Alec Baldwin Does a Better Trump Impression Off-Screen

The actor and the president he parodies on 'Saturday Night Live' have a lot in common.

by Eve Peyser
Oct 10 2018, 10:42pm

Photo by Will Heath/NBCU/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty

In a new interview with the Hollywood Reporter, Alec Baldwin gave us his best Donald Trump impression yet. "Ever since I played Trump, black people love me," the reliably controversial actor said. "They love me. Everywhere I go, black people go crazy." The remark perfectly mirrored the way Trump, who Baldwin plays on Saturday Night Live , has spoken about the black community—like in 2011, when the then Apprentice host said, "I have a great relationship with the blacks. I've always had a great relationship with the blacks."

Baldwin has received some acclaim for his portrayal of Trump on SNL—the Atlantic praised his "extremely blunt perspective on the candidate," noting that his Trump is "an aggressive ogre rather than as a preening egotist," and credited him for "invigorat[ing] a show that had started feeling stagnant." But as his latest interview illustrates all too well, the reason Baldwin's SNL cameos can feel cringeworthy isn't only because his impression is a little off, but because it seems like Baldwin is just playing himself—a preening narcissist who expects applause just for showing up.

The actor gained a reputation for being a bully back when the idea of "President Donald Trump" was nothing more than a joke. He famously called his 11-year-old daughter "a rude thoughtless pig" during a 2007 custody battle with his ex-wife, and has continuously made headlines with his hostile altercations with the paparazzi. Like Trump, Baldwin often speaks off the cuff and isn't afraid to be mean or controversial, and has floated around the idea of seeking political office for years. (Thank god we've been spared that at least).

Baldwin is outspokenly wary of the #MeToo movement, of which he said during that Hollywood Reporter interview, "Wow, they're looking for people [to accuse]. This is a fire that needs fresh wood." That tracks pretty closely Trump's words: “They destroy people... It is a very scary situation where you are guilty until proven innocent.” The actor has previously received backlash for his continued support of the film directors Woody Allen and James Toback, who have been accused of sexual assault—the latter has at least 395 claims against him.

As the Daily Beast pointed out in 2017 after Baldwin (as Trump) made a joke about Harvey Weinstein on SNL, "What was perhaps intended as a cutting remark about Trump’s accusers fell flat because Baldwin had spent the earlier part of the day accosting one of Weinstein’s victims on Twitter."

In his Hollywood Reporter interview, Baldwin spoke of losing himself in his portrayal of the brazenly capitalist executive Jack Donaghy on 30 Rock, explaining, "After seven years, I found myself behaving like the guy. I'd be at a restaurant and I'd say, 'Excuse me, in your opinion, is this glass really clean?'" Perhaps the same thing is happening with Trump, but maybe there's another, more obvious reason why Baldwin finds it so easy to slide into playing an entitled rich guy. (At least 30 Rock holds up on rewatch.)

This isn't to say we should "cancel" Alec Baldwin—I'm agnostic about the argument that a bully with bad opinions shouldn't be "allowed" to be a famous actor. But let's pause for a moment and ask ourselves, does squinting and talking in a loud voice even really count as a "Trump impression"?

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Donald Trump
Saturday Night Live
alec baldwin
life imitates art