Kristen Wiig on Paul, Her Future at SNL and How Her Mom Doesn't Like Gilly

kristen_wiig_gilly.jpgKristen Wiig realizes that not everyone is going to universally love every single character that she creates on Saturday Night Live. It's not that she spends a lot of time (or any time, for that matter) thinking about what the overall consensus will be, but it's kind of hard to ignore when her own mother calls to voice disapproval over a new character.

As of late, however, Wiig has her eyes set on bigger prizes: In next weekend's Paul, Wiig has her biggest film role to date opposite Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. Wiig's greatest passion, the Judd Apatow-produced Bridesmaids, follows this May, featuring Wiig in the role of both star and co-screenwriter. In the meantime, Paul co-stars Wiig as Ruth, a devout Christian (you can tell from her T-shirt depicting Jesus shooting Darwin in the face) enlightened to the ways of the universe by an alien named Paul (voiced by Seth Rogen).

The slacker extraterrestrial is on the run with two British travelers (Pegg and Frost) who help Paul flee U.S. government pursuers -- an enlightenment that leads to a very rapid crash course in expletives and sexual attraction.

Movieline sat down with Wiig earlier this week to discuss her roles in Paul and Bridesmaids, her future at SNL as her film career blossoming, the secrets behind "Garth and Kat" and "Penelope," and why even she admits that, yes, Gilly is probably a polarizing character.

Is Paul your largest movie role so far? Maybe MacGruber?

This and MacGruber might be pretty close in size, I guess. But, yeah, I think so.

You've been known to steal some scenes in smaller roles...

I didn't know that...

Sure, with movies like Knocked Up. But is there a different approach when you have this much screen time?

It's obviously more fun. You get to play more and it's a great opportunity and I'm so lucky. But you also feel a little more pressure. Personally, I do. But with this movie it was just a no-brainer. I mean with Greg and the cast, Simon and Nick -- I never really look at the size of the role. It's the director and the people involved.

Bill Hader -- who has been a castmate of yours before, aside from SNL -- is in Paul as well. When is the eventual Wiig-Hader starring vehicle ever going to be made?

I would hope soon. I adore Bill and I love working with him and considering the amount of time we spend together [laughs] and work together, I could never get sick of him in a million years. He's one of the funniest people I know and one of the nicest guys I know.

Perhaps a movie based on Paulette and Bobby from Adventureland?

That would be fun, actually. That would be fun but I probably wouldn't say a lot. It's kind of a quiet character. [Laughs]

Your character in Paul, Ruth, says a lot of mishmashed expletives. Did you get free reign or was that sticking to a precise script?

I mean, the script obviously had one version and we'd shoot that. And then once you start getting into the, "What if we said this?" territory, they we're constantly pitching new things. As Simon was saying today, if they ever took one of those serious black and white photos of us kind of all in a circle thinking, it would look like we're talking about camera shots or angles but we're really trying to figure out, "Should we say 'harry balls' or should we say something else." And everyone kind of got in on it, too. People in the crew would be like, "Hey, what do you think?" So I really can't take credit for most of those terms.

Ruth becomes enlightened, if you will, by Paul from her strict Christian upbringing. With this aspect, how do you toe the line between comedy and something that's mocking?

Personally, whether it's on SNL or anything I do, I never really go down the mocking road with what I do. Mean comedy is not really something that I personally gravitate towards or something that I do. But, yeah, there's always that fine line -- especially when you're doing an impression of someone. You know, making it funny but you don't want to be mean to that person... at all. And I would hope that people have a sense of humor about this and know that it's a movie; they're certainly not trying to make any sort of broad statement or anything like that. And, you know, it does bring up the question of "How did we really get here?" "What is God?" and all of that stuff. If we have proof that there's life on other planets -- and I think that's what they're going for in this character -- if he exists, then all the things that I've believed my whole life... If that one thing isn't true then the rest can't be true. So she finds out that sinning must not be real so she kind of goes a little crazy. [Laughs] With all of the things she hasn't been able to do her whole life. And within about 10 seconds she tries them all. Yeah, I hope people have a sense of humor with it because there's no malice behind it. And I hope people don't think that, but people can get offended about things...

