'SNL' alum Kristen Wiig stars with Carol Burnett in 'Palm Royale' The SNL alum co-stars with Carol Burnett in Palm Royale, an Apple TV+ series about a former pageant queen who wants to break into high society. Wiig says the show was a chance to work with "a legend."

Years ago, a psychic told Kristen Wiig to move to LA. She left the next day

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/1252467744/1252721427" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

TONYA MOSLEY, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Tonya Mosley. Our guest is comedian, actor and screenwriter Kristen Wiig. She was nominated for an Emmy for outstanding supporting actress in a comedy series for her work on "Saturday Night Live," and received an Academy Award nomination for best original screenplay for her 2011 film "Bridesmaids." Now she stars in the new Apple TV+ series called "Palm Royale." Kristen Wiig recently spoke to FRESH AIR's Ann Marie Baldonado.

ANN MARIE BALDONADO, BYLINE: On the TV show "Palm Royale," Kristen Wiig plays Maxine, a former pageant queen who wants more than anything to break into the upper echelons of high society. It's Palm Beach, Fla., in the late 1960s, and everyone who's important belongs to the Palm Beach Country Club. Outsiders are kept out, but Maxine is determined to become a socialite living a charmed life. In this scene from the first episode, she sneaks in, tries to pass, but gets found out, questioned, and asked to leave.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "PALM ROYALE")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As character) How did you get past security?

KRISTEN WIIG: (As Maxine) I came in the back.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As character) There are no doors on the back of the Palm Royale.

WIIG: (As Maxine) I never said I used the door. I used the wall.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As character) Most athletic.

WIIG: (As Maxine) My athleticism is just one of my many positive attributes that would make me a wonderful addition to the roster of members here at the Palm Royale.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As character) You will never be a member of the Palm Royale.

WIIG: (As Maxine) It's a high bar, I know. But one I could surely reach just given the chance. As you know, to even start the membership process, I need another member to nominate me, and how can I get that if I can't get to know anybody? I'm just a really nice person new to Palm Beach looking to make a friend or two. The Palm Royale represents safety in a rapidly changing world, embodying that which is sacred - refined companionship, sanctity, and a deep heart conviction that beauty is not dead (laughter).

BALDONADO: Maxine, like some of Kristen Wiig's other characters, is just trying to belong. She's an outsider yearning for acceptance, like Annie in "Bridesmaids," the movie Kristen Wiig co-starred in and co-wrote. Kristen Wiig was a cast member on "Saturday Night Live" from 2005 to 2012. Last month, she hosted the show for the fifth time. Her other movies include "Ghostbusters," the "Despicable Me" movies, "The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty," "Anchorman 2," "The Skeleton Twins," and "Barb And Star Go To Vista Del Mar." Kristen Wiig, welcome to FRESH AIR.

WIIG: Thank you so much. I'm very happy to be here.

BALDONADO: Can you describe your character, Maxine?

WIIG: Oh, wow. Well, she definitely doesn't believe in the word obstacle (laughter). When she wants something, she goes after it. And I think she has this sunny disposition along with that, which I think kind of confuses the audience as to how to feel about her a little bit. She's just constantly, you know, happy and always seeing the glass half full, but what she's reaching for is, you know, obviously from the outside, very shallow.

BALDONADO: Well, one thing about Maxine is she's very optimistic.

WIIG: Yes (laughter).

BALDONADO: It's like she has to be to get by. It could be argued that she is optimistic to the point of delusion. Is that something that you liked...

WIIG: Oh, I would agree with that, I guess.

BALDONADO: Is that something you liked and/or relate to, I guess?

WIIG: I mean, yeah, having a little delusion in there is always fun to play, but I think because so many people are trying to knock her down. I remember Josh Lucas - we would be shooting scenes. He's like, are we ever going to shoot anything where anyone's nice to you? Because she's - it's really easy to just - you know. And I think a lot of the humor comes from that, too, especially from Evelyn, Allison Janney's character, just not liking Maxine.

BALDONADO: She's very mean to you.

WIIG: She is, but it's so funny.

BALDONADO: Yeah. Oh, and I should say that Josh Lucas plays Maxine's husband in the show.

WIIG: Yes, Douglas, yes.

