When the future movies about 2017 inevitably arrive, it's hard to imagine that Kate McKinnon won't have a starring role. After all, the comedian has already portrayed several key players involved in the current political landscape, like Hillary Clinton, Kellyanne Conway, and Betsy DeVos, on Saturday Night Live. It's really only a matter of time before she takes those characters to the big screen — and when that day comes, McKinnon be ready, even if she has a tough time choosing which of her SNL political impersonations she enjoys doing the most.
"I love them all. I’d be hard pressed to pick a favorite," says McKinnon, when we sit down during promotion of her new movie, Ferdinand, at New York's London Hotel. But if she had to choose? "I do love playing Jeff Sessions, because I love prosthetics and so I get to wear a bald cap and these ears," the actor says with a laugh.
McKinnon doesn't just love playing the bad guys, though. Her frequent portrayals of Clinton, for instance, which began leading up to the 2016 election and continued on for many months, were so well-regarded by viewers (and the former candidate herself) that McKinnon won an Emmy this summer for her work on the show. "Hillary was definitely the most meaningful," the actor says now, looking back at her past impressions. "I love how our whole cast has taken parts in this unfolding drama, and I think everyone’s just doing an amazing job of creating these characters. I feel so proud of the work that we’ve done."
Another favorite impression is someone a bit less controversial yet hugely powerful — Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who McKinnon has hilariously portrayed several times on SNL. "I really love RBG," the comedian says, smiling widely. "It’s the juxtaposition between this small, aged person, with such a big mouth and such a loud voice and so much to say. That inherent juxtaposition of her size and her might is the essence of a comedic character."
"So that was pretty easy to do," she continues. "And was just so much fun."
With these impressions and so many more, McKinnon has played a major part in SNL's handling of the 2016 election and its chaotic, often-unbelievable aftermath. But if you told her a few years back that that'd be the case, the 33-year-old likely would've thought you were crazy.
"It’s never something I thought I would get to participate in or something I even thought I would have much to say about," says McKinnon. "But now I feel like that’s really changed, and that’s really changed for a lot of people. I just am so honored to be in this position, and I know that all my colleagues feel that way as well. We just wanna do right [with] the platform that we have found ourselves on."
When seemingly everyone out there (including the President) is watching and commenting on the show each week, it's safe to say that the work McKinnon and her SNL co-stars are doing matters. And the comedian recognizes how major this moment is. "I just feel blessed to be in a position where I am playing these characters that I love so much and also have a chance to comment on things that are happening in our culture... That’s just a dream come true," she says.
Outside of SNL, McKinnon's not exactly doing too shabby, either. There's that Emmy win, first of all, and there's also the line-up of movies and TV shows she's starred in during 2017 alone, including the raunchy comedy Rough Night, the Netflix kids' show The Magic School Bus Rides Again, and December's sweet animated movie Ferdinand. In the Golden Globe-nominated film, out Dec. 15, McKinnon plays Lupe, a bold, brassy goat who takes the titular bull (voiced by John Cena) under her wing to teach him how to fight. As is often the case with a McKinnon character, Lupe steals the show in every scene she's in, confident, hilarious, and unabashed in he weirdness.
"I love just a brash lady, and she’s a little screamer with big dreams," McKinnon says of Lupe. "I don’t scream in real life, and so I was so excited to just be able to just be the kind of person — or goat — who is just loud and says what she thinks."
And if people assume that Lupe's eccentricities — and those of McKinnon's previous characters like Ghostbusters' Holtzmann or Office Christmas Party's Mary are representative of the actor's own, well, that's totally fine. McKinnon is perfectly OK with you thinking she's weird — because, as she happily admits, she totally is.
"I’m glad they’re getting the message," she says with a laugh about audiences thinking she's just like her characters. "I mean it’s true, so, yeah, that’s good. I’m not as loud as the people that I play, so that’s like my outlet, to scream. But I definitely am as weird."
One "outspoken" person McKinnon would love to one day portray is the Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. If you're not caught up on your European politics and the name doesn't ring a bell, well, that's exactly why McKinnon has yet to bring her character to life. "I wish [Sturgeon] was more in the news, because she’s great. She’s a hoot to me," the actor says, laughing. "Her brashness, I would love to be able to embody it, but she’s not quite well known enough in the US yet."
Give it time, and it's likely McKinnon will eventually embody Sturgeon or whatever other powerful woman she admires. "I really enjoy playing female politicians," she explains. "I never want to take off those pantsuits."
If fans have their say, McKinnon will continue impersonating famous ladies (and the occasional famous man) for years to come, in addition to portraying other beloved characters on SNL and elsewhere. Just don't ask her cat Nino to weigh in — although the two are famously close, McKinnon says that she prefers if her pet doesn't see her TV impressions, especially those involving other felines like the "Cat Lady" sketches.
"We have strict TV rules that I put in place so that he would not become jealous," the comedian says, straight-faced. "I told him it was about something else, but it’s really for that. If he saw [the sketches], I think that he would find a way to run out of the apartment and escape."
OK, well Nino aside, the rest of the world will gladly watch whatever work McKinnon chooses to do, whether that's being a cat lady, voicing a loud-mouthed goat, or portraying some of the most polarizing political figures around week after week.