Most people would assume that someone who became a household name on Saturday Night Live would be a confident person. But Kristen Wiig is more comfortable hiding behind her characters.
“I’m actually not very good at public speaking or talking in a big group—even socially—as myself,” she said in an interview with NPR. “Playing a character is much safer to me. So getting up and someone telling me to do a monologue as a character, I could talk for 10 minutes. But if someone told me to get up and be myself and talk, I would have a much harder time with that.
“I think a lot of people assume that you are what you do. And that happens to me all the time when I do interviews, or even when I just like, go to a dinner. I think people think I’m going to throw on a wig and start tap-dancing on the table.”
Wiig got her start in the LA improv scene with the Groundlings troupe. It was with this group that she perfected her comedy. “I had no acting experience really at all, and a friend of mine told me to go see the Groundlings,” she recalled. “I don’t know, something—I mean, I always wanted to perform, and I guess reading a script in front of people, and acting something out, was always very intimidating to me, because I felt like there was a right and wrong way to do it. And with improv it really is your personality; you make all the decisions, and so in some ways you really can’t do it wrong.”
Her experiences with the Groundlings led her to audition for Saturday Night Live, where she became famous for characters like The Target Lady and one of the Lennon sisters. “[Auditioning for the show] was the most terrifying thing I’ve ever done to this day,” Wiig said. “Because I knew it would just be me onstage for five minutes, and they were very clear that you had five minutes. And I bought a stopwatch when I got to New York so I could time my audition. Because I was afraid that a big curtain was going to fall down or something in five minutes.”
After starring in the blockbuster hit, Bridesmaids, Wiig has been appearing in more dramatic roles, like her new film, Girl Most Likely. The actress also has plenty of ideas for future projects.
“I hope to direct,” she said. “The last handful of things I’ve done have been pretty dramatic, which has been really fun for me. It’s really fulfilling to me in a way I never expected—I think it’s because I came into acting through comedy.”
Girl Most Likely is currently playing in theaters.