“Saturday Night Live” is set to wrap its 42nd season with Dwayne Johnson hosting on May 20 on Global. The long-running sketch comedy series enjoyed its highest-ratings in 23 years, thanks to a lot of politics and a few key players like Alec Baldwin, Melissa McCarthy and Kate McKinnon, who reflect on the latest season with The Hollywood Reporter.
One of the highlights of the season has been Alec Baldwin’s spot-on impression of Donald Trump and we have Tina Fey to thank for his casting.
“The idea came out of a conversation with Tina Fey at some point during the summer. She said, ‘Well, the person that should really play [Trump] is Alec.’ And I went, ‘Yeah!’ A light went on,” executive producer Lorne Michaels says.
“My Trump is ‘Miserable Trump,'” Baldwin adds. “No matter what. He wins, he loses, he’s miserable.”
Baldwin was only expected to play Trump for four or five episodes, inevitably becoming the election loser. But of course, the unthinkable happened for the cast.
“The day after the election got extremely sad and very disorienting. People didn’t know what to write. No one was feeling very funny,” cast member Colin Jost says of the election aftermath.
“I saw Kate [McKinnon] in the hallway, and we hugged and sobbed,” Cecily Strong adds.
McKinnon was always prepared to perform a song in character as Hillary Clinton for the Cold Open on the episode following the election. With the passing of Leonard Cohen, “Hallelujah” became the obvious choice.
“It was very emotional,” McKinnon recalls. “On an extremely personal level, I had been playing this person for a year and a half, and I grew so attached to her as a person. That song so perfectly encapsulated what I wanted to say.”
As the political tide began to change and new White House players emerged, the idea for Melissa McCarthy to play Trump’s Press Secretary, Sean Spicer, was born.
“People had been saying over those past few weeks, ‘Man, I wish [Chris] Farley was around to play Spicer,'” producer Erik Kenward tells The Hollywood Reporter. “And in a lot of ways, Melissa is the closest thing just in terms of sheer power and comedy physicality that we have to Chris Farley, and I knew Lorne felt the same way. I called him and he immediately was like, ‘Absolutely. Let’s make it happen.'”
“She’d played Farley’s character Matt Foley on the show before, so I knew she wouldn’t be uncomfortable playing a man or being ridiculous,” writer Kent Sublette says. “I told her it was more about the attitude — the bombast and the anger.”
McCarthy says she was initially on the fence about playing Spicer.
“I don’t do impressions. I don’t have the ear for it,” she recalls. “But when I read the script, I was like, ‘Oh, God, that is juicy, but I don’t understand how we’re going to physically make it work.’ To which the amazing special effects person at ‘SNL’ was like, ‘Oh, yeah, that’s not that big of a deal. That’s gonna take me, like, 15 minutes.’ I was like, ‘Hey!'”
“I was so nervous that first time. It was very quiet at first, and I’m thinking, ‘The audience is already turning before they even know what’s going on,'” McCarthy remembers her first appearance as Spicer, inevitably returning to the character the following week in the wake of Ivanka Trump’s clothing line being dropped by Nordstrom.
“It was Melissa’s idea to hike up her leg to show off the high-heel Ivanka shoe,” Sublette says.
“Well, once I heard ‘motorized podium’ and ‘jewellery,’ I said, ‘Can he also be wearing a shoe?'” she adds.
And McCarthy joined the Five-Timers club on May 13, returning to host “SNL” for the fifth time, featuring another hilarious turn as “Spicey.” The week leading up to the SNL episode had produced a lot of material for the host, with Trump’s brash firing of FBI Director James Comey, with Spicer hiding in the bushes from the media on the White House grounds shortly after.
While the latest season of “SNL” may be coming to a close, don’t expect Trump and his cohorts to disappear from the next season.
“People will say, ‘Why are you guys still talking about Trump?'” cast member Michael Che asks. “But how do you ignore him? Trump has never stopped being the story. I think there might have been two episodes where he didn’t do anything absolutely bats**t crazy [that week].”
Meanwhile, Baldwin’s Trump impression may be earning him a lot of fans, but Trump’s die-hard supporters definitely aren’t laughing.
“You get this look and you can just feel the hatred,” Baldwin says of Trump’s disciples. “There were these two construction workers smoking a cigarette on Broadway, and as I walk by, they go: ‘There he is, that f***ing a**hole, Alec Baldwin. Doesn’t support our president. Don’t fall in the hole over there, Alec.'”