30 Rock will debut an all new episode on Thursday, February 3 at 10 PM ET on NBC, which will feature a special guest star. Entertainment Tonight correspondent Vanessa Minnillo will make an appearance on the hit comedy series, portraying Carmen Chao. She recently held a conference call to discuss her experience on the show. Here's what she had to say:
My first question is I'm just curious to know, going into this were you nervous or have had any anxiety about working with the 30 Rock cast?
Vanessa Minnillo: I was nervous. I can even cut you off at that, because you know this is a big deal for me. This is 30 Rock, NBC, it's you know Emmy Award winning, Golden Globe winning, and the cast alone is just - this is as good as it gets. You know, this is A List - these are A List actors and comedians that I'm working with, so I was completely beside myself. I was so nervous that I was actually making myself sick just for the audition process. And I was traveling actually the day that they were auditioning girls for the role of Carmen Chao, which is my character's name, and I couldn't make the audition. So what I had to do was put myself on tape, which is even more nerve wracking, because one of the things I love is being able to walk into a room and meet people, make eye contact, have a conversation with them, and then go into reading. But this is just me putting myself on tape, sending it in directly to, you know, the people - and the powers that be, and then they show Tina, she's the final yes or no, and I completely, to be honest, I made a fool of myself. But, it thought it was necessary for the character. I laid it all on the line. It took me, gosh by the time I got to my friends house to shoot it, it was already midnight. I came back home at 1:30 and the car was picking us up for our flight at 5:00 am. I didn't sleep. I showed it to (fiancee) Nick (Lachey) when he woke up and I'm like, 'What do you think?' And he said, 'It - wow. Like, you literally just put on the line.' He said, 'They're either going to think you're crazy and you're psycho, or that you're really a good actress.' You'll see Carmen is a fun character to play. She's bananas. She's very confident. She's very honest. She's very outspoken. She's very out there. And so, I tried to let that come across on the tape and I - obviously I think it did, and they literally called me while I was in Cincinnati for our engagement party actually and said, 'You got the job.' So, I left from Cincinnati to New York, shot it, all in one day, and just had the most amazing time.
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Does the story line allow you to come back to make future appearances?
Vanessa Minnillo: The story line is - you know, obviously I don't want to give too much away, but yeah it does and it - that's the beauty of 30 Rock. They said with everybody that they've had, you know, it always leaves the door open for this big revolving door of fun guest star appearances. I guess recently they had somebody on there play an HR guy and they loved him and had such a great time with him and he was great, that they brought him back already for a couple other episodes. So, I am putting all of my faith in the TV Gods if they will let me come back. Trust me, I've begged and said as much as I could.
I can imagine. It is a great show obviously, and it is a feather in your cap to be on it. I mean, looking forward into the future do - would you want to star in your own weekly series, or do you think you would like something like that, like an ongoing weekly engagement?
Vanessa Minnillo: Yeah, I think that would - that's like the dream job. For me, hosting was always fun and was something that I was able to do at - without sounding, I don't want to - some people find their niche. Nick - you know, like Nick is able to sing a capella in front of 50,000 people. I cannot do that, but I can host. You know, I can get on a microphone and I can be myself and I can interview people, and I enjoy that. Acting is fun because it lets you dive into other parts of your personality and in your brain, and even in your psyche. You know, you just - it's almost therapeutic when you dive into characters. So, when I came to L.A. I actually have been doing some guest appearance roles, I've had a couple pilots that didn't go, but they're all - it's all good stuff. You know, people are out here for years at a time and never get one, so I have to count my blessings in that regard and hope this year is the year. It's already starting out with a bang with 30 Rock, so hopefully I can keep the momentum going.
Do you think that comedy is your strength, or would you like to try a drama?
Vanessa Minnillo: I've always said comedy is exactly what I want to do. But interestingly enough, while I've been taking acting classes and coaching, my coach says that your drama's probably more where I'll be comfortable because I have so much to pull from in every single one of the roles I had to be dramatic in. Like, I just got back from Hawaii Five-0. I have to cry. I was on CSI: NY, I had to cry. I was on Psych, I had to cry. And so I'm like, "Wow, I guess there is a little dark Vanessa that's dying to come out and just express herself," you know? So, I'm open to any and all opportunities, not just limited to comedy, but that one for sure I feel the most comfortable in.
I was reading about your character Carmen and I know that you, I guess, your actions create a situation having to pretend she's pregnant to cover up one of your co-workers pregnancies. As a woman in the entertainment industry and a host, (similar to working in a news bureau), what are you feelings on the fact that - you know, of how a pregnancy can affect a woman like way differently than a man?
