shot [the pilot] — I didn’t feel like myself, I didn’t look like myself.”
I’ve wondered why she didn’t just get someone else to act, but I’m guessing that since the main character of Liz Lemon was written literally for her, it would be impossible for anyone to substitute. She was also the show’s creator, showrunner, and writer, and had committed to it; had she quit, her whole team would’ve been out of a job. It’s an extreme version of a situation I think most of us can relate to.
Fey’s work ethic reminds me of people like Ryan Leslie, or seeing Donald Glover’s profile in the Village Voice (early in his career, during Derrick Comedy and the Sick Boi days, Glover worked with Tina Fey on “30 Rock”) in which the writer describes a week in the life:
On Tuesday, March 8, he released the new Childish Gambino EP. Over the next four days, he was on the set of Community as they tried to finish shooting the second season before the weekend. He wove press interviews about Childish Gambino in between takes, and after each day’s wrap went back to his studio to remix some more songs and put them on the Web. At night, he was preparing for the Comedy Central special as well as working on slides for the “I Am Donald” tour. He spent eight hours on Saturday, March 12, covered in orange paint for the last day of shooting for Community. (They are revisiting a paintball theme.) 5-Hour Energy. Whiskey. Remixing. Girls. Bits and beats flowing through his head that needed to be captured on his iPhone. Writing a new song for the Woodies. Sunday was a Community goodbye get-together followed by performing at his regular Sunday-night comedy show, Shitty Jobs.
While Elon Musk might seem miserable at times (also known for 80–100 hour workweeks), Glover says of Fey, “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.”