BALDONADO: And this show has a great cast - Allison Janney, Laura Dern and her father, Bruce Dern. And Laura Dern was actually also - is a producer on the project. There's Leslie Bibb and Carol Burnett. Carol Burnett plays the rich Aunt Norma Dellacorte, who, at the beginning of the show is in a coma. She's unresponsive and living in a facility. And your husband, who is her nephew - she kind of disowned him when he married you. But you're trying to get back into her good graces, even though she's in a coma at the beginning. And in the first episode, we figure out that your character, Maxine, has been visiting Norma every day and has been using her clothes, and her jewels to make her to look - to make herself look rich and like she looks the part. And I want to play one of the first scenes with Carol Burnett.

WIIG: Yes, please.

BALDONADO: Her character is unresponsive, but Maxine is still talking to her.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "PALM ROYALE")

WIIG: (As Maxine) I met a friend, Norma, an honest to goodness friend. She's a member of the social set, an honoree at that. Can you believe it? I know it sounds so crass when I say it out loud. But I know that you know, I have a vast amount of love in my life, a vast amount. Just hanging on gets harder as the years pass. I'm trying to do it with a smile, Norma, I really am. I'm just tired.

(SOUNDBITE OF SLAP)

WIIG: (As Maxine) Stop it, Maxine. Pity is for the pitiful.

BALDONADO: It's unfortunate to have a scene with Carol Burnett that we can't hear, but at the beginning of the series, she is unresponsive. That's a scene from "Palm Royale." What was it like doing those first scenes with Carol Burnett? But with her on the bed, like, in the room, unresponsive. In this scene, you're actually lying in bed next to each other, and you're doing this whole scene with her there.

WIIG: I know. Well, it was so fun 'cause when we would cut and, you know, wait for the next setup, I would just stay in bed with her, and we would just talk. And it was, like, some of the nicest memories I have of the shoot, to be honest. You know, she's a legend and rightfully so. She's not just, like, unbelievably talented and funny and fearless. And I mean, she's so warm and so generous. The crew just, like, flocked to her. She's a light. And for me, you know, I grew up watching her show. It was really my intro into sketch comedy.

And when we got Carol, we were like, OK, well, she needs to wake up.

(LAUGHTER)

WIIG: She needs to talk, maybe sooner than we had planned. Because we can't - people will kill us. We have Carol Burnett, and she's just laying there. I think that adds to the excitement too a little bit. Like, people know she's going to wake up. So I think people are kind of waiting for that.

BALDONADO: What did Carol Burnett mean to you growing up?

WIIG: Well, like I said, just the intro to sketch comedy. I didn't really know - I mean, I used to watch, like, "The Mandrell Sisters" and, like, "Hee Haw" (laughter). I'm aging myself. But all of those old shows. I mean, I used to love, like, Martin and Lewis movies and you know, Abbott and Costello, all those really old comedic duos and shows. And there was something about the cast and how much fun they were having. Whether they were laughing in a scene or not, they just you could tell they were genuine friends, and there was something that was so - I don't know - appealing. And I was like, oh, I want to do that. And she's a woman at that time with her own show, which was kind of crazy. And she was having fun with her friends. And that just - I don't know. There's something about that that I really admired, not to mention just her, you know, raw talent for characters.

BALDONADO: You just called her comedy fearless. And I feel like there are a lot of similarities between your comedy and hers. I think of some of her characters from "The Carol Burnett Show," like, her spoof of "Gone With The Wind," where she plays the Scarlet O'Hara character, and she comes down the stairs with a dress made out of curtains and the curtain rods are still in there. It's like spoofing...

WIIG: Yeah.

BALDONADO: ...Like a spoof of a beautifully dressed woman, and she uses physical comedy and absurdity, and, like, funny movements, slapstick, and I feel like that's similar to some of the characters that you play. Do you feel like she's an inspiration to your work? Like, spoofing glamour almost is something that I feel like you both do.

WIIG: Well, I mean, yeah. She's a huge inspiration to me, and I don't even know how I could approach comedy without thinking about her career and her show. And also just that there's not a need to be glamorous and always look, you know, good in a sketch where it's, like, the comedy sort of wins, meaning, like, making yourself look like unattractive or to play sort of like, you know, a character that's so different from yourself. There's something really freeing about that, and I saw her freedom in that when I would watch her, if that makes sense.

