The New York Times did a short profile of Alec Baldwin this week to highlight his ongoing Saturday Night Live portrayal of President Deplorable. While I do think Baldwin and SNL helped to “normalize” Donald Trump ahead of the election, I also believe that they were not trying to do anything except make people laugh. Baldwin’s Trump is a buffoon, a clown and an idiot… which basically shows that Baldwin is really great at impressions. Anyway, this NYT piece is called “A Tangerine Wig and a Tightrope Walk: Alec Baldwin as Donald J. Trump.” Some highlights:
It takes seven minutes for Baldwin to get into the Trump costume: A dusting of Clinique Stay-Matte powder in honey. A hand-stitched wig. Eyebrows glued up into tiny peaks. The rest is left to Alec Baldwin: the puckered lips, a studied lumbering gait and a wariness of humanizing a man he reviles.
Mimicking Trump’s speech patterns: Baldwin relies on “puffs” — his word for the pregnant pauses in the president-elect’s speech. “I see a guy who seems to pause and dig for the more precise and better language he wants to use, and never finds it. It’s the same dish — it’s a grilled-cheese sandwich rhetorically over and over again.”
Baldwin watched hours of Trump’s campaign appearances to get his movements right: “I’m not interested much by what’s inside him,” he said, but in how he moves and takes up space. Mr. Baldwin then amplifies the gestures, and distills them. An emphatic wave becomes a goofy “wax-on, wax-off” movement, he said, the simple hand motion reducing a candidate to an essence: pitchman.
How much Baldwin is paid: He does not write the sketches. He is paid $1,400 for each appearance on the show, he said.
The concern that he’s humanizing Trump: Playing Mr. Trump as a buffoon landing headfirst in his own gaffes has at points rendered him almost sweetly silly on screen. After the election, Mr. Baldwin recalled, he was distressed to receive an email from a friend sardonically thanking him for humanizing Mr. Trump and helping him win. “I do recognize that that is a possibility,” Mr. Baldwin said. “But I think that now that he is the president, we have an obligation — as we would if it was him or her — to dial it up as much as we can.”
He’s going to keep playing Trump when he can: Mr. Baldwin said that he planned to continue playing Mr. Trump on “Saturday Night Live” and perhaps elsewhere, but that his work schedule — he is about to film two movies — would mean his performances would be intermittent. Besides, he said, it might start to get old for audiences.
The comparison of Baldwin & Trump (they’re somewhat similar): “The difference is, with Trump, it’s incontrovertible that he has said the things he’s said. And he ran on them.’’
Getting rid of Trump: “Whoever it is, wouldn’t it be great to be the person who pulls the sword out of the stone? Who gets rid of this guy? Wouldn’t that be thrilling?”
Immediately following the election, Baldwin made some noise about not wanting to do the show anymore, but I think he’s realized the value of being such a pop-culture thorn in Trump’s side. As long as Trump tweets out his irritation with SNL and Baldwin, Baldwin will keep making appearances. As for the rest of it… Baldwin’s obviously not doing it for the money. That’s sort of cool, in my opinion – Baldwin is arguably one of our greatest impressionists, and he has such a long-standing relationship with Lorne Michaels and SNL, so it’s sort of sweet that he just shows up and does his Trump impression for so little money (and in actor-world, that’s probably the least amount of money they can give a SAG union member).
Here’s SNL’s last Trump skit of 2016: