One of the reasons Jane Krakowski (Jenna) was drawn to the series was because it gave her the chance to sing and dance. Modern sitcoms don't usually allow for that; this was the first since Ally McBeal (1997).
In her 2011 book "Bossypants", Tina Fey said that during the early years of the show, Donald Glover was its only black writer. She also said that he was so young that when he started on the writing staff, he was still living in a New York University dorm, and working there as a Resident Adviser. Since he came from a large family in Stone Mountain, Georgia, Fey said that Glover was especially good at writing for the character of Kenneth, who was also supposed to be from Stone Mountain. Glover later became a star on Community (2009).
Alec Baldwin won the SAG Award for Outstanding Actor in a Comedy Series every year since the show's inception until 2013, a feat held by no other actor in either drama or comedy. In addition, he won another one in 2009 as part of the cast. He was also nominated for the last time in 2014, but failed to win that time, probably because the show ended in January 2013.
Tina Fey had to leave Saturday Night Live (1975) in order to appear in the show as the schedules overlapped. Rachel Dratch also left the show at this time, as she was set to play Jenna DeCarlo. After appearing in the first version of the pilot, Dratch was replaced by Jane Krakowski and given bit parts during the first season.
In 2012, Tina Fey explained the Emmy on display in Liz Lemon's office: "I've always sort of thought that it's a Daytime Emmy and that perhaps she got it for writing a really specific category, like Best Regional Promo for the show The Mommies (1993) or something like that... (or) for writing jokes for Joy Behar for The View (2001), it's definitely a Daytime Emmy. It's a local Daytime Emmy."
Tina Fey originally pitched a series about a cable news producer who is forced to produce a show hosted by a right-wing pundit ("Alec Baldwin if we could ever get him", Fey envisaged). Then-NBC President of Entertainment Kevin Reilly instead suggested that Fey use the "write what you know" formula and come up with a show based on her own experiences as the first female head writer of Saturday Night Live (1975).
The professional and personal relationship between Liz Lemon and Jack Donaghy (who considers himself Liz's mentor) is based in part on Tina Fey's real-life friendship with Executive Producer Lorne Michaels.
Liz Lemon's office has a framed cover of "Bust Magazine" with Amy Poehler reenacting Janet Leigh's shower scene in Psycho (1960). Tina Fey and Poehler are close friends, and former cast members on Saturday Night Live (1975).
Liz and Jenna began "The Girlie Show" at The Second City in Chicago. In 1992, Tina Fey took classes there, and in 1994, was invited to join the cast. Her writing partner was Rachel Dratch, and their time together inspired the relationship between Liz and Jenna.
The same year that this show started airing, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (2006), another show set behind the scenes of a fictional Saturday Night Live (1975)-type show, also premiered. Even though there were many differences between them (including this show being a half-hour sitcom, while "Studio 60" was an hour-long drama), many critics compared the two shows and engaged in speculation about which one would survive. "Studio 60" was cancelled after one season, and Creator Aaron Sorkin and former regular Nate Corddry guest starred on this show.
On December 29, 2006, Nielsen Media Research reported the results of having, for the first time, monitored viewers who use a digital video recorder to record shows for later viewing. According to the Nielsen numbers, this show had the fifth-largest increase (viewers who use a DVR to record the show and then watch it within a week of its initial airing). According to Nielsen, the show added nearly 7.5 percent to its total audience every week as a result of these "live plus seven" viewers.
Season two was shorter than season one (fifteen episodes as opposed to season one's twenty-one), because of the 2007-2008 Writers Guild of America strike. Season seven was the shortest season, with twelve episodes.
The awning in front of Liz Lemon's apartment has displayed two different addresses over the course of the show. In some episodes the address is 160 Riverside Drive and in other shows the address is 168 Riverside Drive. The former is the real address of the exterior building shown and it is directly across the street from the exterior building used on Will & Grace (1998). In an audio commentary, Tina Fey jokes that they should've shown Eric McCormick (star of Will & Grace (1998)) walking out of that building.
