The Pathos- Driven Rise of Kate McKinnon

In 'VF' interview, 'SNL' comedian touches on empathy she drew on to play Hillary Clinton
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 29, 2017 10:24 AM CDT
Updated Oct 1, 2017 10:13 AM CDT
The Pathos-Driven Rise of Kate McKinnon
In this Oct. 1, 2016, photo released by NBC, Kate McKinnon portrays Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton during a sketch on "Saturday Night Live."   (Will Heath/NBC via AP)

Kate McKinnon is dressed down ("real-person down," without makeup and in sneakers and a baggy tee) and skittish like a cat, reacting so warily to her interview with Lili Anolik for Vanity Fair that Anolik realizes she's "going to have to approach her slowly, carefully, no false moves." The writer dives into the career of McKinnon, whom she calls "perhaps the most gifted of a gifted generation of young comics," reaching back to her first forays into comedy at Columbia and her stint with the Upright Citizens Brigade improv group, and culminating with her current turn on SNL, where she's impersonated everyone from Kellyanne Conway and Elizabeth Warren to Jeff Sessions. But it's her portrayal of Hillary Clinton, the foil to Alec Baldwin's Donald Trump, that has touched an unexpected nerve and propelled her to household-name status.

Anolik points out the "intense, instinctive, and visceral" interaction between the two actors. She also notes how McKinnon's Hillary has more "pathos" than versions by previous SNL actors, including Jan Hooks and Amy Poehler. That pathos was born out of the connection McKinnon forged while trying to channel what she believed may have been Clinton's private thoughts. "I started to feel very close to her, just trying to imagine her inner life," McKinnon says. The subject of the real Hillary is broached, though Anolik notes that "Kate actually says very little … because she gets too overwhelmed to say it." The cat that is McKinnon also backs away on "soft, padded paws" when Anolik brings up her personal life, which "since I'm no cop and Kate's certainly no criminal … I lean across the table and switch off the tape recorder." Anolik's full piece on McKinnon is here. (More Longform stories.)

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