Alec Baldwin has won over US viewers with his spot-on impersonations of Donald Trump on Saturday Night Live this season.
The Emmy award-winning actor has owned Trump’s side-swept hair, squinted eyes, puckered lips, and emphatic hand gestures during his many guest appearances on the sketch-comedy show. His studied portrayal has given a voice to the president-elect’s antics, and simultaneously captured the anxiety some feel about Trump’s presidency.
This week, the actor revealed that he’s paid just $1,400 each time he portrays the president-elect on the show, in an interview with the New York Times (paywall). That’s much, much less than a star of stage and screen, one who has played NBC bigwig Jack Donaghy on 30 Rock and appeared in big-budget films such as Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation and The Departed, is used to earning.
It’s not the money that gets Baldwin to reprise his role on the show week after week. It’s a sense of civic responsibility. “I think that now that he is the president, we have an obligation—as we would if it was him or her—to dial it up as much as we can,” Baldwin, a Trump critic, told the publication.
He’s certainly gotten under the president-elect’s skin. Trump has been tweeting about his displeasure with the show, and Baldwin’s portrayal in particular, for some time now—even while preparing to become the president of the United States.
Baldwin said he watched hours of rallies and campaign appearances to nail Trump’s style before ever donning the tangerine wig on TV. He learned to mimic Trump’s hand gestures and the pauses in his speech, which he says make any impersonation of the president-elect.
“I see a guy who seems to pause and dig for the more precise and better language he wants to use, and never finds it,” Baldwin said. “It’s the same dish—it’s a grilled-cheese sandwich rhetorically over and over again.”
Baldwin has no plans to leave his role, even if the pay is less than he’s accustomed to. However, as the Times noted, he’s preparing to film two movies next year, so he will play Trump less frequently. Baldwin’s Trump was notably absent from the show two weeks ago, but he returned with gusto this past Saturday to satirize the president-elect’s cabinet picks.