On Life After 30 ROCK: Jack McBrayer Talks THE MIDDLE and More!

Are you still reeling from the fact that 30 ROCK has ended its hilarious Emmy award-winning run on NBC after seven glorious seasons? We here at theTVaddict.com sure as heck are! Which is primarily why we jumped at the chance to interview the artist formerly known as Kenneth the Page. Yes sirree, Jack McBrayer — who is reprising his role as Patricia Heaton’s new boss on tonight’s episode of THE MIDDLE — was only too happy to take to the phones and talk about life after 30 ROCK, working on THE MIDDLE and how he found his way to Hollywood all the way from beautiful Macon Georgia. See for yourself, after the jump.

Fresh off the end of 30 ROCK and DIsney’s Wreck-It-Ralph it’s been quite a year for you.
Jack MacBrayer:Quite a year of unemployment (Laughs!)

Well, I wasn’t going to start there, but since you brought it up. What’s it been like, knowing that for the first time in seven years you don’t have a set to go back to in July or August?
Yeah, I got to say it, I’m in a transitional phase of my life, but I have to remind myself that I didn’t know 30 ROCK was going to be happening. So on the one hand it feels like I’m back to square one, but on the other hand you have to use your connections and just have confidence that there will be more work. But it is really just strange to not have that routine and schedule that I’ve gotten used to for seven years. As an actor, you’re trained to tell yourself to not get comfortable, not get used to this, but after seven years you have no choice but to get comfortable.

Of course the upside of not having that routine is you get to do fun guest spots like tonight’s one on THE MIDDLE. How did that come about?
Well in this particular case I believe my name had been bounced around the writer’s room so when the phone call did come in I was happy it did because I’ve enjoyed the show for so long. But it was just one of those things where the stars aligned and I had a very very available schedule.

After being a series regular for so long, is it strange to walk on a set as a guest star?
Well, I was very nervous. The cast of THE MIDDLE have this bond and this chemistry for the past four years and here I come in and I’m used to having guest stars come to my show, So it’s weird when it’s flipped around like that. Of course, I was on my best behavior and try to read the room (Ie. Do they allow multiple takes, I try to take my lead from what I am witnessing before me). But everyone was so nice and so laid back and also, THE MIDDLE shoots on this beautiful lot in Burbank, so after they yell “Cut!” I would walk off the soundstage and see these beautiful mountains and clear blue sky and I was like I am not in New York anymore. It was awesome.

What kind of conversations did you have with the writers before shooting?
Because I was just coming off of 30 ROCK, I did have a conversation with the writers asking is there anything at all you want me to avoid making the character too “Kenneth.” But, at the end of the day I look how I look and sound like I sound so they just told me have a little more fun playing with Mrs. Heaton. And I really appreciated being in a new environment and being allowed to try new things.

As you’re clearly aware, you have a very distinctive voice and look which has obviously served you very well throughout your career. But growing up, was there ever a time when you yearned for… lack of a better word, more of a leading man persona?
Being from Georgia, everyone sounds like this so that wasn’t ever an issue. The only time it did come into play was when I moved to Chicago and started auditioning for commercials — and God bless them as I kind of understand where they’re coming from — but the first thing out of every casting director’s mouth was, “So you can’t lose that accent right?” It didn’t make me mad, but I would think, like, how dare you, there are millions of people in the world who sound just like me but we just pretend that Southern people don’t exist I guess.

As someone who has to leave his hometown of Toronto Canada I’m always curious how you found the courage to leave Macon Georgia and follow your dreams as an actor?
For me it wasn’t all about the acting at first. I knew when I went off to college all of my friends were attending the University of Georgia, so I thought I should go out of state because I know I can always come back. So I went to Indiana and then once I was there I got to explore St. Louis, Chicago, one thing then another. Chicago, New York, then Los Angeles. Next stop… Honolulu! (Laughs).

Between Tina Fey and Patricia Heaton you’ve had the privilege of working up close and personal with two of the best in the business. Are there any commonalities in their performance you’ve noticed?
Tina, I’ve known forever and know her improvisational background and writing, the girl can make a joke out of anything a gum wrapper, so I just know her skill set. Mrs. Heaton I had met very peripherally in the past but to see her on set and do her thing, this lady is a pro, She knows what’s she’s doing and it was actually a treat to witness. Mrs. Heaton is a machine, that woman can roll her eyes at anything!

After an experience as magical as 30 ROCK, does it make choosing a follow up project that much harder?
Absolutely! After the show I do acknowledge that the bar has been raised very high with 30 ROCK. That being said, I am very much looking forward to seeing what the next thing is.

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THE MIDDLE airs Wednesdays at 8PM on ABC (CityTV in Canada) and stars Patricia Heaton, Neil Flynn, Charlie McDermott, Eden Sher and Atticus Shaffer. Catch up with past episodes you may have missed online at clicktowatch.tv

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