Scott Thompson, the Once (and Future?) Queen

Photo: Amazon Prime Video

To comedian Scott Thompson, who grew up a citizen of the Commonwealth in North Bay and Brampton, Ontario, the royal family has always been a part of his life. That became even more so the case when he joined the sketch-comedy troupe Kids in the Hall and his resemblance to Queen Elizabeth II drove fellow member Mark McKinney to write her as a character on the show, played by Thompson. As the world reacted to the news of the queen’s death, we asked Thompson to reflect on his portrayal of the world’s most recognizable figure and what her image meant to Canadians such as him.

It’s strange to feel sad for someone you’ve never met who lived a long, long life and whose death was not unexpected, but I do. I’m very sad. I’ve always admired her because I admire people who have a duty and they do it and, as my mother would always say, just get on with it.

My mother loved the queen. I mean, we had so many coffee-table books. When you walked into our house, in the foyer, there was a small picture of my family and then a large picture of the royal family. My father was the same way. We would have these family reunions, and my father and his brother and sister would dress up, with my father quite often dressing as the queen. So when I look at her, I see my father. I see the history of the Anglo world. I see the end of an era. It’s complicated. And then I look and I kind of see myself in a strange way.

I remember very clearly how I started playing her. It was our first year of the show, and Mark McKinney had this belief that I looked like the queen; he was obsessed with that idea. So he and Norm Hiscock wrote this piece, which was the “fact girl” saying the queen doesn’t know her ABC’s. It’s interesting, because she was the only character that we ever really did that was a real person. In Canada, and like anywhere in the Commonwealth, the queen’s more than a person, she’s a symbol. So when I played her, it wasn’t like I was doing a celebrity impersonation; it was portraying an idea.

I never really tried to sound like her. It just happened naturally. When I was getting ready in the trailer, and Judi Cooper-Sealy, the hair stylist, put the wig on, and Gerry Wraith, the makeup artist, started making me up, Gerry said, “Oh, I don’t really have to do that much.” I remember looking in the mirror and going, “This is weird.” When I walked out of the trailer, everybody just stopped dead and looked at me and immediately started treating me like the queen. It was astonishing. I never tried to be her or imitate her, and then the voice came out, and I was her for hours.

My whole thing with that character was that I wanted to portray a real person, the human, the woman not even that she was, but how I wanted her to be: fun and a girl, in love and a little nutty. It’s a very complicated thing, and it’s odd because I understand the whole idea of monarchy and the royal world — it’s kind of a strange holdover from our past, our medieval past, or our pagan past. It seems like it doesn’t make any sense, but yet it somehow is still here, and it kind of touches a part of us that we can’t really explain.

It’s sad that I might not be able to play her again because doing so was such a joy and an honor — people reacted to me so differently than any other character. I had to take that very seriously, like, I can’t screw around with this. They’re looking at me in a way that they don’t look at my other characters. But I do have this idea that I will play her one more time after death, in heaven or wherever. I had this image of her dancing with Diana and spinning around the floor, and then Diana passing her off to Philip, and then they disappear. There’s nothing really funny about that, but I’ve had that idea for quite a long time.

And who knows what will happen? Maybe I will play her again. I would make Dave Foley play Diana, because Dave’s already kind of got the hair, and I’d make Mark play Philip. I hope I get the chance. I’m in a hotel room right now, and I’m waiting to get picked up to do a zombie movie all night, and let me say something: When I get dressed up as a zombie, people don’t treat me quite the same way. Maybe I’ll play the queen as a zombie? That’s kind of fun. I think she’d like that because, from all you read, she did like to laugh.

So it’s a sad day, but it’s also a beautiful day for celebrating a well-lived life. She probably went to her grave knowing that she lived the way she was supposed to, if that makes sense. I don’t think when she was a young girl, she thought, Oh, I’ll be the queen. But when it happened and those series of tragedies happened that led her to that place, she didn’t hesitate. She just went, Well, this is my destiny, and I have no choice but to embrace it and to do the best job I can.

On the day when she passed the prime ministership to Liz Truss, you can see how frail she is. You can see how she’s on her way out in a strange way. Yet you watch her get up from that chair, and she puts on the smile and does her job. She doesn’t let everyone around her know what’s going on. I have this feeling she kind of knew, but she had to hang on to the end so that she could fulfill this last job. That’s inspiring to me, and that’s something that my mother particularly always instilled in me: No matter what happens, you do your job. That’s what she really means to me: to take what’s given to you and play the hell out of it.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Scott Thompson, the Once (and Future?) Queen