With two new roles in big-time, big-screen flicks, SNL's Kristen Wiig is ready to pop.
Mon Aug 13 2007
Time Out Ratings<strong>Rating: </strong>0/5
Kristen Wiig would sooner break a limb than break character. When she starred in Spike TV’s 2003 reality-show parody, The Joe Schmo Show—posing as a marriage counselor in order to dupe an unsuspecting mark—she was accidentally, and quite violently, slammed to the ground during filming and was sent to the hospital. “I very clearly remember saying, ‘Oh my stars,’ ” she recalls, “because I was laying there thinking, Dr. Pat would not say ‘Oh fuck’ right now.”
We’re chatting at Fika, a small Swedish coffeebar in Midtown West. The Saturday Night Live star and current comedy It girl is picking—daintily and somewhat self-consciously—at a plate of traditional Swedish cookies. “Kristen kept eating through the interview,” she narrates, sotto voce, into the tape recorder. “She ate seven cookies.” She laughs a bright, infectious giggle and then tries a small piece of each, deciding—probably accurately, since the owners of the joint clearly recognized Wiig and put together a special assortment—that to do anything else would be rude.
She comes across as sweet and easygoing, in a way that makes you think she’d be the world’s best travel buddy. But you get the sense Wiig is in possession of an awfully sensitive social antenna. How else to explain her uncanny ability to notice and exaggerate the banal quirks that define characters like Knocked Up’s undermining TV exec Jill; SNL’s weirdly excitable Target Lady; or Penelope, that show’s relentless braggart? “Penelope is based on someone I know, but it’s not meant to be a mean dig on anyone,” she says. “It’s just an observation. People do that—they one-up everything you say—and it’s just a funny concept to me to one-up someone even about really, really stupid things.”
This fall, the 34-year-old brings new characters to the big screen in a number of roles, not all of them comedic. In The Brothers Solomon, opening Friday 7, she plays a woman enlisted to be a surrogate mother for a pair of loser brothers played by her SNL cohort Will Forte and Will Arnett. “The script itself was so funny I just wanted to be a part of it,” she says. Then in December comes the musical biopic spoof Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, produced by Judd Apatow and starring John C. Reilly. Wiig plays his unsupportive and very fertile first wife.
She’ll also appear in the festival-circuit flick Bill, starring Aaron Eckhart and Jessica Alba, and next year’s Forgetting Sarah Marshall, in which she plays a yoga teacher opposite SNL’s Bill Hader. And later this month, SNL begins again, with Wiig in prime position to bust out (especially since costar Maya Rudolph, one of the show’s few other females, may not return).
The even-keeled Wiig was something of a latecomer to comedy. “I’m a listener-laugher, not a passer-oner,” she says about jokes. “I’m not super–verbally outgoing. I’m not the person who will tell a story to a big table of people. I’m kind of shy in that way, but for some reason acting doesn’t conflict with that for me.” Still, the Rochester, New York, native and self-described former party girl admits to looking in her high-school yearbook not long ago and being surprised at how many people made comments about her being funny. “I was never in the school plays. I never got up and sang and danced, but I guess with my friends I had a sense of humor.”
Forte thinks so. “Kristen picks up these details about people, it’s just amazing,” he says. “But at the same time she can be a normal person, and it’s awesome when you know your friend who you can have this heart-to-heart with is also a person who can make you laugh your balls off.”
The Brothers Solomon
Wiig’s introduction to performing came when she enrolled in a class—Acting 101, literally—to fulfill her college major. But she didn’t pursue it immediately. “I took a job working for a plastic surgeon where I would show people what they would look like after they got their surgery,” she says. “I was supposed to start on a Monday and it was Saturday. I was living in Tucson and I had one of those moments where I was like, What am I doing? I don’t want to live in Tucson working for a plastic surgeon.” The next day she packed and drove out to L.A.
Once there, “I thought I had no chance,” she recalls of the competition. But one night she went to a show at the Groundlings, and then pushed herself to take classes and perform. Then came the SNL audition and the rapid move to NYC a little less than two years ago. She’s embarrassed to admit she’s never been to Brooklyn and that her schedule leaves little time for hanging out. But she’s hoping to change that this fall.
“I love this time of year! Apple cider, pumpkins, I’m crazy for all that stuff,” she says, her blue eyes wide. “But my absolute favorite is the time right before Thanksgiving to Christmas. Twinkly lights in New York,” she says excitedly. “How can you not like that?”
The new season of Saturday Night Live begins Sept 29. The Brothers Solomon opens Fri 7. Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story opens Dec 21.