In a 2018 "New Yorker" profile of Donald Glover, Glover said that he had long wondered if he had been hired as a writer on this show because of his race. At the time he was hired, he was only twenty-three-years-old, still living in the New York University dorms as a Residential Advisor, and had limited experience. Tina Fey confirmed Glover's suspicion; she admired Glover's talent, but hired him because funds from NBC's Diversity Initiative "made him free." This set-up was actually a subplot in season four, episode seventeen, "Lee Marvin vs. Derek Jeter", when Toofer discovers he was hired because of NBC's Diversity Initiative, which was still covering his salary.
Jane Krakowski and Cheyenne Jackson originated the lead roles in the workshop of "Xanadu" on Broadway. Krakowski left the show before it premiered to appear on this show instead. Jackson decided to leave the show because he did not want to perform without her. He ended up returning when the replacement actor broke his ankle only a short while before the show opened. Both have since appeared on this show together, where their close real-life friendship is reversed, with Jenna resenting Jackson's character and he being disgusted by her constant rude behavior.
Alec Baldwin loved Jack's wardrobe so much that he purchased the suits at the end of the series. According to Costume Designer Tom Broecker, Baldwin "wrote a big check to NBC" so he could take the clothes home when the show ended.
Aside from the main cast and the supporting actors credited at the beginning of each episode (Tracy's entourage and "TGS" employees), the only cast members who appeared in every season are Elaine Stritch, Will Arnett, Chris Parnell, and Dean Winters.
Jack Donaghy is a staunch conservative Republican who looks down on anything he considers even remotely liberal. In real-life, Alec Baldwin is a staunch Democrat famous for his loud liberal political views.
Although it was not stated on the show, Katrina Bowden revealed in a 2008 interview that her character's full name is Cerie Xerox. Executive Producer Robert Carlock had created a backstory for her that she was the heiress to the (fictitious) Xerox family fortune, and that her family connections had gotten her the job at NBC.
The show often pokes fun at themes and characters that the show leaves hanging. For example, in one episode, Kenneth tells Liz that no more mail could fit into her box because it was stuffed with unopened adoption letters, hinting at Liz's efforts in earlier episodes to adopt a child. Another instance is the character of Danny Baker. In one episode, Pete tells Danny that he would've asked Danny to do a favor for him, but he forgot he works at "TGS", poking fun at the fact that Danny often goes missing for several episodes at a time. In the one hundredth episode, Danny states that he remembers season one of "TGS", even though he hadn't worked there yet, but then later in the episode, has Josh's flashbacks, meaning that Danny and Josh share the same fate, in which they both appear in several episodes and then are never heard from again.
Before Will Forte played Paul, Jenna impersonator turned boyfriend, he appeared in season one, episode twelve, "Black Tie", as Tomas, the assistant to Hapsburg Prince Gerhardt (Paul Reubens). In the episode, he tells Jenna that the Prince wishes to meet her and introduces them.
Andrea Martin was offered the role of Margaret Lemon, but her commitments to the Broadway show "Young Frankenstein", a musical adaptation of Young Frankenstein (1974), prevented her from appearing. Martin later guest starred as Bonnie Badamath.
Donald Glover, who was a Staff Writer and Script Supervisor for the show from 2006 to 2009, also had brief roles during that period, such as Young P.A. in season one, episode five, "Jack-Tor", or as Gay Kid in season three, episode twenty-two, "Kidney Now!" After he left the show for a role on Community (2009), he returned to play Young Tracy Jordan in season six, episode nineteen, "Live from Studio 6H". During an April 2012 interview with "Entertainment Weekly", Tina Fey said that they already knew that Glover "could sound like Tracy, because we did an extended version of (Tracy Jordan's novelty song) 'Werewolf Bar Mitzvah', and by the time we finished it, we were wrapped and didn't have Tracy. So half of it is just Donald imitating Tracy."
The series was filmed at Silvercup Studios in Long Island City, Queens, New York. Several of the extras and minor characters over the show's run, such as Subhas the janitor (Subhas Ramsaywack), were real employees at Silvercup.
