Emmy-winning 30 Rock producer makes debut with Great News
Carol Brady, Clair Huxtable, Lorelai Gilmore, June Cleaver, Claire Dunphy—TV moms run the gamut from warm and lovable, to controlling and crazy. Matriarchs make for great comedic characters; not only are they multifaceted but they’re also extremely relatable, often spitting out hilarious lines that capture the nuances of family life.
For Tracey Wigfield, creator and co-executive producer of NBC’s Great News, inspiration for her debut show started right at home. Wigfield, whose writing and producing credits include The Mindy Project and 30 Rock, said she has always thought of her mom as a funny character, so when it came time to develop her own show, she had years of material to draw from.
“I always felt my funniest when I was telling people about things my mom did or adventures we had together,” Wigfield said. “She is a funny character in life. If I could put that in a show, I thought it would be a very fertile ground for comedy.”
Wigfield’s mom serves as the inspiration for Carol (played by Andrea Martin), the blunt but endearing New Jersey mom who gets an internship at the news station where her daughter works. Having her mom meddling in her personal and professional life thwarts the plans of Katie (played by Briga Heelan), who is trying to advance her career and make a name for herself as a serious news producer.
It wasn’t too hard for Wigfield to imagine what it would be like to have her mom come to work with her. Her mom Kathy would often visit her on set at 30 Rock and as Wigfield says, “hang out longer than anyone expected.”
“She was a little bit of a mascot of the show. People liked having her around because she was funny and very noncynical about showbiz and would get really excited to meet celebrities,” Wigfield said. “It was nice because when you’re working in entertainment for a while you get jaded, but my mom was excited like a kid. She was so psyched to come to set.”
In the show, Carol gets into all sorts of antics, in part because she’s from an older generation and also because of her over-involvement in her daughter’s life. Exploring the relationship between Carol and Katie provides for plenty of laughs, as well as heartfelt moments any viewer can relate to.
“Your mom is the first person you learn everything from. You get her worldview before you get your own so it’s interesting to me,” Wigfield said. “Our generation of girls are so close to their moms and their opinions are so important, even into their 20s and 30s and beyond. The show tracks how that relationship evolves.”
While Carol is an exaggerated version of Kathy, Wigfield said the character of Katie is a mix of her and her sister, Ashley, who is also a writer on the show. Wigfield, a Boston College alum, was a page on the Late Show With David Letterman and a production assistant before getting her big break as a writer’s assistant on 30 Rock, the hit NBC show starring Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin and Tracey Morgan. After two years as an assistant, she began pitching her own jokes and became a staff writer, winning an Emmy for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series in 2013. Though Wigfield is a rising star in the comedy world, the character of Katie is inspired by a time when she was struggling to make a name for herself.
“I was pushing so hard and was so thirsty to make a good career happen,” she said. “It’s that period I feel like everyone goes through, where they’re like ‘this is never going to happen for me and I feel like I’m floundering.’”
While a decade ago Wigfield may have considered herself floundering, last year she pitched Great News with the support of 30 Rock alum Tina Fey and Robert Carlock, who also took on the role of executive producers of the show.
“It was such a nice journey to work my way up at 30 Rock,” said Wigfield. “It was so satisfying and makes me feel like I did them proud, that I could pitch my own show with them behind me and get it picked up. The show in a way is me thanking them.”
Whether you’re a young professional just starting in your career like Katie or reinventing yourself like Carol, Great News offers something for everyone, drawing laughs from generation gaps, workplace dynamics and family relationships. And while it’s a comedy, the heart of the show is sincere, highlighting the bond between mother and daughter.
“Because it’s true and based so much on my real relationship with my mom, I hope it feels true to other people and people can see their moms in that character,” Wigfield said.
Great News premieres on Tuesday, April 25, at 9 p.m. on NBC. For more information, visit www.nbc.com/great-news.