Tina Fey thinks she understands a little bit about adrenaline addiction, and that comes from years of performing on Saturday Night Live. But she admits that her work on the film Whiskey Tango Foxtrot brings it to a whole new level.
Fey plays a real-life TV reporter, Kim Barker, who is thrust into her first international assignment in Kabul. Fey told Time magazine that in order to prepare for the role, she read books and tried to watch documentaries on Afghanistan.
“The idea of people throwing themselves into an adrenaline lifestyle, I felt like I understood that — weirdly, in a small scale way — from SNL [But] I don’t think I have the kind of boldness that Kim Barker really has.”
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is based on Barker’s memoir, The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Fey is the film’s producer. She dedicated the story to her father, the late Donald H. Fey, who was a Korean War veteran and journalist. Fey told the New York Times that it wasn’t so much about doing a war movie, as about how she thought she could handle the role.
“I just thought the book was funny and interesting. And I could play this part. It wasn’t like I was trying to play Charlize Theron’s part in Mad Max: Fury Road. It was like, this is a person that was looking around and writing things down. It’s plausible that I would be that person.”
However, she told the Wall Street Journal that she didn’t have designs to try to duplicate Kim’s mannerisms.
“I think I met Kim one time before making the movie. I’m not trying to look or sound like the real Kim. You try to break down: How is this character similar to me and different than me? Kim is a real risk taker. I’m sort of faux adventurous. The way I identify with her is that she has a life that people did not expect her to have. And I certainly understand that feeling of being one of very few women in a sea of dudes.”
She said that the movie will highlight Kim’s double life in Kabul: reporting by day and partying at night.
“That’s one thing that surprised me. I just found it fascinating, the weird mix of Kim having this freeing, wild experience privately, in the middle of a place where women are so oppressed.”
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Fey told the Wall Street Journal that screenwriter Robert Carlock revealed a side of Afghanistan that the viewers may not expect.
“I think what Robert has written about eloquently in the screenplay is that Afghanistan is a place where people have been going for hundreds of years, thinking they’re going to fix it,” she says. “They go and they have a strange adventure, and Afghanistan always wins.”
There was some flak about racism and the film not hiring Afghans to play the part of Afghans. Fey said she would have liked to hire some native speakers, but in the end it wasn’t her decision. She did comment that she knew the flak would fall on primarily her shoulders.
She added that the story is “clear-eyed about the military.”
But the audience won’t find the sex scenes with her character’s love interest, Martin Freeman, to be too shocking.
“If I were to do a hardcore sex scene—ha!—people would think, ‘Eww, that’s like seeing my sister do that.’ You hopefully have some sort of friendship with the audience. That’s a boundary I don’t want to cross with them.”
Fans have two more films to look forward to in the pipeline of Fey’s production company, Little Stranger, Inc. The company also has two television pilots in the works and just signed a deal with Universal Pictures.
“I wish I could say I had a master business plan. I don’t. I just feel like it’s about staying in the game.”
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot opens in theaters on March 4.
[Image via Helga Esteb/Shutterstock]