June 7, 2017


Future LGBTQ History Month: Kate McKinnon's Bold New 'SNL' Era


Fuse is celebrating Pride Month by looking at a variety of rising forces who are creating Future LGBTQ History before our eyes. Today we're celebrating actress and, let's be honest, comedic genius Kate McKinnon.

McKinnon, 33, grew up in Sea Cliff, N.Y., got a theater degree from Columbia University and made her way to the hallowed Upright Citizens Brigade. Her onscreen breakout came via Logo TV's The Big Gay Sketch Show in 2007; she was a mainstay for all three seasons.

In 2012, McKinnon became the first openly gay woman to join Saturday Night Live's cast. She's one of the crown jewels among an increasingly sharp and magnetic cast, one that just delivered SNL's most-watched season in 23 years— and the first to be consistently targeted by an American President on a public scale—plus its biggest finale viewership since 2011. 

Following the recently announced departures of Bobby Moynihan and Vanessa Bayer, McKinnon is now SNL's senior-most cast member after Kenan Thompson, who's been on for a record-breaking 14 years. Half a season behind her in seniority are fellow all-stars Aidy Bryant and Cecily Strong. (Sasheer Zamata also just left the fold after four years on the air.)

I tried for a short time to be something I wasn’t, and had no success with it. It’s a practical solution to just be yourself.

Kate McKinnon

Superstar guest hosts McKinnon worked with this year included Dave Chappelle, Dwayne Johnson, Tom Hanks and fellow Ghostbuster Melissa McCarthy. McKinnon's will shine even brighter as an upperclasswoman next season, with the excellent Bobby Moynihan, Vanessa Bayer and Sasheer Zamata all parting ways with the NBC institution.

"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 in 2016. As good as or better than her preternaturally spot-on impressions are inimitable original characters like drunken barfly Sheila Sovage, the lesbian '70s cop Les Dykawitz and the devastatingly odd Women in the Workplace host, Barbara DeDraw. For the rich and famous and Washington'd, though, she can give you a spot-on Kellyanne Conway, Justin BieberEd Sheeran, Millie Bobby Brown, Kris Jenner, Betsy DeVos or even Jeff Sessions, among a host of others.

One year before the election, on the Season 41 premiere, McKinnon did her now-very-famous Hillary Clinton impression—across from the real HRC, who was playing a bartender. An early exchange—at the 2:20 mark above—was historic in its direct critique:

Real/bartender Clinton: "It really is great how long you've supported gay marriage."
McKinnon as Clinton: "Yes...I...I could've supported it sooner."
Real/bartender Clinton: "Wellll, you did it pretty soon."
McKinnon as Clinton: "Ehh—coulda been sooner."
Real/bartender Clinton: "Fair point."

McKinnon once co-hosted Celesbian Interviews, a series by The Big Gay Sketch Show's Julie Goldman. In a segment where she sat in the interview chair, McKinnon recalled a sexual awakening in her youth while watching The X-Files: "I thought at first that my physiological reaction was a product of David Duchovny's face, but no, it was Gillian Anderson, who still is the queen of my heart."

Kate found a strong supporter when she came out to her mother. "She said, 'Fine, love it, whatever you wanna be.' That's the way I grew up. Miraculously, whatever I wanted to be. Except a porn star," she told Goldman. Last year she told the Los Angeles Times, “I tried for a short time to be something I wasn’t, and had no success with it. It’s a practical solution to just be yourself.”

McKinnon won the 2016 Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for SNL. This year she was given the Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association's TV Musical Performance of the Year award, for a piano tribute to Leonard Cohen (as Hillary Clinton, of course?). The honors join her two earlier Women Film Critics Circle Awards.

Aside from last summer's $229 million–grossing Ghostbusters, where she played a gay nuclear engineering scientist, she's been onscreen in human and voice-acting form in stuff like Sisters, Angry Birds and Office Christmas Party. She'll gain a whole new fan base as the beloved Ms. Frizzle on the animated reboot The Magic School Bus Rides Again, coming to Netflix. In the same ballpark, albeit live-action, she'll play Grunhilda in The Lunch Witch.

"I think it comes from wanting to share and to connect, to offer up for display something that I find delightful and fascinating," McKinnon said last year of what makes her tick as a performer. "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."

Tune in to Fuse and come back to Fuse.tv every day for profiles, videos, galleries and more on the individuals around the world who are creating Future LGBTQ History. Join the conversation with #FutureHistory and find Fuse in your area with our Channel Finder.