BALDONADO: Well, let's take a short break here, and we'll talk some more. My guest is actor, comedian and writer Kristen Wiig. She was a beloved cast member on "Saturday Night Live" for seven years. She was nominated for an Oscar for co-writing her film "Bridesmaids." Her other films include "Ghostbusters," the "Despicable Me" films, "Anchorman 2," and "The Skeleton Twins." We'll talk more after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(SOUNDBITE OF MICHAEL BELLAR AND THE AS-IS ENSEMBLE'S "HOT BOX MAGIC")

BALDONADO: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Ann Marie Baldonado back with our guest Kristen Wiig. She was a cast member of "Saturday Night Live" for seven years. Her films include "Bridesmaids," "Ghostbusters," "The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty," and "Barb And Star Go To Vista Del Mar." Her new TV series on Apple TV+ is called "Palm Royale."

Well, you had planned to be an art teacher and you were majoring in art, and you had to take an acting class. And during the acting class, you had an epiphany. And I was wondering what that class was like, and what made you think, oh, acting might be the thing I want to do.

WIIG: Well, my major was called studio art. I think I did sculpture, drawing and performance art. And I had to take, like, Acting 101, I believe, was what it was called (laughter). And I really didn't want to take it because I'm not good at any sort of public speaking, any sort of speech or book report I ever had to give in school was the worst day of my life, and I hated it. But I was like, OK, I'll just take this class and see what happens. And I really liked it. It was very much, like, a group class. There wasn't a lot of solo stuff you had to do. And I really fell in love with just being in an ensemble, I think. And I really liked it.

And my teacher's really kind of what inspired me because I was - you know, I was in my early 20s, and I was still kind of like, what am I doing with my life? And he had just encouraged me and was like, you should think about doing this. And I was like, what? I've never thought of doing this in my life. But there was something that kind of, like, stuck with me about it. And I was very aware that I was enjoying the class more than my other classes.

BALDONADO: Now, you majored in art, and I read that you were hired by a plastic surgery clinic to draw post-surgery bodies. And the day before you were supposed to start is when you got the epiphany. Is that true? And what kind of job is that?

WIIG: Yeah. It was - well, it wasn't drawing.

BALDONADO: OK.

WIIG: It was like - yeah. It was like Photoshop. Like you could let - show people sort of, like, before and after. And I have no idea how I got that job because didn't - was not qualified. And yeah, it was like, I was starting on a Monday. And that acting class just kind of threw me. I mean, I was a confused 20-year-old anyway, of just, like, what am I going to do? You know, that age where it's just like, you're just lost. And I broke up with my boyfriend and, like, you know, the whole thing. And I remember being in my bathroom and looking in the mirror and being like, OK, because I have the theory that if you talk to yourself and look in the mirror, you can't lie to yourself. I was like, OK, if I could do anything in the world, what would I do? And I just said, I would move to LA and try acting.

And I was shocked kind of that that was what I was feeling. But that's what came out. And I went to this bookstore that I really loved going to. I can't remember the name of it. It's one of those sort of spiritual bookstores with...

BALDONADO: Crystals.

WIIG: ...books and incense and crystals and all of those things. And I walked in, and I really loved this bookstore and it always made me feel good. And they had - I don't think he was like a palm reader. It was like a psychic that was there. And at that time, I don't think I had ever seen anyone like that.

And it was like, 10 minutes for $10 or something. And I was like, oh, I want to go talk to this person. I think his name was Michael. He said, $10, 10 minutes. I was like, I'm going to do it. I sat down with him. And he wanted to, like, hold a piece of my jewelry or something. He was like, What are you doing here? And I was kind of like, I don't know. And he was like, no, what are you doing in Arizona?

He's like, you should be in Los Angeles. He's like, you should be there by now. And I was like, what? And he mentioned, like, acting and writing. And I was like, OK, that's weird. And I went home, and I, like, packed up all my stuff, and I left the next day (laughter). And I drove to Los Angeles and didn't tell my parents.

BALDONADO: Well, when you got to LA, what was your first move? You moved in with your friend and you started an acting class?

WIIG: Yeah, I did, and was at the Lee Strasberg Institute, and I started there. And it was...

BALDONADO: Like, the acting class.

WIIG: ...The acting class. And it wasn't for me. I think I lasted a couple of weeks. And I found an apartment. I got a roommate. It was on, like, Rochester Ave., which I thought was a sign. Because that's where I'm from, and I was like, I'm supposed to live here. And I moved in with a - she was a TV writer. And I don't know. I just - I got a job. I worked at a hot dog restaurant in Beverly Hills for a little bit. And I think my next job was - it was right when Anthropologie was, like, starting. And they were opening...

