Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute alumnus Alec Baldwin is back at it again this month, reprising his popular role as President Donald Trump on Saturday Night Live. In this week’s cold open, viewers were treated to Alec Baldwin’s witty but accurate Trump impression. Jim Carrey entertained in the other half of the opening with his imitation of former Vice President Joe Biden. The performance, titled Dueling Town Halls, parodied the separate town halls the presidential candidates conducted simultaneously earlier this month. The sketch switched between the two broadcasts, just as most Americans had actually done while watching the real-life candidates on television.
In true comedic fashion, both Alec Baldwin and Jim Carrey kept upping the stakes. Baldwin was even hit by a chair like it was a World Wrestling Entertainment match between Trump and the moderator. Baldwin’s impersonation was not only hilarious, but also rendered the character with an empathy and bumbling foolishness that makes him almost endearing. His performance has been so acclaimed, he was nominated for a Primetime Emmy in both 2017 and 2018. He successfully took home the award in 2017.
The Versatility of The Method
When most people think of The Method, they imagine intense dramas where the actor must emotionally give themselves over to a role in order to portray the character. To support this theory, many Method Actors are known for brilliant, high stakes performances. However, while The Method is an excellent tool for serious roles, the notion that Method Acting is strictly for drama is simply a myth.
One of Lee Strasberg’s most advanced exercises is the Affective Memory, used to sensorially recreate a particularly emotional event in your life. In a workshop on his father’s legacy, David Lee Strasberg explained how the exercise, much like The Method, is often misunderstood. While actors often believe that an emotional memory must induce sadness or anger and be used to create highly dramatic performances, an affective memory can recall any emotion – including those of joy, excitement, and humor.
Alec Baldwin’s Diverse Career
While Lee Strasberg’s technique is applicable in any performance, the benefit of The Method in comedic productions cannot be overlooked. Alec Baldwin’s rich career is itself proof that Method Acting can indeed be used in comedy. The Animal Exercise, which involves researching and then taking on the characteristics of a real person or animal with precision, is a staple of The Method. Even in short comedy sketches, like those on SNL, an actor needs to have proper technique in order to execute the purpose of the sketch effectively.
Baldwin is no stranger to comedy or drama. He has now hosted SNL an incredible seventeen times. The universally acclaimed comedy 30 Rock, which parodies the SNL behind-the-scenes, earned Baldwin 12 award nominations. Among his many dramatic credits, he played Tennessee Williams’ iconic Stanley Kowalski in a Broadway revival of A Streetcar Named Desire – a role which earned him a Tony Award nomination for Best Actor. With a long and varied collection of roles under his belt, playing the President of the United States posed no challenge for Baldwin – even if he does not endorse Trump personally.
“You just pick these three or four beats physically, and to me, I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about what’s going on inside him… I see a guy who seems to pause, to dig for the more precise and better language that he wants to use and never finds it.”Alec Baldwin, on his analysis of Trump from The NY Times podcast The Run Up
Baldwin’s portrayal of Trump shows how – even if you do not relate personally to your character or agree with their actions – as an actor, you must still take the time to understand them in order to truly embody their traits. This breakdown and embodiment of the character is where The Method proves to be an essential tool – whether it be for film or theatre, comedy or drama.
LSTFI Alumni News written by Nicholas Tesoriero. Are you an alum with a story to share? Let us know by submitting to our online Alumni News form!