To be honest, I do wonder what my more religious friends back in the Midwest would think...

Yeah, I wonder with people that I know. I wonder what they would think of it but, again, I would hope that they would realize that it's a movie and calm down. [Laughs]

Simon Pegg swears that there are not as many references in this movie as I think there are...

[Laughs] Yeah... I think there are ones that even they don't know are in there.

But did you get all of the references?

I didn't get all of them at first. I got some of the lines and like the music in the bar, but I'm sure there are some things that went over my head because I'm certainly not as well versed in my sci-fi movies as they are. But I am a fan of them and I actually loved watching sci-fi movies and fantasy movies when I was younger, but I'm not one of those people that could quote them or would classify myself as a sci-fi geek.

You're one of the few SNL cast members who started on the show during the middle of a season. Did that make it harder than coming on at the start of a year?

Yeah, kind of. Yeah, it was hard. Usually you get brought in at the beginning of the year or, occasionally, after the long Christmas break. But I felt like... You know how when you walk into somebody's living room and everyone is really comfortable and they have their shoes off and they're all sitting on the couch together? I kind of felt like I was walking into that living room and I showed up a little dressed up, not knowing where to sit. But everyone was so welcoming when I started, but it wasn't easy to come in after the season started.

I'm fascinated by Garth and Kat.

[Laughs] Thank you!

I think I know how it works, but, yes, how does it work? Does Armisen lead?

Yes. He definitely starts and I just try to follow. We don't rehearse. The first time we do it that week is literally at the dress rehearsal.

Does he change the words between dress and the live show?

Oh yeah, nothing is the same. That's why we don't ever think of anything beforehand. If anything, we will be like, "All right, well this is a Halloween theme, so, here's 'pumpkins, witches, ghosts.'" We'll think of things people can sing about, but, actually even when we do it, that all goes out the window. It's the most fun I have because so much of the show is writing, working, deadlines, trying to figure things out, punching up your sketch, knowing you're going to perform live. And that two and a half minutes of airtime is so freeing and fun.

And from what I know about SNL, improv is not allowed, so, with this, you guys actually get to improv.

Yes. I love doing it. Plus I get to work with Fred.

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  • Patrick McEvoy-Halston says:

    She doesn't do mean comedy. Hmmm. She certainly played an important part of the Joe Schmo deception, which left the "Schmo" pretty unsettled numerous months afterwards. I think she is a pretty good person, but in being so ready to play a part in something she is too self-aware to know could easily end up hurting a much better, if also much more anonymous and unimportant, more settled and therefore less reaching, non-registering, one, I'm sorry she apparently comes close to being all we'll allow our sense of goodness to know exists.
    It is true, though, that she and Hader are the most conscious, most kind people on SNL right now -- something that is beginning to cause them troubles, for it making them balk some at the dismaying absence of their fellow cast members: it's tough to do comedy when in the middle of sketches, even, you can't help but thinking, "how can you be the way your are!? -- you're frickin scaring me!" No wonder they're probably mostly now thinking films together. If she was somehow to reach Michaela Watkins' heights, no matter her brilliance, for discomforting everyone with the cowing power of her intrinsic scrupples and backbone, she'd be off the show in a season.

  • Jason says:

    I appreciate your attempts to make her disavow Gilly, even though she seemed a bit nonplussed by the line of questioning.

  • Buffy st. Clair says:

    Did you actually watch the Joe Schmo show? The dude (Matt?) was a great sport and had a great attitude about the whole thing. He was not scarred by the experience, and I'm sure if he had seemed mentally unstable they wouldn't have cast him. I actually watched the whole thing and I didnt think it was mean at all. The guy came out of it looking like a great, funny dude (not like some idiot they were mocking).

