'Great News': The Story Behind That Timely Sexual Harassment Episode

Great News Still Tina Fey - Publicity - H 2017
Courtesy of NBC

[Warning: This story contains spoilers from Thursday's episode of Great News, "Honeypot."]

When the New York Times reported Oct. 5 that Harvey Weinstein had been the subject of sexual harassment allegations over the last three decades — and had reached settlements with at least eight different women — many remembered an old and suddenly very pertinent 30 Rock joke from 2012.

In the season six episode of the acclaimed NBC comedy, actress Jenna Maroney (Jane Krakowski) had stated "I'm not afraid of anyone in show business. I turned down intercourse with Harvey Weinstein on no less than three occasions … out of five."

The episode, titled "Kidnapped by Danger," was written by none other than series creator and star Tina Fey. In a stunning coincidence, Fey also happened to co-write Thursday's episode of the NBC workplace comedy Great News, on which Fey serves as an executive producer, and which also tackled sexual harassment in the workplace, albeit in a much bigger way.

Thursday's episode, shot in August and announced in September, saw high-powered executive Diana St. Tropez (also played by Fey) promoted to the head of the corporation that owns MMN. Before she left for the new gig, however, Diana began exhibiting strange and suggestive behavior toward her subordinates. In one instance, she repeatedly dropped her pen on the ground and asked Greg (Adam Campbell) to pick it up as she checked him out from head to toe. Another time, she asked Carol (Andrea Martin) to dance for her — all this while she asked Katie (Briga Heelan) to keep a lid on her behavior.

However, in a twist, Diana revealed that she had been counting on Katie to turn her in to human resources so she could receive a huge cash settlement to "go away" as Diana put it. Just like Ailes, O'Reilly and yes, even former Access Hollywood co-host Billy Bush.

"I have fought for workplace equality for 20 years," Diana stated. "I just want what the men get: $40 million to go away."

Speaking about what she had to do to (try and) get the settlement, Diana admitted she was disgusted by her own behavior. "I really don't understand what men get out of it," she said. "That and golf."

It was a unique way into an increasingly common discussion happening in Hollywood in the wake of the revelations about Weinstein — not only of his alleged instances of sexual harassment but also of the multiple rape allegations against as reported by The New Yorker on Tuesday.

In light of the recent news cycle and Thursday's all-the-more timely episode, THR spoke with Great News showrunner Tracey Wigfield about why she wanted to tackle the issue and the scandal.

Knowing this episode was airing this week, what was your reaction when you read these stories about Harvey Weinstein?

The same as it is whenever I read a story like this: deep, consuming depression and punishing my husband for the crimes of all men. It honestly wasn't until a day or two after the news came out that I realized it would line up with the episode we had written and shot in August.

How did it originally come up to tackle sexual harassment in the work place like this on Great News? What made you personally want to discuss this topic?

Our show is about women who work at a cable news network. With all the stories that had come out recently about sexual harassment, especially by powerful men in media, it felt like an appropriate topic for our show.

How did it end up for Tina Fey in particular to co-write this episode out of all three that she guest-starred in?

She offered to write one of the episodes she was appearing in, and it just happened to be this one.

Looking back, what, if any, hesitations did you have about discussing sexual harassment? If so, how did you get over those?

Any time you try to tackle a serious subject on a comedy show, you want to avoid making light of it. So we made a special effort to make men who perpetrate abuse and people who don't believe victims the butt of the joke.

The episode's title, "Honeypot," specifically came up in The New Yorker when The Weinstein Co. employees discussed Harvey Weinstein's meetings with women. How did the title come about?

In our episode, it refers to our characters setting a trap to expose Tina’s character as a sexual harasser. If we had written the episode after these articles came out using that term to mean a way of luring women into vulnerable situations, we would have named it something else.

Since the Weinstein news broke, the public has been pointing to this season six episode of 30 Rock where Jenna commented about turning down sex with Weinstein three different times. As someone who worked on the show, how aware were you that that joke was based on actual allegations and/or rumors?

We weren't trying to hint at any secrets we knew about him. I think we were just making a joke based on his widely known reputation. There was a joke about it at the Oscars that year. 

Why do you think it's taken so long for this harassment to really come to light?

I think women who are victims have seen other victims come forward and not be treated fairly, both by their abusers and by the culture at large. It’s on all of us. We all have to earn the trust of these women and make them know they'll be supported when they tell their stories, and I think that's gradually starting to happen.

Great News airs Thursdays at 9:30 p.m. on NBC.