Following the premiere of Saturday Night Live’s 46th season, the show’s resident Donald Trump, Alec Baldwin, took to Instagram on Sunday to address criticism of his impersonation and answer questions about the show’s choice to open with a sketch about the presidential debate rather than scrap it for something addressing the breaking news of Trump getting COVID-19. But before getting into that, two important details: The video is almost 15 minutes long, and Baldwin is listening to piano music the entire time, giving it all a slightly unsettling, almost villainlike feel. “By the way, this music is the Brahms Piano Concerto No. 1, D minor, Opus 15, Sunwook Kim conducting the Staatskapelle Dresden and Myung-Whun Chung playing the piano, who I love. I’m a big Myung-Whun Chung fan,” Baldwin explained near the beginning of the video. Just in case you were curious.
After discussing the COVID precautions SNL is taking with the cast and crew this season, Baldwin addressed some apparent criticism that the show was mocking Trump for his illness. “I’ve known these people for many, many years, and you wouldn’t believe the stuff that’s proposed. There are hard drives with terabytes of material. There are boxes. There are countless binders somewhere in storage out in New Jersey, or in Brooklyn in some facility, with the sketches that were proposed that were turned down because they were deemed inappropriate,” he said. “The stuff that gets turned down — you wouldn’t believe some of the stuff that people propose; it’s outrageous. And this is a group of people that’s pretty savvy.”
Baldwin also noted that the people who work at SNL alongside Lorne Michaels “don’t want to sink the ship, so if there was ever the suggestion that Trump was truly gravely ill — if people said ‘Oh, Trump is really in trouble’ — then I would bet you everything I had that we wouldn’t even get near that in terms of the content of the show. They would have done something else. I’ve seen that happen before.” Baldwin added later in the video that the show mostly went off the information the White House was releasing regarding Trump’s condition, which led to the decision to go with the debate sketch rather than something else. “There are a lot of people out there who have the deepest amount of animosity I could possibly calculate in my adult life toward Trump. But there’s a line they won’t cross; they never sit there and say ‘I wish something happened to him’ or ‘He died’ or whatever,” he said. “And people who do that, you know, that’s not the way it should be.”
Baldwin addressed criticism of his impersonation several times in the video and expressed that he’s totally open to the idea of an SNL cast member or someone else taking over — that is, if they can make the same kind of impact that he manages to make week after week. “You know, if you don’t like me doing it, I get that. I mean, I’ve heard a lot of that over the years or people who are like, ‘Oh, let’s get somebody who’s a member of the company,’” he said. “I’m all for that — some other person who’s a comedian who’s gonna do a more finely etched portrayal of Trump. And I’m like, ‘Great! If you can find a way to do that in that cold opening in the first five minutes of the show, where we try to light it up and make it pretty bright and pretty fizzy to launch the show, then good for you.’” Baldwin posed his own theory to the idea of criticism of his impression soon after, arguing, “I think what also is true is that people are also just sick of Trump. They really don’t care who portrays him.” Unfortunately for those people, we can probably expect plenty more of Baldwin’s Trump every weekend leading up to next month’s election, if not beyond.