BALDONADO: The clothes store.

WIIG: ...The clothing store. Yes. It was like, we're opening this store called Anthropologie. And it was Santa Monica on Third Street promenade. And I got a job helping to open the store, and I worked there for a while. And that was when I was, like, settled. I was, like, living in Santa Monica, working there. I wasn't doing any acting at all. I just kind of - like, I kind of gave up. I just was like, I don't - what am I doing? This town is full of people that are trying to do this. I have no experience, and I'm, like, 20-something years old. And I just - I started working at Anthropologie, and I did get into, like, the visuals there and - because that's sort of, like, what I really love and started doing that in, like, the jewelry department.

BALDONADO: Well, then you became part of the Groundlings, which is an LA comedy troupe, an improv theater where a lot of famous comedians got their start, including other "SNL" cast members like Will Ferrell, Maya Rudolph. And what was the trajectory from Anthropologie to the Groundlings?

WIIG: Well, when I was at - in one of the performance art classes in Arizona, I met my friend Eric, who is still my best friend to this day. And he had moved back to LA. He worked at Anthropologie with me for a little bit. He lived downtown, and I met his neighbors, who were artists. And he told me one day - he's like, have you ever been to the Groundlings? And I'd never heard of it. And he was like, I just saw a show there. I totally thought of you. I think you should go see a show there.

And I saw - I think it was one of their, like, Friday night - like, one of their sketch shows, but they have improv in there, too. And I had never seen improv, and I love sketch. And I was like, oh, my God, that's what I want to do. I saw it as something so different than just the regular sort of acting class or, like, moving to LA to act. It was like, oh, they're improvising. Like, they're making stuff up. There's no script. They're creating characters. Like, it just seemed like I couldn't really figure out what I wanted to do until I saw a show there.

BALDONADO: Can you describe what you learned at the Groundlings? I think people who are fans of comedy and of "SNL" know that a lot of people went through the Groundlings. But what do you learn there in particular? It's a long program, too. Like, what are...

WIIG: It is. Yeah.

BALDONADO: ...Tools that they give you?

WIIG: Well, you know, you learn the rules of improv, and it really teaches you how to be a scene partner and what it means to improvise. So as you're going through the school, you're really learning what works and what doesn't 'cause you're doing this stuff in front of your peers and teachers. And you get feedback, and you can either hear laughing or not hear laughing. So really, you learn that - how to make people laugh, I guess.

BALDONADO: Is it, like, also breaking down what a character is, like, sort of figuring out - like, 'cause I know you developed some characters there that you brought to "SNL." But is it, like, sort of breaking down what their movements are and, like, how they sound - that kind of stuff?

WIIG: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, we would do improv exercises where, you know, everyone's sort of walking on the stage together, just sort of, like, weaving in and out. You're sort of in your own world, but you're all walking together. And the teacher will say, like, OK, now walk, you know, leading with your hips. And you start doing that, and you're like, oh, this is, like, creating something. Now start talking as that person who would sort of walk that way. And you kind of, like - you realize all the different parts that come with a character, whether it's, like, how your shoulders are or how your - what face you're making or, you know, how you can sort of manipulate your voice. I remember filling out these sheets for, like, you know, where was your character born? What's your character's favorite song? - like, kind of really creating this, like, human being.

MOSLEY: We're listening to the interview FRESH AIR's, Ann Marie Baldonado recorded with Kristen Wiig. She stars in the TV show "Palm Royale" on Apple TV+. Coming up, we'll talk about what it was like auditioning for "Saturday Night Live" twice. I'm Tonya Mosley, and this is FRESH AIR.

(SOUNDBITE OF ALEX BROWN QUARTET'S "LAMENTOS (PIXINGUINHA)")

MOSLEY: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Tonya Mosley, back with comedian Kristen Wiig. She was nominated for an Emmy for outstanding supporting actress in a comedy series for "Saturday Night Live," and received an Academy Award nomination for best original screenplay for her 2011 film "Bridesmaids." Now she stars in the Apple TV+ series called "Palm Royale." She spoke with FRESH AIR's Ann Marie Baldonado.

BALDONADO: You auditioned for "SNL" two times.