Vanessa Minnillo: I think it's a beautiful thing and I think that it's an advantage for a woman. You know, it's - it kind of reminds me of that movie Knocked Up where Katherine Heigl's character ends up getting pregnant and they embrace it. It is different, you know, and I applaud all women that can work on up to the day that they go to the hospital. Most women can't work until like the, you know, middle of the third trimester until their eighth month or so, and it's amazing. It's amazing that they can do that, but I think, you know, they - they're not - they're determined to not let it slow them down. So, that's what the fun twist in this, is that I get to be the woman who throws a monkey wrench in Elizabeth Banks and Tina Fey's characters, and kind of try to be that girl that's going to crack the case. So, it's funny to watch them like cut a squirm and, their characters that is, and be uncomfortable while I'm around.
So after obviously guest starring on 30 Rock, what character would you say you are most like in real life?
Vanessa Minnillo: On 30 Rock? Oh, that's a good one. You know what, it's - honestly, like when I get asked a question to what animal would you be, I literally, and I mean it from the bottom of my heart, I'm a chameleon. So, when I see Tina Fey's character and, you know, just Jack, him and Lemon, and she's just, you know, like she's eager and she's ready to go, but then she's like a fish out of water. I feel like that character, but then when I see Elizabeth Banks' character, Avery, I - and how she's trying to keep it all together, but there' so much going on internally, I feel like her as well. And then Carmen, the girl that I'm playing, Carmen Chao, is just everything that I think every professional woman, or just female, suppresses those thoughts, those looks, those glares that just - that (unintelligible), I don't - I can't explain it, gets to come out. So, I had so much fun being this woman because she is just - she's cut throat. She's getting the job done and she's taking names, and she is not looking back. So, I think that is in all of us a little as well, which is why it was fun to be able to exploit that part of it, because I'd like to think that it's a very little part of all of us. But, you know it's acting and that's what so fun about acting, you can be whoever and you can make it however you want to make it. And to be with a really talented cast and crew was just, for me, eye opening, because the - it really is amazing when you work alongside people that are as talented and as accomplished as they are. It makes you better and it makes your work ethic and it makes you go through the process smoother, but also more efficiently. And you - I learned so much in the 24 hours that I was Tina Fey and Elizabeth that I definitely will take with me.
What would be one memorable moment or one story from that day of shooting that you could share?
Vanessa Minnillo: It's funny because I do, like I keep thinking about this moment. Just to see everything that revolves around Tina and to see this big beautiful show she has, 30 Rock, and what she's done with it. And then, and know that she's a mother, and know that she's gone through so much in her life. We literally sat there and we were just two girls and she was talking to me and Elizabeth about these snacks. And she was like, 'I was given these snacks,' she's like, 'And I'm eating them. Like, I'm munching - I'm almost done with the whole bag.' And she was so excited about these snacks, and again we go to do a take and she's very professional and she's talking to people on set and she's very professional, on a business call very professional, but then she runs to her trailer and she looked like the cutest little like 12-year old girl, like legs going left and right, running, running, running in her big coat, and she grabs her little bag of treats and runs back with this grin on her face. Like, it was the most awkward, cutest, most adorable running and smiling and giddy. And she got back and she was like, 'Oh, I wanted to show you guys the treats.' And I'm like, 'You're just - you're amazing. You know, you have it so together and you are so down to earth.' It's - I have that vision of her just running down the streets of New York smiling and holding this bag of candy. I know that sounds lame, but I loved that moment. I love that she's still her. You know what I mean? And someone didn't go get it for her and she made it a very real moment for me.
Are you really a child of the world military family, do you do anything the U.S. though or do you - have you done anything as far as the troops, or are you sensitive to the families?
Vanessa Minnillo: I'm very sensitive to the families, yes, and I've done a lot of stuff here with my team as well, because I was - there's a lot that goes on that I don't think people understand. And by that, I mean even the children of the parents that are shipped away, you know, when I was growing one of my biggest fears was having two uniformed men come to the door and knock on the door to tell me, God forbid, that my father was gone, you know, or missing or had passed, or anything of that nature. So, every time the doorbell would ring, I'm not thinking, 'Oh, it's Girl Scout Cookies, or it's the pizza guy,' I'm thinking, 'Oh, my gosh, is this the door, you know, is this it?' You know, 'Is this going to be bad news from daddy?' So, I try as much as I can, we do - I do a lot of stuff locally, but as far as the USO, it's so funny because I said to my dad, I said, 'I'm not a singer. I'm not, you know, a comedian. I can't offer them anything. I feel like I can't go because there's nothing I can do. I can't perform.' And he said, 'Vanessa, just you going and not singing and not doing a stand-up comedy act, just supporting them,' he says, 'Anything from home just lifts your spirit up so much to know that people are back here thinking about them, that people out - back here care about them. And that you want to go all that way just to kind of be a little piece of home to remind them, you know, what they're fighting for and what they're doing,' he said, 'It means the world.' And so since then, I've been doing my best to try to get on a tour and Nick and I have talked about it a dozen times. It isn't the easiest thing, obviously for safety issues, but it definitely is top, top, top of our priority list, and we do as much as we can locally. But like I said, whenever we travel if there's any opportunity to do anything with anybody in the military we are all over it.
