The co-star on Lorne Michael‘s other show, Up All Night, reflects on her first hosting gig, the “sad, awful” news of Whitney Houston‘s death and which scene in Bridesmaids still nets her the most attention.
The Hollywood Reporter: When were you approached by Lorne Michaels to come back and host SNL?
Maya Rudolph: It was actually a very last- minute thing in February. He said, “Yeah, we’re going to have you host next week.” “But I’m shooting our show [Up All Night] next week,” and he’s like, “So yeah, so you’ll shoot and then you’ll come out.” So I shot Up All Night on Monday and Tuesday, and then I got on a plane Tuesday and did promos with Andy Samberg that night and worked on the monologue right when I got to the office. The scenario would have been very difficult for someone who’d never been on the show before. But it was sad for me to miss the pitch meeting. There’s nothing more gratifying to an SNL graduate than to go to a pitch meeting and hear people pitch to you.
THR: How did it feel walking back into 30 Rock, where you’d spent a decade as a castmember?
Rudolph: I love it there, I’m a real addict, I’m not shy about that. But I never expected to host. I’ve always thought of castmembers as castmembers and hosts as these otherworldly, lean beautiful people. I’ve always been much more of a sketch performer — I don’t come from a world of stand-up comedy — and there’s nowhere better than SNL to do that work.
THR: Was it tough flexing your sketch-comedy muscles after a year away?
Rudolph: Not really — thankfully! There’s something very magical that happens when you’re messing around with your friends. I’d watch SNL since I left and get a lot of pangs of missing everyone. Also, I got to have people say, “What would you like, Miss Rudolph? Do you need anything?” It was hilarious.
THR: The Beyonce and Jay-Z new-baby sketch was hilarious. Who came up with the concept to have people like Prince and Brad Pitt visit their house?
Rudolph: I’m so sleep-deprived right now that I don’t remember! It started out with a lot of people doing impressions, and then it became everybody doing them. Brad and Angelina were added at the end, which was incredible. I’ve seen Abby Elliott‘s Angelina, and it’s ridiculous, but I’d never seen Taran Killam‘s Brad Pitt. That was unbelievable. I love those sketches when the doorbell rings and you don’t know who’s going to show up.
THR: One character you played frequently as a castmember was Whitney Houston, who died right before you hosted. Were people expecting you to do something that night, even though she’d just died?
Rudolph: People were asking me about it constantly to the point where it felt really gross. “So what are you going to do?” and I’m just like, “What’s wrong with you people?” Her funeral was the same day as the show. That was a rough time. So sad and awful. I felt horrible. But I’d worked on the show through other horrible times. My very first-ever episode was right after Sept. 11. Doing comedy can be wonderful or terrible in those moments.
THR: Lorne is a man of few words, but did he give you any feedback on your performance?
Rudolph: Not really. (Laughs.) But I could tell that he was really thrilled and happy that I got a chance to host before Kristen Wiig and Andy left the show. There was a lot of joy coming from everyone that night.
THR: Did your SNL hosting gig up the number of fan interactions you experience in your regular life?
Rudolph: These days, people are coming up to me for mixed reasons. It’s like a cross-pollination of the Beyonce sketch, Ava from Up All Night and the scene where I poo in the street in Bridesmaids. It could be a lot worse, I guess!