WIIG: Yes.

BALDONADO: And you were first on the show in 2005. What were your auditions like? Do people at the Groundlings just get auditions at "SNL"? What is that process like?

WIIG: I was terrified because I had done sketch and most of my characters were in scenes with other people. I wasn't a stand-up, so there wasn't a lot of, like, just me on stage by myself at all? So I felt very nervous about that. And I just kind of was like, all right, this is my chance. And I just wrote a little thing as many characters as I could do, any impressions that I had - it was mostly characters - and just crammed them all in there and had the audition and went home and didn't hear anything. And then, so I just assumed that I didn't get it 'cause no one was calling me. And then I heard, oh, they want to see you again. And my first thought was like, I literally did everything in that last audition. I've got nothing more. I don't have any other voices or characters. So I had to kind of come up with new stuff, which I think in the end ended up being good for me just as a writer and performer, just to be like, oh, maybe there's more in there.

BALDONADO: And then how did you find out that you got the show?

WIIG: Well, the season started. It was, like, September, and I was watching the season premiere and I wasn't on it.

BALDONADO: In Los Angeles.

WIIG: So, yeah. I was like, I don't think I got it. And then it was after, like, the third show aired. I got a call or my manager got a call, saying that they wanted me to fly out and watch the show and then start the next week.

BALDONADO: And what was it like for starting there? And, you know, you didn't start at the beginning of the season.

WIIG: Yeah.

BALDONADO: So it was already sort of up and rolling. I would think that that would have been scary, a scary way to start.

WIIG: Oh, yeah, it was terrifying. Because also everyone - especially knowing how it is now. Like, you know everyone so well. Like, you can't even describe the bond that the cast creates on that show. And I could feel that when I walked in, but in an exciting way of, like, oh, I - you know, I knew it was going to be my family, and I knew they were going to be my friends, and it was exciting. And at the same time, I was very much like, OK, I'm the new girl. I just want to try to do my best. And plus, I was on the show with people that, you know, I've been watching, and it was, like, like, Maya and Tina and Amy and Will Forte. And, like, all these people where I was just like, How am I now on the shows? It was very surreal.

BALDONADO: Well, I've heard you talk about your time at "SNL" and how you miss the part of your brain that you used there, that there was a certain math to it. Can you describe what you mean?

WIIG: Yes. Well, it's - the week goes by pretty quick. And there are a lot of little deadlines here and there, which - I do better with deadlines. Like Tuesday night, for example, it's like, OK, you get in at, you know - I don't know - two o' clock, and you'd stay till 5 or 6 in the morning, and you want to write probably three sketches. So just knowing that that has to happen and scheduling with another writer or another cast member, it's sort of like this unpredictable sort of the puzzle you have to put together and to get everything done by the time you get home.

And then there's the rewrites and the time between dress and air when you've got this, you know, eight-page sketch, and if you want to make it on air, you have to cut 30 seconds. And cutting 30 seconds is really hard because, like, each joke depends on the other one, and there's timing and things set up certain things. And if you don't have this setup, is this joke going to still work? And I loved that - I don't know. There was something about that frantic panic between dress and air and knowing that you were going to do the sketch on air different than you had done it all week. I don't know. There was something so exciting about trying to figure that out. I do miss that.

BALDONADO: And just the timing of it. So dress - the dress rehearsal happens earlier on Saturday night.

WIIG: Yes. At 8.

BALDONADO: At 8, OK. So then you do the whole show, and then you have - what? A hour and change, an hour and a half?

WIIG: Oh, I wish.

BALDONADO: Oh, OK (laughter).

WIIG: Well, I mean, you have - well, actually, yeah, because it starts at eight and it's the dress rehearsal. The dress rehearsal is much longer than the live show. There's - it's - I don't know, maybe a half hour longer. So you're over at, like, 10, 10:30. And then you go and get notes and try to rewrite stuff. And then you're in the chair, you know, getting your wig on and getting everything for the first sketch, and the show starts at 11:30. So it's all fast, but everyone's running around. So that's what's so fun about it - like, everybody.

BALDONADO: Now, you were a cast member for seven years, and you've said that once you started to feel too comfortable there that you felt like it would be time to leave.

WIIG: (Laughter) Yeah.

BALDONADO: Why did you feel that way? I mean, comfort is good. It can be good.

