Kate McKinnon's "Saturday Night Live" portrayal of Hillary Rodham Clinton, which she reprised this weekend ahead of Clinton's presidential bid announcement on Sunday, has been winning universal raves -- not that the 31-year-old actress would know.
"I try not to read stuff," the private McKinnon says by phone, while walking through Central Park. "I hope it's OK."
OK? McKinnon's Clinton -- intense, power-hungry and a bit awkward when it comes to displaying normal, human emotion -- has popped on a level not seen on "Saturday Night Live" since Tina Fey's 2008 turn as vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin.
"Citizens, you will elect me! I will be your leader," McKinnon's Clinton announced Saturday in a frenzied, feral fashion that made you think she had spent a fair amount of time watching these guys while rehearsing her speech.
"The level of intensity is certainly fabricated for comedy’s sake," McKinnon says. "I find her very wonderful and I’m a huge, huge fan. The impersonations always come from a place of love. I refuse to do it otherwise."
McKinnon first portrayed Clinton in March in a sketch sending up the former secretary of State's recent email controversy. ("I wasn't born yesterday," she said, directly addressing the camera. "I was born 67 years ago and I have been planning on being president ever since. There will be no mistakes in my rise to the top!") Producers approached her the day before the show with the idea, not leaving McKinnon much time to fine-tune her mannerisms (our favorite: the clawing-at-the-air hand gestures).
"That wasn't a problem," McKinnon says. "I’ve been studying her for years. So there was that preparation because I just love her so dearly. A lot of the research you end up doing is by accident, just following your own fascinations."
For McKinnon, who received two Emmy nominations last year for her work on "Saturday Night Live," those "fascinations" have included talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres ("I watched her stand-up special 75 times in high school ... she was my favorite") and pop singer Justin Bieber. ("I love my Bieber," she says. "I really do. I love the music and I love how he moves. It’s truly from a place of love and admiration.")
For her portrayal of Clinton, McKinnon points to Julia Louis-Dreyfus' character work on "Veep" as an inspiration, though Clinton in reality is far-removed from Louis-Dreyfus' sometimes bumbling Selina Meyer.
"She’s just the smartest woman in the room and that’s sometimes a frustrating thing," McKinnon says.