March 4, 2017


Future Women's History Month: Kate McKinnon's Vivid Versatility

David Livingston/Getty Images
David Livingston/Getty Images

Fuse is celebrating Women's History Month by looking at a variety of rising forces who are creating Future Women's History before our eyes. Today we're sharing our appreciation for Kate McKinnon, one of the jewels of Saturday Night Live and, more each year, big-screen comedy.

McKinnon, 33, was introduced to her biggest audience yet with 2016's Ghostbusters, where she stole the show as the bewitchingly quirky nuclear engineering scientist Dr. Jillian Holtzmann. Bridesmaids director Paul Feig's film was heralded as a female-led reboot of the classic pair of '80s flicks—and met with a torrent of despicably familiar misogyny. The hater zenith came in the form of racist abuse against Leslie Jones, McKinnon's fellow 'Buster and SNL-er. McKinnon condemned the attacks on Jones, but didn't lose sight of the film's impervious significance, telling Rolling Stone:

"It was fucked, just fucked. But I was more heartened by the progress that had been demonstrated by the green-lighting of the movie in the first place than by people's reaction to it. I don't think the reaction outshone the fact that it was produced. I think it was a true milestone. When has a true milestone sailed by without people's hateful attention?"

Born and raised in Sea Cliff, N.Y. native, McKinnon is an alum of Columbia University, the Upright Citizens Brigade and Logo TV's The Big Gay Sketch Show, where she was a cast member for the full three-season run from 2007-10. She became one of the very few openly gay performers in Saturday Night Live's history in 2012-13's Season 37; two seasons later she became a member of the repertory cast and has been an MVP ever since. In addition to a swath of recurring oddball sketch characters, her knockout impressions include Justin BieberIggy Azalea, Martha Stewart, Ed Sheeran, Stranger Things' Millie Bobby Brown, LordeHozier, Kris Jenner and a bevy of political figures (more on those a minute).

"A panoply of gorgeous, fascinating distinct objects with a common theme, is what I would love to build for the rest of my career, as long as they’ll have me," McKinnon told the New York Times last summer. Of her motivation as an artist, she explained:

"I think it comes from wanting to share and to connect, to offer up for display something that I find delightful and fascinating. I hope that if other people feel the same way then we’ve made a connection. That’s the way I feel most comfortable connecting."

She's also got a specific special history of impersonating Ellen DeGeneres both on NBC and on the host's own show.

In 2016, McKinnon won the Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for her SNL work. She also has two Women Film Critics Circle Awards, and this year took home the Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association prize for TV Musical Performance of the Year for her cold-open rendition of "Hallelujah" the week Leonard Cohen died. (BTW: she's a pianist, guitarist and cello player.)

In uncertain political times, McKinnon's repertoire of government figures should prove essential. She played Hillary Clinton during election season (...and did that "Hallelujah" cover as her), and has hit that stage as Elizabeth Warren and German chancellor Angela Merkel. Since Donald Trump's presidency began, McKinnon has given us much-needed impressions of Kellyanne Conway, Betsy DeVos and Jeff Sessions. "One of my favorite things is to try and make an unlikable person endearing," she told Entertainment Weekly in 2014.

McKinnon has recently scored movie roles in Sisters, Office Christmas Party, Angry Birds, Masterminds and Staten Island Summer. She'll soon get leading actress shine in The Lunch Witch (as Grunhilda, a witch begrudgingly using her trove of magical concoctions on schoolchildren) and as the voice of Ms. Frizzle on Netflix's animated reboot The Magic School Bus Rides Again.

Hopefully it goes without saying, but: we'll be watching.

We're celebrating Future Women's History all month long! Tune in to Fuse and come back to every day for profiles, videos and more. Find Fuse in your area with our Channel Finder.