Here are edited excerpts from the conversation.
You have loads of experience performing live, from Broadway to episodes of “30 Rock.” Do you still get nervous?
I’m thrilled by that fear factor, to be honest with you. We had a stumble-through the other day, and I got so many butterflies. But I am happy that I’m nervous. I care, is basically what that means.
How did you prepare for the role of Miss Shields?
Miss Shields has been developed in a wonderfully humorous way. One of my favorite parts from the movie was how involved she was with Ralphie’s fantasy life, and that is something that television can expand more than on the Broadway stage. They’ve made Miss Shields cater more to the actress that they’ve hired, which is always lovely.
Do you still get to say, “You’ll shoot your eye out”?
I have an entire musical number based on that classic line — a big tap number. I haven’t taken tap since I was a teenager, so I’ve been hitting the rehearsal room hard. And it’s been a blast. I’m now convinced it’s therapeutic. I think it’s helped my brain.
Has your son seen the original movie?
Last year, I started introducing him to all the Christmas classics, like “A Christmas Story” and “Home Alone.” There’s such joy to hearing your child have the same laughter at the classic jokes — the tongue stuck to the pole — that you had when you first watched those movies. And hopefully he’ll have that again when he watches us singing and dancing our hearts out.
You’ve worked with Tina Fey and Robert Carlock for more than a decade between “30 Rock” and “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.”
I always say I don’t know what good luck bestowed on me the day I walked into Broadway Video, which is where I met them to audition for “30 Rock.” Because that day changed my life — not only the incredible employment I’ve had with them for so many years, but getting what I know will be the best material and the best characters. You know, once you work for someone like Tina, it’s as good as it gets, so I get a little nervous going back out into the real world.
Where will we find Jacqueline, your “Kimmy” character, in Season 4?
Where we left off, Jacqueline took a career test that told her that she was meant to be a talent agent or a guidance-counselor bather, so I think they’re probably going to go down the agent route. But I would be even more excited if they went down the bather route. The joy of these characters is that we all represent a demographic, and Jacqueline so fully embodies the 1-percenter. She quotes Trump, she has read his books, she went to Trump University, although she did not finish. I hope that even if she has to get a J-O-B that she doesn’t lose her 1 percent quality, because that is where her sense of humor is the sharpest.
Last question: You’re 49?
Oh, you have to say it out loud?! I’m hoping I get bonus points as I’m singing and aerobically tapping for five minutes during “A Christmas Story Live!” The reason to watch alone is to see if the 49-year-old performer can survive to “You’ll shoot your eye out.”