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How 30 Rock’s Classic Leap Day Episode Came to Be

30 Rock - Season 6
It’s Leap Day William! Photo: Ali Goldstein/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

In honor of Leap Day, we asked 30 Rock showrunner Robert Carlock to tell us how the classic season-six episode “Leap Day” came to be. Happy Merlinpeen!

This was one of my favorite episodes to be involved in. I didn’t write the original draft, but I was there as the writers were breaking it. It came at a difficult point in the year when we were kind of behind, and the room had just been talking about this silly thing: “What if we made a big deal out of Leap Day?” At 30 Rock, it’s a pretty elastic universe. You never knew exactly when it would break, when Tina would tell me it was too crazy, or I would tell the writers it was too crazy. I remember there was a kind of nervousness — the writers weren’t sure — but I loved it so much immediately. And once I was onboard, I had to sell Tina on it — not by manipulation, just by presenting the idea and tap dancing as hard as I could. And she was totally onboard. Maybe a small eye roll.

We were always creating a universe that was a little sideways, a little parallel to the one we experience every day. I remember this being one of the easiest episodes to break ever, because we realized it was a whole buffet of stuff the audience already knows. Suddenly, you’re handed everything associated with any holiday, and you get to recast it. “Oh, great, we’ll do a Scrooge conceit.” “We’ll go to a Leap Day party.” “We’ll write songs.” “We’ll come up with traditions.” You just saw the whole thing immediately, even though I think we were telling four full stories in it. The hardest part was the three-line exchange explaining how this had never been discussed before, why it was such a big deal, and why Liz Lemon didn’t know about it when we saw her four years ago during the previous Leap Day.

Jim Carrey as Dave Williams. Photo: Ali Goldstein/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

We shot that Jim Carrey movie in the body of it because we were like, “There has to be a movie about Leap Day.” Jim had a ton of ideas we tried to incorporate. There was that shot of him running down the sidewalk, and it was like the end-of-movie moment — “I was very connected with my son and I solved the court case from earlier!” — and he’s tearing his clothes off. That was not scripted, but it was wonderful. I wish it happened in my life more. And of course, having Alec running around New York crying, “Happy Leap Day!” like it’s the end of It’s a Wonderful Life. It was one of those episodes full of moments where I was like… “I can’t believe they’re letting us do this. Someone’s paying for this to happen.”

How 30 Rock’s Classic Leap Day Ep Came to Be