Alec Baldwin Thought He Was Three Trumps and Out on ‘Saturday Night Live’
Alec Baldwin should have known better. When Saturday Night Live producer Lorne Micheals asked him to impersonate presidential candidate Donald Trump on the show, it came with a quasi-promise: “It’s only going to be three shows.” Of course, what neither Michaels nor Baldwin anticipated was a weird bit of history. Despite what all the polls had predicted, Trump actually won.
Baldwin did the three shows as promised, he told David Spade and Dana Carvey on the latest Fly on the Wall podcast. But on election night, everything turned. “I’m laying in bed, we fall asleep. We don’t have a TV in our bedroom, but I got my computer. I wake up at three in the morning, I’m checking my computer, and Trump won,” Baldwin lamented. “I sit there and go, ‘Now I gotta do this fucking thing for the next four fucking years.’”
So how did Baldwin develop his version of Trump, an impersonation that had previously been done on SNL by Jason Sudeikis, Taran Killam, Phil Hartman, and most famously, Darrell Hammond? Baldwin pointed to Dana Carvey’s George W. Bush (the elder) as his role model. “You were a huge inspiration for me,” Baldwin told Carvey, who happily devoured the compliments. “I’d show people Bush, and I’d say, ‘Now watch this.’ You did those insane phonetics with him, and I said, ‘That’s it. You make your own character.’”
Baldwin actually believes he does “the worst Trump impersonation of anybody in America,” but that’s just what 45 deserves. “He doesn’t deserve a Brendan Gleeson (who played Trump in 2020’s The Comey Rule). He’s a two-dimensional guy.”
In acting school, Baldwin learned a technique that involved watching a performance with the sound off to get a visual picture of the person you’re emulating. From there, he developed his personal set of Trump mannerisms: Sticking his mouth out “like you’re going to suck the windshield out of a car.” Hands up like you’re waiting for a valet to hand you a towel.
With those physical cues in place, Baldwin and the show’s writers looked for vocal tics to hook into. “We had this gag,” he explained to Spade and Carvey. “(Trump) was a guy who was always groping for a stronger word than he ever found. So he’d say, ‘I went to this event with this crowd. It was a fantastic crowd. This crowd was truly, truly fantastic.’ He’d just loop back because he doesn’t have a lot of verbal muscularity.”
All of that work because Baldwin didn’t have the foresight to hit Michaels with Carvey’s Bush impersonation back in 2015. Want to play Trump, Alec? “Not gonna do it.”