Not every cast member of Saturday Night Live can find success in Hollywood following their runs on the sketch comedy series, but the flexibility of Kristen Wiig’s talents as a writer and performer who can do both comedies and dramas has made her a special case.
Born in Canandaigua, New York in 1973 and raised in Lancaster, Pennsylvania as a child and Rochester, New York as a teenager, Wiig’s educational path through liberal arts and community college initially did not include any desire to perform on stage, but when she was required to take an acting class after majoring in art at the University of Arizona, her teacher encouraged her to continue acting, which led her to Los Angeles to pursue a professional career.
It was in L.A. where Wiig performed in sketch comedy troupe The Groundlings (the same starting ground for comedians like Will Ferrell, Melissa McCarthy, Laraine Newman, Paul Reubens, Jimmy Fallon and Maya Rudolph), and she was again encouraged, this time by her manager to submit an audition tape to Saturday Night Live. She joined the cast in 2005 and stayed until 2012 performing memorable characters in hilarious sketches in a period where she co-starred with some of the funniest people in the show’s history, including Amy Poehler, Bill Hader, Andy Samberg, Fred Armisen and Jason Sudeikis, and yet Wiig still stood out and SNL creator Lorne Michaels even went on record saying Wiig was one of the most talented people he ever hired.
The Target Lady was a character Wiig originally created for The Groundlings and that was the character she brought to her audition that convinced Michaels to hire her. Other popular SNL characters Wiig performed included mischievous Gilly, the surprise party spoiler Sue, the snobby and socially awkward Penelope and Broadway star Mindy Elise Grayson. Wiig’s celebrity impressions on SNL included Nancy Pelosi, Kathie Lee Gifford, Katherine Hepburn, Liza Minnelli and Taylor Swift.
Wiig’s work on SNL earned her four Emmy Award nominations for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series.
In addition to SNL, Wiig had recurring roles in the television shows Bored to Death, Arrested Development, Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp, The Last Man on Earth and the comedy miniseries The Spoils of Babylon for which she was nominated for acting awards from the Emmys and the Screen Actors Guild. She also returned for the follow-up miniseries The Spoils Before Dying.
Wiig’s first major film role was in Paul Feig’s Unaccompanied Minors (2006) and that was followed by spotlight roles in Judd Apatow’s Knocked Up (2007), Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (2007), Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008), Adventureland (2009), Whip It (2009), Extract (2009), MacGruber (2010) and Paul (2011).
You may also recognize her voice in the animated films Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs (2009), the How to Train Your Dragons trilogy (2010-19), the Despicable Me trilogy (2010-17), Sausage Party (2016) and the animated series Big Mouth (2019-20), The Looney Tunes Show where she voiced Lola Bunny (2011-14) and Emily Spivey’s FOX comedy Bless the Harts in which she is currently a series regular as lead character Jenny Hart.
Wiig’s biggest spotlight came in 2011. After the critically-acclaimed commercial hit Bridesmaids was released, her film career really began to take off. Paul Feig had directed the raunchy comedy from a script by Wiig and her writing partner Annie Mumolo, a script which received nominations from the Academy Awards, BAFTAS and Writers Guild of America for Best Original Screenplay. Wiig herself even received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress in a Motion Picture Musical or Comedy for her role in Bridesmaids.
Following the Oscar hype surrounding Bridesmaids, Wiig began acting in some excellent dramas, including The Skeleton Twins (2014), The Diary of a Teenage Girl (2015), Ridley Scott’s The Martian (2015), Darren Aronofsky’s Mother! (2017) and most recently Wonder Woman 1984 in which she portrays DC supervillain Cheetah.
Next up for Wiig she is teaming up once again with her Bridesmaids co-writer Annie Mumolo on Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar which will be directed by Josh Greenbaum and thanks to the pandemic is being delayed until 2021 by Lionsgate. Good thing she has so many talents. I doubt a pandemic will hold her career back. Whatever she does next will definitely be on my radar.