’30 Rock’: Rachel Dratch’s Jenna Even Had a Different Name Than Jane Krakowski’s
In the TV world, actors have been recast and played by someone new on multiple occasions. Leave it to 30 Rock, which was known for its biting sense of humor and often self-referential treatment of the comedy business, to not only recast a main character, but change her significantly.
Tina Fey brought real-life friend Rachel Dratch onto the cast of ’30 Rock’
30 Rock was a hit NBC sitcom, airing for seven seasons before wrapping up in 2013. In its inception, however, Tina Fey — who both starred in and created the series — was sure it would fail. The series premiered alongside a show with a similar premise (Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip), and she didn’t think her fledgling foray into writing and producing could compete.
It’s impossible to point to any specific reason 30 Rock took off. The comedy was a mix of great chemistry and hilarious jokes. But at least part of the magic happened because of the cast. Fey brought on her real-life friend Rachel Dratch, who appeared on SNL, alongside her.
But Dratch’s sporadic cameos weren’t the original plan. Jane Krakowski played Jenna Maroney in probably the actor’s most recognizable role to date. But Dratch was supposed to play a different Jenna.
Rachel Dratch played Jenna in the unaired pilot
If you’re scratching your head trying to remember when Jenna was recast, don’t worry. Dratch’s role as Jenna was short-lived. She only played Liz Lemon’s counterpart in the unaired pilot. As The 30 Rock Book explains, the creators made significant changes to the pilot before it aired. For one thing, the original pilot “relied more heavily on the show-within-a-show’s sketches.”
The relationship between Liz and Jenna was different as well. As the book puts it, the pilot “version relied more heavily on the relationship between Liz and Jenna.” The pair had a “genuine connection.” Whereas Krakowski brought in an “Actress-with-a-capital-A vibe,” Dratch played a character who was “amazed and excited to be part of the show.”
They also changed the character’s last name when they changed up the casting. Jenna DeCarlo became Jenna Maroney.
Rachel Dratch has had consistent comedy work
While her future as Jenna on 30 Rock wasn’t to be, Rachel Dratch has remained a consistent presence in the comedy world — especially on the small screen. As her IMDb filmography shows, she played a handful of bit parts over the 30 Rock‘s run, appearing in 16 episodes.
As for her other work, the actor had recurred in shows like The Middle, Broadcity, and Shameless. Dratch also does voice work, bringing her talents to popular comedic series like Bob’s Burgers. As for the big screen, Dratch frequently appears in Adam Sandler comedies like Click and Just Go with It.
Many still know Dratch for her projects with Fey. The two worked together on Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, the latter’s follow-up with collaborator Robert Carlock. Additionally, Dratch appeared in Sisters and Baby Mama, both of which starred Fey and another SNL alumnus, Amy Poehler. So though their 30 Rock partnership didn’t work out the way they planned, Fey and Dratch clearly still enjoy sharing the screen.