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Doing a weekly show like Saturday Night Live is sure to be nerve-wracking experience. They only have a week to get everything written and memorized, and sometimes skits change hours before the performance. Now we know what worries one cast member about the show. It turns out that for Kate McKinnon, a very large part of her SNL gig worries her on a weekly basis: doing impressions.
It's something I really grapple with throughout the week leading up to the show, and so whatever makes it to air I've thought a lot about and done a lot of soul searching about already. To my knowledge there hasn't been a ton of upset about something I've done, thank God. That would really upset me.
Kate McKinnon spoke to Deadline about her work on the show for their AwardsLine section, since the actress and comedian is currently nominated for her fourth Emmy for her work on SNL. It's not surprising that someone who does celebrity impressions for a living worries about hurting the feelings of the people she impersonates, but it is a surprise that McKinnon admits it so readily. Usually people who do impressions just talk about how imitation is supposed to be a form of flattery or they reveal how they craft certain bits of mimicry; they pretty much never talk about the idea of upsetting the people they take aim at.
After joining the cast of SNL in 2012, Kate McKinnon went on to quickly become known for her characters and celebrity impressions. She also earned her first two Emmy nods just two years after her debut on the long-running show, for Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics (a nomination she shared with four other cast/crew members) and Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series, which she has now been nominated for three times. She's best known for her impressions of Hillary Clinton, Justin Bieber and Ellen DeGeneres (seen above), but she's also tackled Tilda Swinton, Shakira, Martha Stewart, Ed Sheeran and Kris Jenner, among others.
I cannot imagine how hard it would be for a normal person who's capable of empathy to impersonate someone else on live TV and do so in a way that doesn't leave them feeling like they tore down the celebrity they impersonated for no good reason. It's a true credit to Kate McKinnon that she really studies the people she's going to portray and takes into account their feelings when crafting her impression. I can imagine that there were times where she had a solid, funny impression, but decided that some aspect was going too far and, even if it was getting laughs, felt she had to reign it in a bit. It must be hard to alter something that gets the desired response for such a reason.
You can catch Kate McKinnon on SNL when the show returns to NBC this fall.