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Rock on, Rice

By

The last two weeks have been good to Condoleezza Rice.

(Courtesy Chris Ware/MCT)

On the political front, there was Osama bin Laden. Last week, after President Obama announced the death of the former al-Qaeda leader, Rice proudly stepped back into the media spotlight, crediting the Bush administration–her administration–for laying the groundwork for bin Laden’s death.

Then there’s the personal legacy. Two weeks ago, Rice made a rare cameo appearance on NBC’s comedy series “30 Rock,” poking fun at herself as the spurned lover of high-powered GE executive Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin).

Rice’s torrid love affair with Jack surfaced in the season one episode “The Break Up” when Jack coyly mentioned his relationship with a “high-ranking African American member of the Bush administration.” But with barely a vague suggestion of phone sex and a handsome attaché, the relationship ended thanks to Jack’s jealous suspicions of Condi’s flirty relationship with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

The real-life Rice described how she was slightly caught off-guard to hear about her secret sitcom lover.

“Yeah I was a little surprised,” Rice said. “I thought it was a kind of funny, funny storyline.”

Rice, who admits to being an infrequent viewer of “30 Rock,” reassured us that Jack had nothing to worry about.

“He didn’t have to worry about that, ok?” she laughed.

In its five seasons, “30 Rock” has carved a niche for itself in the primetime market with its eccentric antics and wacky storylines (check Liz Lemon’s recent comeuppance by a plastic bag). It has also taken its fair share of playful jabs at the Bush administration–at one point, Jack leaves GE to go work for the federal government only to discover the White House in total shambles, replete with leaky ceilings and nary a working pen in sight.

So a silly, fabricated romance between the two powerful figures seemed like a natural extension of the show’s characteristic zaniness. Condi isn’t Jack Donaghy’s only high-profile lover– the long list also includes Martha Stewart and shower-buddy Greta Van Susteren.

The former Secretary of State first heard about her alleged paramour through an old co-worker.

“She had seen this storyline develop about Alec Baldwin and me and she said ‘Gee wouldn’t it be fun if you did a cameo about it’,” Rice said. “I said sure, sure, sure and somebody who represents me got in touch with them.”

Rice frequently fields offers for these kinds of appearances, including a chance to compete on “Dancing with the Stars” which she refused.

“That’s maximum embarrassment to be on ‘Dancing with the Stars,’ but [30 Rock] kind of appealed to me because it’s kind of a quirky show,” she said. “And I like Alec Baldwin and I love Tina Fey.”

Neither party initially put much effort into pursuing the appearance, so the idea languished for a year.

“Then out of the blue, they came back and said, ‘Gee we’d really like to do it next week or something’,” Rice said. “It was one of those things where it was really very close in time.”

To prepare, Rice ran lines with one of her co-workers, a former child actress, before jetting off to New York the week of March 16 to film. The appearance aired in the April 28 episode “Everything Sunny All the Time.”

In the episode, Jack’s current wife Avery Jessup (Elizabeth Banks) is detained in North Korea by a pop culture-obsessed, megalomaniacal Kim Jong-Il (Margaret Cho). Desperate to bring Avery home, Jack has no choice but to come groveling to his bitter ex-girlfriend for help.

But before Condi agrees to help him, she challenges Jack to a piano/flute-off. A professional flutist came in to teach Baldwin how to hold the instrument properly. Rice, on the other hand, is a famously accomplished pianist and picked out the pieces played on the show herself. Condi eventually trumps Jack on the third and final song, an excerpt of Mozart’s D Minor Concerto.

“That one would be impossible for the flute to play,” Rice said. “I wasn’t trying to be fair. I was trying to get revenge, right?”

During the scene, Jack apologizes for breaking up with Condi via text message (“Me + U = :(”).

“Well I thought, my goodness, how could you do that and I mean to go out with Karl Rove on Valentine’s Day? My goodness,” Rice joked.

Despite his character’s conservative leanings, Alec Baldwin is notorious for his liberal activism, most famously lampooned in “Team America: World Police” as the head of Hollywood’s activist, liberal crowd. However, the two set aside their political differences during the taping.

“He made me feel very relaxed because I [hadn’t] had time to memorize lines,” Rice said. “And he said, ‘Nobody remembers lines. We just make it up.’ He was really great.”

As for “30 Rock’s” own lampooning of the Bush administration, Rice has no beef.

“Everybody pokes fun at each other,” Rice said. “That’s the nice thing about American politics. If you can’t laugh together then you’ve lost something really important.”

“It’s nice to see professors not taking themselves too seriously,” said Anissa Chitour ’13. “It did make me laugh, but it didn’t change my opinion of her as a politician or professor.”

However, Rice has no plans to continue her acting career nor does she think there’s a future for Jack and Condi.

“No I think they’re done. Big split’s over,” she said.

And although the Osama bin Laden assassination eclipsed her appearance the following week, Rice certainly is not disappointed.

“It’s a real victory for American patience and persistence,” Rice said. “It took us almost 10 years, but it shows you can’t escape America’s long reach. I think this is a victory across presidents and I think that’s a good thing.”

“I think Jack would have liked it,” she added.