WIIG: But comfort is not "SNL." It's not what it is. It's like it's - and I mean that in the best way because I think when you're constantly trying new things and honestly, like nervous a little bit, it works. Because you're not sort of resting on anything you've done before. And the nature of the show is you have to come up with new things every week for years, and that is really a scary concept, and you never know what the show is going to be really until it's over. Because again, you could be in - you could have a great dress and then literally not be in the show. So it's kind of like you just have to get used to that unpredictability. And I don't know. I guess I just always felt like, once I really, really figured it out, that part of the mystery is what makes it magical? I don't know.

BALDONADO: Now, your last episode as a cast member was in May of 2012. And that show...

WIIG: Oh, my God. That was so long ago.

BALDONADO: ...Ends with a really sweet goodbye to you. The host was Mick Jagger, and they did a sketch pretending it was, like, a graduation. And you get announced.

WIIG: Yeah.

BALDONADO: And then they start playing "She's Like A Rinbow." And you go on to dance with the cast members, including Bill Hader, Jason Sudeikis, Andy Samberg. And even Lorne Michaels comes out and dances with you.

WIIG: I know.

BALDONADO: And I read that you didn't rewatch the goodbye for a while because it made you too emotional. And I can totally understand why. I would encourage people - it's a little too visual to play now, but I encourage people to look at it and watch because it's so sweet. And you're all obviously moved and really loved working together. And cast members don't often get a goodbye like that. I'm not sure why. But can you - if it's not too troubling, do you mind talking about that goodbye?

WIIG: (Laughter).

BALDONADO: I mean, I just talked about how you didn't want to...

WIIG: I mean...

BALDONADO: ...Watch it for a while, but - (laughter).

WIIG: I know. I mean, leaving was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. And a lot of times when cast members leave, there'll be a funny sketch at the read-through table or something, you know, sweet or goodbye or update or something. And Colin Jost actually wrote that sketch and I just kind of thought it was going to be at the table. I didn't really expect it to be in the show.

And it almost didn't go in the show because we were cutting sketches sort of last-minute, like I was saying, just the frantic energy of the show. People are running through the halls saying, like, you know, this sketch is cut, this sketch is cut - we're moving onto this. And everyone's, like, half already changed into something else. And I remember someone saying, like, we're doing the graduation scene. I mean, we had rehearsed it and everything, but I just - I still didn't know if it was going to be in the show until 11:15 or whatever - no, what am I saying? - 11:25. And I was kind of out of my body. It was so emotional for me and sweet and bawled my eyes out after I got offstage. And it was really one of the nicest moments ever.

BALDONADO: Well, let's take a short break here and then we'll talk some more. My guest is comedian, actor and writer Kristen Wiig. Her television shows and films include "Saturday Night Live," "Bridesmaids," "Ghostbusters" and her new TV series "Palm Royale." The whole first season can be found on Apple TV+. More after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE INTERNET SONG, "ROLL (BURBANK FUNK)")

BALDONADO: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Ann Marie Baldonado back with Emmy and Oscar nominee Kristen Wiig. She was a "Saturday Night Live" cast member for seven years. Her films include "Bridesmaids," "Ghostbusters," "The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty" and "Barb And Star Go To Vista Del Mar." Her new TV series on Apple TV+ is called "Palm Royale."

The year before you left "SNL," the movie "Bridesmaids" came out. That was in 2011, and it was a huge hit. You were the star, and you co-wrote the film with your creative partner, Annie Mumolo. You play Annie, a woman whose bake shop went out of business. And your best friend, played by Maya Rudolph, is getting married and is starting a new, fancy life.

She has a new, fancy friend, played by Rose Byrne, and Annie feels like she's being left behind. I'm going to play a much-quoted scene. Here's the bridal party. They're on a plane going to Las Vegas for the bachelorette party. Your character is sitting in coach because she can't afford a first-class ticket. And Annie is nervous about flying, so she takes something to relax and has a drink and is pretty out of it when she visits the characters played by Maya Rudolph and Rose Byrne in first class.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "BRIDESMAIDS")

MAYA RUDOLPH: (As Lillian) Hey, buddy.

WIIG: (As Annie) Hey.

RUDOLPH: (As Lillian) How're you doing? Feeling better?

WIIG: (As Annie) I'm good. I feel - I'm so much more relaxed. Thank you, Helen. I just feel like I'm excited and I feel relaxed, and I'm ready to party (singing) with the best of them. And I'm going to go down to the river.

