“Saturday Night Live” cast member Ego Nwodim compared the final season of NBC’s nighttime mainstay to his senior year.
“There seemed to be real room to play due to the exodus that occurred with the writing staff and cast (after Season 47), but the new cast members were also an incredible injection of new energy. , perspectives and points of view,” the sketch comedy star told IndieWire on Zoom. season.”
Nwodim said part of the appeal of working on the show for five seasons is “you’re in this place that’s going to make you comfortable, but it’s always going to challenge you. And that’s a pretty remarkable combination to find anywhere. The patience she had on her journey to becoming a repertory musician on ‘Saturday Night Live’ paid off in a successful season where just her viral sketch ‘Lisa From Temecula’ put her on the radar Emmy voters.
Energized by the response she’s gotten to Season 48, Nwodim looks forward to keeping the momentum going when the show eventually returns. “It takes a lot of time and care and devotion and steadfastness to get to a point where you feel even a semblance of comfort in the show,” the actress said. “Then once you get completely comfortable, you say, ‘I’ve worked for this, and this audience knows me, and it’s so familiar to me. Why not stay somewhere where I feel like these things are just a little longer?’ Because I know this journey hasn’t been easy and it hasn’t been without its bumps or hiccups.
However, before the show returns, Nwodim enters this season’s Emmys as a formidable contender for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series, a category that has also seen peers like Kate McKinnon win it twice. “It’s nice to say, ‘Oh, well I’m a senior now, and now I can play and show some of my range. And people are recognizing that and are excited about it,” she said. “It feels really rewarding and life-affirming, frankly. So I’m just thankful for all of that.
Below Nwodim reflects on four of his outstanding sketches from ‘Saturday Night Live’ season 48.
“Lisa of Temecula”
Often, the way the “SNL” live show works is “whatever you think is going to kill doesn’t kill, and whatever you think is like, ‘Eh,’ it kills,” Nwodim said. Even though he knew that his sketch of a jolly dinner guest with a very particular preference for steak was drawing laughs all week, Nwodim could never have predicted the life the piece would take. “What I could do was just enjoy myself. It’s the one thing I have control over, so I try to keep that in mind when I perform,” she said. “I’m so thankful we didn’t know that sketch was going to go because it made me be so deeply present in it, and to so embodying that character in a way that I might not have if I was like, ‘OK, we get up early at night and we know we’re excited about it. It’ll be fine.'”
Originally appearing in the February episode hosted by Pedro Pascal, Lisa of Temecula was one of the increasingly rare sketch characters to recur, making a bold return in the finale hosted by Ana de Armas. Nwodim explained that the challenge in creating sketch characters that the show can continue to use is that viewers will always have access to that first sketch that captured the incomparable magic of live TV.
“If you’re playing a recurring character, people are like, ‘I can go revisit the original and compare the original to the recurring bit’ and say, ‘Oh, the original is better,’ which is totally fine,” she said . “It’s your first time seeing something, all the elements of surprise are there and waiting for you. When we were playing Lisa as a recurring character, one of the writers had been like, ‘Hey, we understand that we’re not trying to top the first one, because it was really just magic, frankly.’ And so now it’s just like, ‘Where else do we want to see this character? What else do we want to see this character do?’ And I think we succeeded. And now I’m like ‘Where else can Lisa go? Let’s take her out of restaurants. What else is she doing?’”
Nwodim added: “I want to do more by playing big and silly and stupid, and this is my hope of being able to do that. And “Lisa from Temecula” was just the beginning of making it on the show. So I’m very excited, there’s more to come in that world.
“She was giving sitcoms,” Nwodim joked of the sketch she wrote with the guys at Please Don’t Destroy in which she plays an irritated Mrs. Shaw who “Shaw-by now was asleep,” but must exorcise a demon of her teenage neighbor ( played by host Jenna Ortega) before. “I love playing loud, outraged, disruptive characters,” she said. “I say characters that are strong and wrong just have a certainty about them that you can’t even wrap your head around, you can’t tell them shit.” Often these characters are in old age because those are the people who “have lived a little life, and therefore feel that they have earned the right to live only in the box they are in, and they demand what they ask for, and not really consider other people’s experiences,” Nwodim said.
The “SNL” star especially enjoyed performing this sketch because “it’s weird that the voice of reason is the person possessed by a demon.” Part of the appeal of the talent hosting ‘Saturday Night Live’ is to showcase parts of their comedic range that were hitherto unheard of, and Ortega’s beautifully demonic performance is the perfect example of that. “Mrs. Shaw doesn’t shine if the demon-possessed person isn’t really selling what they own,” Nwodim said with a laugh. land for Mrs. Shaw’s pop.”
“Weekend Update: Black Ariel on Disney’s Little Mermaid Remake Live”
Given how similar an experience it is to what cast members had to do for their “SNL” audition, spending minutes on stage in front of the producers doing some stand-up or acting in character, “Weekend Update” it became even more of a safe place for the cast to shine. “It’s a chance to showcase things that might be more difficult to execute in the form of a sketch and to get your lines out that way,” Nwodim said. And (hosts) Michael (Che) and Colin (Jost) make it so much fun. Just by having their reactions there, there’s such a good energy to bounce our stupidity off of. And they want those upgrade pieces to fit as well, so they’re very helpful in that regard.
Nwodim’s turn as a dimwitted version of Halle Bailey’s Ariel during the Brendan Gleeson-hosted October episode “SNL” was born of me just saying, ‘And if this person that we’ve decided is a hero doesn’t he look do we want our hero to look up to? What if our hero isn’t even who we think he is?’ And he’s a made-up character, so we can make up a whole story for Ariel. What if this is the story?”
The Update piece is a hilarious and interesting commentary on the portrayal of a show that not too long ago held a special casting call to make up for the fact that they had no cast members available to play Michelle Obama. Nearly a decade later, Nwodim said “the cast reflects the real world more than it probably ever was. And that’s what happens to the show every year, the show is evolving and our cast and writing staff are becoming even more thoughtful of the world with each passing year. It’s a process.
He added that “right now, there’s an opportunity to venture outside the box and say, ‘Great, we know this person can play Andrew Yang and we know this person can play Michelle Obama, but what else can this person Do?’ They didn’t just come in to make these characters that are part of the zeitgeist, that we’re going to need someone to play.It’s more like the show appealed to us because they recognize that we have talent.
“The Black Lotus”
Nwodim’s idea for a parody of ‘The White Lotus’ came from a place of fandom. “I looked at everything. I was so devoted to it. I feel like I’ve dressed for the finale in my small apartment and set the scene with a spritz of Aperol. I was like, ‘I’m in Italy too,’” the actress said.
‘Saturday Night Live’ has done nearly 50 years of parodies, so the way Nwodim was able to keep things fresh with ‘The Black Lotus’ was by acknowledging what were the iconic moments from the award-winning HBO comedy Mike White’s Emmys and show them through a new lens. Phrases like “He gon’ kill her” are “what I’m saying at home from my couch right now to all these moments in these scenes (on the show). And so literally, it was ‘What if you put a black person in all of this?’ Cheating abounds right now, I feel someone has to acknowledge that,” Nwodim said.
The sketch was also another opportunity to bounce jokes about “SNL” veteran Kenan Thompson. “You feel so safe, relaxed, free and at ease when performing with Kenan. He’s an incredible talent to watch and learn from, but as a scene partner, he aims to really take care of and make his scene partners look like comedic geniuses,” Nwodim said. “It was a lot of fun playing with him in this season and we’ve had so many more opportunities to do it.It feels so relaxed and familiar and free, and I really enjoy doing it.