  • Patrick McEvoy-Halston says:

    I think pretty evidently, I did, Buffy. What rocked the show pretty early on WAS, in fact, just how much what was going on was affecting Matt, and it is to everyone's (however small) credit that they all became concerned not to let the experience waste the guy. You remember: he was dismayed when Earl -- the veteran -- was evicted. He was stunned and humiliated when the "rich bitch" told him she thought of him as a brother, when SHE was causing something of a problem for the show in her liking and personally needing him so much (or at least his stopping sheer goodness) she was more noticeably showing how much more attracted she was to him than her readyness to make sport of him.
    As the show was drawing to a close, his "best friend" looked to be developing ulcers over what would happen after the great reveal -- when Matt would know him in an instant as the false best friend out of the Truman Show. And it is in how Matt reacted to him months afterwards that I most noted the LASTING effects of the program, how, ultimately, he had processed the whole of it. Matt liked the actor playing the part, and they both wanted thereafter to keep some of their true affection for one another alive. But as much as this actor and the show hoped he'd just sweep everything under the rug, to will him to be the good sport their consciounesses required he just had to be to let everything sit well for them, he wouldn't let this falsehood stand without inserting some sliver of disquiet. He still suggested in a way that made this "best friend" noticeably uncomfortable, that there must be something amiss, perhaps unredemiably damning, of someone to be willing to lull someone else to be your best friend just to get a show to work. Even if in the development of this role "you" pull back because there is enough in you that fears what revealing of the falsehood would do to this person you've actually come to like quite a bit, and care about what he ends up thinking of you, to so readily agree to the part, and to actually script it for yourself -- what kind of a perhaps unforgivably, deeply-tainted human being are you for actually WANTING part of that? Anyway, he certainly did good-sport along after his final dismaying "What is going on!!!!????, and he amply and fairly communicated that he enjoyed his spending time with the people playing the trick on him, but unmistakably (to me, at least) he found subtle but effective ways to make them aware that some considerable bad likely happened there as well. I wouldn't be surprised if he's decided to mostly pass on them all at this point, and if they've decided his experience with him is enough of a troubling conundrum they can't let themselves be much reminded of him.
    Matt's experience with Wiig was pretty odd. She was amazed by just how much he lent himself to her puppet therapy (she was ostensibly a therapist), but not really so-much concerned by it. Why wasn't she worried about the thereafter effects of someone trusting you enough to undertake your strange therapy, whom you know for sure would come to know that it was for you mostly an acting challenge? ("He really fell for it!," she exclaimed in amazement [out of someone being so non-detached and trusting to so let themselves get so involved] and delight [in her being so persuasive in something she was wholly making up as she went along].) Also, he liked her; he was attracted to her. The show couldn't have that so "they" suddenly turned her into a humiliation and a source of self-doubt, by having her ostensibly sleep with the despicable Hutch. Remember?: Matt was dazed, quite affected by this -- and not just by the sudden, unfathomable turn-around in what your intrinsic sense told you was surely a dependable, sensible person (though it was certainly partly that as well).

  • Dw. Dunphy says:

    Wiig is awesome and I've enjoyed the majority of what she's done but, yeah. Gilly is the woman who goes to the grocery store to stare at the carrots, and how in the world does one cope with that?

  • firebrand says:

    Sorry people, but Kristen Wiig is paaaainfully unfunny. Gilly is a travesty, and it boggles my mind as to why she's still on SNL. Like all of SNL's female denizens (with the except of Tina Fey), she's terribly UNFUNNY. And that is a fact.

  • Mr Adventure says:

    SNL has a long history of recurring sketches that have varying shelf lives - The Cheeseburger Sketch, The Coneheads, The Gyro/Juice sketch, The Roxbury guys, The Cheerleaders, and so on. They often cling to a weak premise, but sometimes find the right combination to keep it fresh time and again. Gilly does not fit that mold. It was funny initially, but subsequently, to me it feels like the sketch is just padding in the show timeline, hoping the audience will laugh during the pauses. I've tried to watch the newer Gilly sketches, but I can't, I just can't. Worse than the worst of the "It's Pat" bit, IMO.

  • Geoff says:

    Gilly gets a lot of hatred, but as far as I can remember, the character's only appeared 4 times across three seasons (not counting the Christmas special). The first two appearances were basically the same, but the third with Drew Barrymore and fourth with Jane Lynch both switched up the formula and made it at least somewhat entertaining. I'm certainly not pining for her return, but Wiig's done many worse characters (Thomaaaaas......Thomaaaaaas.....).
    I just hope Target Lady eventually makes a reappearance. My friends and I quote her all the time.