There’s Actually A Method To Judah Friedlander’s Wacky Outfits On 30 Rock

Saturday was quite the throwback treat. Teams of media and fashion folk from The New York Times, Women’s Wear Daily, Refinery 29, Facebook, and more competed Evian‘s first annual Wood Racquet Cup at the West Side Tennis Club. Judah Friedlander, who plays Frank from 30 Rock, was the guest commentator at a retro-themed tournament held at the former US Open site. Everyone, except for Friedlander, was in tennis whites, and players even donned pleated skirts and mid-calf length socks, and played with, yes, wood racquets.

The 43-year-old actor took some time out to chat with us about his love for ping pong, his character in 30 Rock, and his personal style. Who knew there was actually a method to his madness?

So you’re not playing tennis today?
I’m more of a tennis fan than tennis player. I was banned from playing because I hit the ball a little too hard. And if I play too much, then other tennis players won’t be able to get any endorsement deals. I’ve played against Andy Murray. He cries too much, and the tabloids in England ran out of ink trying to print all the sob stories about him. Have you been to England? Every day, it’s just him on the front cover, crying. And he’s a nice guy, I don’t want to make him feel bad.

Wait, you know he won the gold medal in the Olympics, right? (And then I realized he was joking. Sorry, I had some Pimm’s.)
I skipped the Olympics, I actually don’t consider that a real sporting competition. This is real sporting competition, because it’s with wood racquets. See, Murray can’t play with wood racquets. He’s too young, he doesn’t know what it’s like. Today, the racquet does all the work for the player, but not in the old days. A wood racquet is almost like trying to play baseball with a whiffle ball racquet, I’m serious. And Roger Federer — he’s been interviewed about it. There’s so many things that players can do with the racquets today that you couldn’t do years ago — they’re so powerful. So that’s one of the fun things about today, it’s a throwback tournament. It’s not just about the fashion, look, or vibe, but it’s actually the technology. Tennis is a different game today than it was in the ’70s or ’80s. Like today, there’s almost no serve-and-volley because the racquets are too powerful. The volleyer, the person who comes up to the net, doesn’t have nearly as much as the advantage in the ’70s.

Wow, you actually know your tennis.
Seriously, I know my tennis. Ping pong is my main game though. I’m playing that today! I didn’t just bring my own paddle, I brought my own balls too. See? With my initials on them. Well, I just got a pen and wrote my initials on them. These are three-star balls, they’re not the cheap ones.

You’re wearing your signature ‘World Champion’ logo shirt and hat today. You wear similar styles on 30 Rock, what’s up with that?
Yeah, I make all my own hats for 30 Rock. I come up with them, and I make them with a blank hat. For 30 Rock, they’re real quick. I, well, Frank, has to wear so many, and I have to come up with them at the last minute sometimes because they’re part of jokes within the scene. And sometimes our lines will change as we’re filming. In one episode, there’s a line where Lutz and I say to Liz, ‘We’re going to Times Square, and pretend that we’re foreign.’ So I made a hat that said ‘Ole!’ So that sort of fits it with the scene, and those are often made quickly with stick-on letters. I also have to make sure that it matches with the wardrobe of that scene — like the pants or shirt that I’m wearing for that scene.

Was Frank’s style your idea?
When I do stand-up, my look is similar, but much more extravagant and gaudy. It’s much more of a Liberace type of vibe, or just completely over the top. But on 30 Rock, the way Frank dresses is similar to the way Judah Friedlander dresses. Before I did 30 Rock, I used to do about three to five movies a year where I’d look different every time. In some movies, I’d cut off all my hair, I’d do different voices, and all that kind of stuff. But stand-up’s always been my thing, and even when I’m filming 30 Rock, I still do a lot of stand-up. So I told the producers, ‘If I’m gonna do your show, I gotta look like how I normally look.’ And they were cool with that, so we decided to keep the hats. I also thought it’d be something extra to add to the scene and to the character.

It’s also the last season of 30 Rock, what has the experience been like working with Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin?
I’m really happy for Tina and Alec because they’ve been in the business for a long time. I think they’re doing alright for themselves. This season, it’s like senior year of high school — it’s party time every week. It’s not bittersweet, I don’t look at it that way. I see it as exciting. I’ve seen the rough drafts for the first two scripts, I don’t know what’s going to happen yet. The writers are working on it, but they keep it top secret. But they definitely haven’t written all the episodes yet, they don’t work that way. It seems like we start four weeks ahead from when the episodes air, and by the end of the season, it’s, like, a day. Literally, sometimes shows are being edited until the morning the episode airs. I’m super pysched for the season, I hope it’s gonna be awesome.

How do you think Frank should finish the season?
I think Frank should end up with at least one, maybe a few, really hot chicks. Not just hot chicks, but maybe in a meaningful, lasting relationship. And maybe we’ll find out that Al Pacino is Frank’s dad. You never know, Frank is Italian. It would make sense, complete the arc of Frank, and would make you re-examine all the angles of what Frank has done over the past couple of seasons.

Guess we’ll just have to wait and see. In the meantime, check out pics from the tournament:

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