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In the early morning hours of March 2, Darrell Hammond’s cell phone began to ding with text messages so insistently, he was positive it was on the fritz.
There wasn’t a problem with the device: Donald Trump had tweeted about him around 3 a.m. PST in a post rife with typos, demanding he replace Alec Baldwin and once again play the president on Saturday Night Live. The real president ended his tweet exclaiming, “Bring back Darrell Hammond, funnier and a far greater talent!”
“I couldn’t believe it,” says a still astonished Hammond in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter on Wednesday. The popular SNL veteran spoke about losing his coveted character to Alec Baldwin, the aftermath and that one crazy tweet demanding he get it back.
It has been more than a year since Baldwin took over the Trump role on the weekly NBC late-night skit show. Hammond, who worked painstakingly at the character, says he’s now fine with the decision. But, when the order first came down (he didn’t specify if it was directly from creator Lorne Michaels or “someone inside the office”) it hurt.
“It was a very hard thing for me to deal with at the time,” Hammond says.
Still working on SNL, Hammond took over as the show’s announcer in September 2015, replacing the late Don Pardo. Playing Trump was an additional duty but a welcomed one.
Yet time heals wounds, and Hammond has made peace with where those particular chips fell.
“I resolved that issue in my mind a while ago,” he says. “Most of the time, if you get dealt a hand, you just have to take it. But still, it is hard to complain about what happened to you at gladiator camp. Some stuff just doesn’t work out.”
He adds, “It’s not like Major League Baseball where there are 30 teams that you can do your thing for. There is just the one show. I mean, I am not delighted, but I am not disappointed and upset. I enjoy being around Alec and everyone there. I always did.”
Baldwin — whose highly unflattering impression has been blasted by Trump via Twitter numerous times — won an Emmy for his work last year. That was a feat the president couldn’t manage playing himself on The Apprentice, as Baldwin memorably zinged in his acceptance speech last September.
Baldwin and Hammond didn’t talk about the switch when it happened. All that mattered was their mutual respect for one another — after all, neither was a stranger to the slings and arrows of show business, Hammond notes.
“The truth is, I have known Alec for a long time and always enjoyed his company,” Hammond says, adding that the two did share some screen time when Hammond played Bill Clinton for a skit last season.
“It was just a nice little moment of recognition between the two of us,” says Hammond, who recently did a new recording of his book, God, If You’re Not Up There, I’m F*cked: Tales of Stand-Up, Saturday Night Live, and Other Mind-Altering Mayhem, which will feature new content for Audible.
Then there was the tweet. Hammond can’t help but chuckle as he recalls that morning.
“I was just out of bed,” he begins. “I put my phone in the next room, and I started hearing it ding because I just got a text. And then it really started dinging. And I thought to myself, ‘That damn phone is malfunctioning. It must be dying.’ It was just ding! Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding!”
And, of course, his co-workers were aware of it too.
“Lorne swept past me in the hallway with some of his people, and he leaned in and said [done with a perfect impression], ‘The president knows your name. Yes, he knows who you are.’ I don’t know why, it made me laugh,” Hammond says.
As for Hammond playing Trump again — even with the president’s demand — that ship has sailed.
“There is no time when I said to myself, ‘You know, I think I am going to wear the cape and cowl one more time,'” Hammond says. “The roads are winding and long. That was back then. Different strokes for different folks.”
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