When 30 Rock’s Liz Lemon wanted to get out of jury duty, she dressed up as Princess Leia, telling the judge that wasn’t really “fair” for her to serve because she’s a hologram. That iconic costume, worn by Carrie Fisher in the first Star Wars film, is also the “only white dress” she owns, as she declares on the show, proudly telling Alec Baldwin’s Jack Donaghy, “I’m a princess!”
“Carrie Fisher meant a lot to me,” Fey told The Daily Beast in a statement Tuesday, following the news that Fisher had passed away after suffering a heart attack on Dec. 23. “Like many women my age, Princess Leia occupies about 60 percent of my brain at any given time. But Carrie’s honest writing and her razor-sharp wit were an even greater gift. I feel so lucky that I got to meet her. I’m very sad she is gone.”
Today, most people are remembering Fisher as Leia, especially given that character’s—spoiler alert—digitally recreated cameo at the end of this month’s mega-hit Rogue One. But while Tina Fey’s love for Fisher may have begun with Star Wars, it no doubt deepened through the incisive and often hilarious writing she did for most of her career.
Fisher is officially credited as a screenwriter on just one film: 1990’s Postcards From the Edge, starring Meryl Streep and based on her novel of the same name. But over the past several decades, Fisher also served as an unsung script doctor on dozens of major Hollywood productions, including Hook, Sister Act, and The Wedding Singer.
It was the writer version of Fisher that Fey invited to make a guest appearance as her character’s childhood idol, Rosemary Howard, on the 30 Rock’s Season 2 episode “Rosemary’s Baby,” which the creator has said is one of her all-time favorites. The fictional Rosemary is a comedy legend, responsible for the “funny because it’s true” line about Richard Nixon on Laugh-In, and when Liz Lemon meets her at a book signing, she tells her, “I grew up wanting to be you.” Later, Liz hires Rosemary to be a guest writer on “The Girlie Show,” 30 Rock’s version of Saturday Night Live, but things don’t go as smoothly as she would have hoped and Jack ends up firing them both. Her radical sketch ideas about abortion and race are just too “edgy” for 2007.
The episode, which also features an Alec Baldwin impression of Tracy Morgan that is almost as spot-on as his Donald Trump, culminates with Liz going over to Rosemary’s rat-infested apartment to collaborate on an anti-corporate screenplay and realizing she’s made a terrible mistake.
“You can’t abandon me, Liz. You are me!” Rosemary pleads with Fey’s character. As Liz runs for the door, Rosemary reprises her most iconic line: “Help me, Liz Lemon, you’re my only hope!” That scene leads directly to one of Baldwin’s most famous quotes from the series: “Never go with a hippie to second location.”
One final bit of advice Fey takes from Rosemary is the assertion that “women become obsolete in this business when there’s no one left that wants to see them naked.” It’s a sentiment that Fey took to its next logical conclusion just a couple of weeks ago while accepting an award at The Hollywood Reporter’s annual Women in Entertainment breakfast. “What’s next for me?” Fey wondered aloud. “What is my role in this business going to be once nobody wants to grab me by the pussy anymore?”
The fate of so many women in Hollywood is a sad reality that Fisher faced last year when she returned to the screen as Princess Leia in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Thirty-two years after she first strapped on that gold slave bikini at George Lucas’s request, fans lashed out at Fisher for the way she had aged. “Please stop debating about whether or not [I] aged well,” she wrote on Twitter. “Unfortunately it hurts all 3 of my feelings. My BODY hasn’t aged as well as I have.”
“I thought it was heartbreaking, and also smart of Carrie to be, like, ‘This hurts,’” Fey said in an interview a couple of months later. “Because a lot of times we talk about the politics of it, the unfairness of it, which is all true, but I think it’s clearer to people when you go, ‘Hey, that hurts my feelings.’”
Fey has survived in show business by never shying away from politics, but also by never being shy about sharing their feelings. It’s a lesson that should be just as much as part of Fisher’s legacy as Princess Leia.