Kristen Wiig just completed her second full season on Saturday Night Live, but she already seems like a seasoned veteran. Whether it’s her spot-on impersonations (her Megan Mullaly is killer) or wacky characters like Target Lady, clueless film reviewer Aunt Linda, or one-half of an “A-hole” couple, the actress has really established herself as one of the most reliable assets the show has.
As if stealing scenes on the popular variety series weren’t enough, Wiig is currently enjoying chewing up scenes on the big screen this summer, playing a sarcastic TV-exec in the hit comedy Knocked Up.
We recently caught up with the 33-year-old actress, who got her start in the infamous improv group The Groundlings, and asked her how it feels to be part of a hit summer flick, and to reflect on the past season. We also brought up Rick Moranis for no apparent reason.
As it turns out, Knocked Up won’t be your only chance to catch Wiig in theaters. She’ll appear with SNL cast member Will Forte and Arrested Development’s Will Arnett in the offbeat brotherly comedy The Brothers Solomon later this summer. She’ll also join SNL and Knocked Up co-star Bill Hader and Paul Rudd in the Apatow-produced Forgetting Sarah Marshall, SNL-co-star Jason Sudeikis in the indie flick “Bill,” and will star opposite John C. Reilly in this fall’s mock-bio pic Walk Hard. She is also in the midst of co-writing a film for Knocked Up filmmaker Judd Apatow. Not too shabby.
Your summer’s started off with a bang. How’s it feel to be in the biggest hit comedy of the summer, and how’d you become part of it?
Of course, it’s amazing and great. When I auditioned for the part, I was auditioning for the boss. In the script, the boss’ name was Jack, but it didn’t say whether it was a boy or a girl. I auditioned with Alan Tudyk and it ended up both of us worked well so [we both were cast]. Judd kind of let me have fun with it. It was two days of shooting, and improvising a lot of stuff. There was a [sense] of not knowing how you came off, but anything Judd does is good, so I had faith in that.
And you’re working with Judd again on Walk Hard. Can you talk a little about that flick?
It’s a movie Judd and Jake Kasdan wrote, and Jake directed it. It’s sort of a parody based around a lot of those bio pics like Ray and Walk the Line. I play sort of the Ginnifer Goodwin unsupportive first wife who has all the babies.
So many SNL cast members have left the show for film careers. Is there any pressure for you to do the same?
I don’t put pressure on myself. I try to just show up and [realize] it’s comedy: some people are going to like you, and some aren’t. If there’s a script I really like, I’ll try to do it. I don’t just do a movie just to do a movie.
Between the sketches and digital shorts, SNL had a pretty solid season this year. What’s your take?
I guess solid is a good word. We all felt very on the same page, and it was a fun season. I only had one season to compare it to, but it was fun. [On digital shorts] Comedy is part of the arts and the arts are always evolving. The shorts have taken it to a different place. It’s cool for us too because it’s a different form of writing and performing and so exciting to wake up early on Thursday, shoot all day, and you don’t see it until it airs at dress [rehearsal.]
The cast seems very tight. Is this true or is it all an act and you hate each other…
People always ask that [Laughs]. It’s amazing. Everyone truly loves and supports each other. It’s so cool to talk to people who have been on the show for over ten years like stage managers or whatever. The show goes through its ups and downs. According to the public, some casts maybe didn’t get along or there was fighting [in the past], and some people who worked then that are still here, say it’s so nice and positive to have the love there is right now.
You seem like a veteran on the show, but you just finished your second season. Do you still get butterflies?
I’m the kind of person who gets butterflies either right before I go on or early in the day, but right when I’m on stage or am on camera, I’m fine. I think my mind takes over that I have to pull it together and not have some sort of attack.
And, you’re used to performing in front of a live audience. You got your start at the Groundlings…
Yeah. You never really get comfortable when you’re performing in front of that many people. I try not to think of it as millions of people are watching. There’s a studio audience there and I perform for them in my mind.
Do you ever get star struck by the hosts?
Some of them I do actually. I was pretty nervous around Steve Martin, because he’s done so much, and I was like ‘Oh my God that’s, Steve Martin!’
Without naming names, have any of the hosts been complete jerks?
[Laughs] No. We’ve been pretty lucky. It’s been very cool
How do you come up with a character? Are they based on actual people – friends or family – or you just make them up?
Someone just asked me that, and I hadn’t thought about it. Going over it in my mind, 99 percent of them are based mostly on people I’ve observed in public like at an airport or something. They say something weird or I listen to them talk. There’s a couple characters based on people I know well. You always get good stuff from relatives.
Like Aunt Linda perhaps?
Aunt Linda was based on someone who was on an airplane with me. There was some movie playing and she was so confused. She didn’t know what was going on, and really was letting everyone know it. [She was] like ‘what is happening in this movie?’ She just didn’t get it, and wanted someone to explain it to her. I also realized her voice is a little like my grandmother but not in a mean way.
What about the Target Lady? Was she based on actual cashier at the store?
Boring story, but yeah. I was at Target, and the lady ringing me up talked kind of in a strange accent. Of course, I exaggerated a little bit. She was a quirky little lady, and I was fascinated by her. I got to the car, and was like, ‘Oh my God, I’ve got to write a sketch about that lady.’
Your impersonations are spot-on. Is that something you had to work on?
I had maybe three or four [impersonations] before I auditioned. I did those in my first audition and then when I went for my second, I really wanted to do all new stuff just so I could show them that I could do more things. I remember sitting in my bed trying to play with my voice, trying to sound like different people, and got maybe three or four just from wanting to put it in the second audition. During the year, you just sort of pick up other people or someone will ask you like ‘can you do this and I’ll give you a few tapes?’
Who’d you impersonate during the auditions?
I did Megan Mullally, Drew Barrymore, Bjork, Jennifer Tilly, and Jessica Simpson.
That’s an eclectic mix. Did you impersonate people growing up? Were you the class clown?
I wasn’t a performer kid – in plays or anything. I do remember when I was younger I would try to sound like people on the radio. As a matter of fact, if I look at a tape now, I don’t watch it. I just listen to it first. If I see the face, it throws me a little. [On growing up funny:] I guess I always had a sense of humor. You never know how people see you. I’ve gotten emails from people in my high school, and they say ‘I always thought you were funny.’ But, I don’t think of myself in that way.
You have sort of that bone dry sense of humor, right?
I guess. I don’t know. [Laughs] I’m one of those people if you didn’t know what I did, and we were talking for a long time, and then you found out I was in comedy, you’d probably be surprised. I’m not like a jokey person I guess.
Well, is Rick Moranis underrated?
That’s such a weird question, I guess – I’m going to go ahead and say ‘yeah sure.’ Where is he now? Let’s get him out there.
Bring him back!
Bring him back…
And, quickly your favorite Golden Girl is…
Betty White. I would be roommates with her right now.
Sorry for that bit of insanity, last question, and it’s gloriously clichéd. Are you living your dream right now?
I started pretty late as far as performing. Saturday Night Live was always something I’ve wanted to do. It’s always something people joked around with me about even before I was performing. It’s so crazy.
© 2007 Jon Chattman, THECHEAPPOP.COM