The series was originally going to include frequent sketches from "TGS" as part of the show. After the unaired pilot, it was decided to focus less on the sketches and make it more of a traditional sitcom, which is why Jenna's role was re-cast, with Jane Krakowski replacing Rachel Dratch. Over the course of the series, in-show footage of "TGS" significantly reduced in frequency.
In season one, Jack (Alec Baldwin) mentions watching Friends (1994) and makes several references to the show. Baldwin made an appearance in Friends (1994) as Parker, the overly enthusiastic man Phoebe dates in season eight. Also, David Schwimmer, who played Greenzo in season two, episode five, "Greenzo", and Jennifer Aniston, who played Liz and Jenna's crazy friend in season three, episode three, "The One with the Cast of Night Court", guest starred on this show.
Tina Fey's oldest daughter, Alice Richmond (born 2005), appeared at the end of every episode in the title card of Tina Fey's production company, Little Stranger, Inc., dressed as a peacock. In the series finale, the title card was updated to include her second daughter, Penelope Richmond (born 2011), dressed in the same peacock costume. Alice also appeared as a young Liz Lemon in season seven, episode seven, "Mazel Tov, Dummies!"
This show aired two live episodes, season five, episode four, "Live Show", and season six, episode nineteen, "Live from Studio 6H", but first did a live show during the Writers Guild of America strike of 2007-2008 to raise money for the writers. The actors performed an episode that had already aired in front of a live audience and had so much fun, they decided to do a live show for broadcast.
A different actress portrayed Cerie in the unaired pilot. Katrina Bowden was only seventeen-years-old at the time she was re-cast as Liz's careless young assistant. When Bowden arrived for the table read for the second version of the pilot, she did not know what Alec Baldwin and Tracy Morgan looked like, as she had only heard their names. Bowden turned eighteen a month before this show first aired.
Liz's boyfriend Criss Chros was named after singer Christopher Cross, who was a fan of the show. In season four episode sixteen, "Floyd", a tearful Liz sings a song about her ex-boyfriend that she envisions Cross singing as a soundtrack to their relationship. Cross was flattered, and actually finished the song, sending a recording to the show. To thank him, they named Criss after him.
Elizabeth Banks played a character on Scrubs (2001) who was impregnated by a character named J.D. (John Dorian). On this show, she was impregnated by another character with initials J.D. (Jack Donaghy).
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
Over the course of the series, there were many hints that Kenneth was considerably older than the character's outward appearance would suggest (the actor who plays Kenneth, Jack McBrayer, was in his early thirties when this show started). These include Kenneth's recognition of television pop culture from decades before he logically would have been born, his knowledge of the laws of the Roman Republic and fluency in Latin, his anxiety in season four, episode fifteen, "Don Geiss, America and Hope",that NBC would start limiting and verifying the ages of their pages, and his concern in season four, episode five, "Problem Solvers", that people in the office have been spreading a rumor that he's "been alive forever". He states that an eight-year-old Shirley Temple taught him how to roll cigarettes, refused to tell Suze Orman his age in season six, episode five, "Today You Are a Man", and he was identified as "Kenneth Parcell: Elderly Page" in season five, episode seventeen, "Queen of Jordan". In season seven, episode two, "Governor Dunston", Kenneth's mother (Catherine O'Hara) visits and tells Jenna that Kenneth has "always been a special boy. I remember the day he was born. He looked up at me and said, 'Momma, I am not a person. My body's just a flesh vessel for an immortal being whose name if you heard it would make you lose your mind.'" In the series finale, Kenneth looks to be exactly the same even many decades in the future, still the President of NBC, hearing a series pitch from Liz's great-granddaughter.
A running gag in season one was the inability to understand or pronounce the name of Jenna's low-budget film "The Rural Juror", based on a novel by Kevin Grisham. It was often just pronounced as "Rrurr Jjurr". In the series finale, Jenna sings the theme song of the musical "The Rural Juror". The song has utterly incomprehensible lyrics for the public. However, it is the first time Jenna pronounces "The Rural Juror" correctly. One of the lyrics that was pronounced perfectly was "I will never forget you, rural juror."