Tina Fey: Bob Greenblatt’s Notes for Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Kept Jane Krakowski and Carol Kane in the Pilot

Tina Fey and Bob Greenblatt. Photo: Jason Kempin/Getty Images

Tina Fey gave a touching speech honoring NBC Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt at the Actors Fund gala on Monday, praising the executive's genuine love for television and theater. Even though Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt eventually moved to Netflix, Fey said that Greenblatt was instrumental in the original conception of the show, which was first developed at NBC. “I have to say that Bob gave us the most succinct and cogent notes I have ever received from any executive on any project,” Fey told the crowd at the Marriott Marquis. “He encouraged us to open up the world, to bring in newer characters sooner, which led to us writing Jane Krakowski and Carol Kane into the pilot episode, for which I’m forever grateful. They were great notes.”

Fey also credits Greenblatt's love of theater as part of what guaranteed Tituss Burgess, then a little-known Broadway actor, to play the role — written with him in mind! — of Titus Andromedon. "He also allowed me to cast a then little-known Broadway actor named Tituss Burgess, which is unheard of for a network executive to let you do that with someone they don’t know," said Fey. “But I think it could only be made possible by Bob’s love of the theater, and his knowledge of the depth of talent that can be found there."

Ultimately, Fey said that Greenblatt was understanding about the move to Netflix when it appeared that NBC wasn't moving forward with the show. "When I called him back a few months later, when we were in production, and I said, ‘You know, I’m getting the feeling there’s not a good spot for Kimmy Schmidt on the NBC lineup. Would you mind if we took it to Netflix?’ And he immediately said okay," said Fey. "Actually, he may have been trying to get rid of me for years, now that I think about it. Anyway, it’s fine."

Fey first worked with Greenblatt in 2012, when she told him that she wanted the seventh season of 30 Rock to be its last and requested permission to do just 13 episodes instead of a full 22. “Bob immediately said okay, because he respected a writer’s desire to end her show in a controlled, finished manner,” Fey said. “And also, our show was really fucking expensive.”