You were talking earlier about how this was a really long day, and so I'm - from your perspective, was that challenging at all in any way trying to, you know, show up to work and try to get in character and develop chemistry with Tina and Elizabeth and these other people in such a short span of time?
Vanessa Minnillo: Yeah, the scary thing is, it all happened so organically and beautifully. As soon as you meet Tina and Elizabeth you're - I mean literally you're the - I shot a scene in the studio in Queens, and then we had to drive into New York and me and Elizabeth shared a car, so you know it's literally like you jump into the family. It was a long day, but it was great because they broke it up. So we had the studio set shot, and then we drove into the city and we actually went to 30 Rockefeller Center, which it was so cute, because everyone in the cast and the crew were like, "This doesn't happen a lot," you know, because it is a big deal. Like, the whole 30 Rockefeller Center is - it's high security, there's a lot going on, so they go there, but just not every single episode. And so, I got to go to the actual MSNBC Desk and sit in 30 Rock's MSNBC Desk and do one of my scenes, and then we traveled all through New York, so it was broken up a bit. And naturally, you know, just hanging out with them, because they're such wonderful women, it was an easy day. I didn't feel like it was a long day, and it didn't feel like we were in four or five different locations.
You were also saying earlier you were so happy to be a part of this show, so I'm guessing you were a pretty major 30 Rock fan. Do you have any sort of specific episodes or memories from the past seasons that you really appreciate or love?
Vanessa Minnillo: You know what, I think if you were to ask any 30 Rock fan to pick a moment, I really do believe from the bottom of my heart that it's probably impossible. There is just something that they tapped into and it really is - it's amazing. And for me to be able to be a part of it and not just to be a part of the show and to be able to act alongside the actors, but just how it all went down with sending a tape in, it all seems very surreal and I still don't believe I'm on 30 Rock. I don't think I'll believe it until it airs the night of February 3, and I'm excited. I have all my friends coming over, we're having a 30 Rock party, but I'm also nervous, you know, because you put yourself out there and that's what actors do, but just to get to know that I was able to do it with Tina and Elizabeth and just that NBC and 30 Rock were so gracious to hire me, I'm excited. Like, I am just speechless, literally, right now. It was a dream.
What did you enjoy most about Carmen, overall?
Vanessa Minnillo: I enjoyed how she was - in a weird twisted way, but she was a very strong, or she is a very strong and independent and outspoken business woman. I don't think she's malicious, but she's definitely driven and she's definite - she knows exactly what she wants, and she will stop at nothing to get it. So, I loved that part of her. I loved that she's very, very on it.
I was wondering, was there instant chemistry when you first started working with the cast? They've all been together so long, so they fit together like old puzzle pieces.
Vanessa Minnillo: Yeah. Like I said earlier, I felt like it just meshed. As soon as I walked in the door and I sat in the makeup chair, I mean everyone was there because they were doing - they shoot - were shooting two episodes simultaneously. So, while they were shooting one in the studio, we were getting ready in the studio, shot one scene, and then left the studio to go on location. So everyone was there, except for I didn't see Tracy or Alec, and it's like a big family, but it works because they're all very easy going, they're all very funny, they're all very open. You know, they've been doing this for a while now, and they're comfortable in their setting and they just welcomed me like a new family member.
Why do you think people keep tuning in to watch 30 Rock?
Vanessa Minnillo: I think that they definitely tapped into something where everyone can relate to situations or to characters, and it's fun to see them kind of get themselves out the messes that they've created. You know, we like to think that in our 30's, 40's, and 50's that we've got it all figured out and 60's and so on, and that we know what we're doing. But, we're all going through life one day at a time just like everyone else and we all make our mistakes and we all have our blunders, and I think that this show shows that. It shows the vulnerable side to a corporation and a business, and it shows a human side, you know, and the problems that we have as individuals, but yet it's still able to be a successful business. So, I think that they've definitely tapped into that great resource, and that's why people can relate.