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SNL’s Cecily Strong Learned She Got the Job From Reading the N.Y. Times

New Weekend Update co-anchor discusses preparing for her first segment

Specs
Who Cecily Strong
Age 29
New gig SNL repertory player and Weekend Update co-anchor
Old gig Featured player on Saturday Night Live

What was the process like for getting the Weekend Update spot?
We try to keep it from being too much of a competitive atmosphere. I had a meeting with Lorne [Michaels] for drinks in June, and he told me that he wanted me to [anchor Weekend Update]. It was wonderful, but I didn’t think much of it at first because a lot of things around here … I’m like, “I’ll believe it when I see it.” But then The New York Times article came out, and I thought, “Well, I guess it’s official.”

How did you feel when you realized it was really happening?
I was overwhelmed, honored, excited, terrified. You have the nasty voice in your head that’s like “You’re not good enough to sit in that chair!” and then there’s the other voice that’s telling you how exciting it is to be part of something that means so much to you. It’s how I felt getting cast in SNL as a featured player. I keep thinking, “What are they going to do to make me sob next year?”

How did you prepare for your first Update segment?
The group that runs Update is so wonderful and funny. I had all these pros around me that were saying, “If you cry, it’s OK!” But honestly, I’ve never done anything like this. I just had to do it and see how it felt.

What’s the best advice you’ve gotten from Seth Meyers?
Actually, I think the nicest thing was when I was talking to Seth over the summer, since he’s going to Late Night, and I was just like, “I’m terrified.” And he said, “Me too!” I’m glad we get to share that.

Are there any past anchors that you’ve been especially influenced by?
I watched a lot of clips [of old Weekend Update segments], especially the ones with the women—Tina, Amy and Jane were obviously big for me. But the point that the team keeps stressing is that it has to be me. It doesn’t work as well when you’re trying to do somebody else’s thing.

Because there have been so few female Update anchors, do you find that you’re constantly being compared to them?
It’s hard to say because I don’t want to read a lot of what people say. It’s usually mean and nasty or about what I look like anyway. But I’ve gotten a lot of good feedback from people around here—people I respect. I know there’s still a ways to go, but so far, I feel like we’re on the right path.

In a lot of the old Update sketches, the anchors had sign-off phrases. What will yours be?
Right now, Seth and I are just playing around with things that make us laugh. We did a little blowing kisses sign-off the other week. It’s fun to get Seth Meyers to loosen up—he’s so good at being that buttoned-up anchor.

When you first got the Update spot, you said you weren’t planning to cut back on your sketch work. How do you balance both?
It’s a lot, but it’s really important to me to stay involved in the rest of the show. I grew up in theater, so I’ve got a love for character work and sketch acting. For example, I was very political growing up, so The Girl at the Party is a way of making fun of that side of me.

Speaking of, what’s happening to The Girl You Wish You Hadn’t Started a Conversation With at a Party?
Right now, it would be impossible to have her on Update, but who knows. It would be cool if she popped into Seth’s show. I’d love to do her again.

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