RUDOLPH: (As Lillian) Wow, it looks like somebody's really relaxing now.

ROSE BYRNE: (As Helen) Yeah. Wow.

WIIG: (As Annie) What are you guys talking about up here?

BYRNE: (As Helen) We're going to a restaurant tonight. I know the owner...

WIIG: (As Annie) You do? Oh, Helen knows the owner - (mocking whines). Pfft, big whoop.

RUDOLPH: (As Lillian) OK, let's go take a nap. What do you say?

MITCH SILPA: (As Flight Attendant Steve) Miss, you cannot be up here.

WIIG: (As Annie) Hello, grandpa.

Oh, my God.

(LAUGHTER)

BALDONADO: That's a scene from the 2011 film "Bridesmaids." Now, this film is over 10 years old. And it's hard to remember that there was this whole narrative about how shocking it was that a comedy starring women was successful and funny. And I will say that when I talked to my daughters - I have teenage daughters - about how this was what people thought there, they don't know what I'm talking about. You know, they don't understand that people used to think that women weren't funny.

WIIG: That's good (laughter).

BALDONADO: Yeah, no, I think it's great. But what did you think about that narrative at the time? Like, what do you remember about it?

WIIG: Oh, I mean, I was so used to it. It was such a topic of conversation, and I didn't understand it. I guess I understood sort of, like, the financial. Like, comedies with men made more money, I guess. It was sad to me because I could name a million female comedians and comedic roles in films and movies that have been successful. And it just kind of felt like so much of it was put on the female part of it. And it wasn't just seen as, like, a comedy. It was - like, it was so much about, you know, being a female comedy and, like, oh, even guys will like it. It's like, well, yeah. Why wouldn't they (laughter)? I mean, girls watch, you know, guys. It was just so - it's just weird.

BALDONADO: Now, one of the things that I love about this movie is its portrayal of female friendships...

WIIG: Yeah.

BALDONADO: ...How important they are, and in some ways, they're more important than romantic ones - they can sometimes last longer - and how difficult it can be when friends are in different life stages or different classes. Like, one friend's...

WIIG: Yeah.

BALDONADO: ...Are starting to get more money, and another friend feels left behind. It can be so hard and awkward. Was that something that you and your writing partner, Annie Mumolo, wanted to address?

WIIG: I mean, we both definitely experienced that. It's - I think also, like, in that time, that sort of, like, 20s, 30s, when people are finding their career and settling down, you do compare yourself to your friends and, like, wait, all of these people have this, and I don't. And you don't think like, oh, well, my time's coming. That's OK (laughter). You're just like, what's wrong with me? Why - I feel a little left out. People start their life at different times or start, you know, different stages of their life, I should say. And I think also our - my age group, there still was that thing of, like, you have to get married at a certain time and have kids by a certain time. And you just kind of got looked at a little like, well, what's wrong with you? Why aren't you - why haven't you figured this out yet? And I think that's something that's - that was really common.

BALDONADO: I think beloved comedians who play characters that people love are often expected to, like, always be like that - like, to be zany or on or say something funny. Do people expect that from you? And is that hard to deal with?

WIIG: Yeah, I'm not zany (laughter). They do. I mean, I don't know. Probably people listening to this right now are like, where are the voices? I just - and I think I disappoint people.

BALDONADO: No (laughter).

WIIG: But I - it's just - it's a part of who I am, part of what I do and what I like and when I'm in that zone. And, like, when I went back to "SNL," you know, a few weeks ago, you'd sort of just get into that place. But I think because socially, I'm not as extroverted as people would think that I am, I just think I'm a little quieter sometimes than people expect. But I've definitely seen that look of disappointment with people.

(LAUGHTER)

WIIG: Invite me to a dinner party, and I'm just sitting there.

BALDONADO: Well, Kristen Wiig, it's been great talking with you. Thank you so much.

WIIG: Thank you so much.

MOSLEY: Kristen Wiig spoke with FRESH AIR's Ann Marie Baldonado. Wiig's new TV show is called "Palm Royale." After a short break, critic Ken Tucker reviews new music from Sabrina Carpenter, Carsie Blanton and Jessica Pratt. This is FRESH AIR.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE ROLLING STONES' "NOW I'VE GOT A WITNESS")

Copyright © 2024 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.