The inspired casting of Alec Baldwin as Donald Trump breathed new life into "Saturday Night Live" this season, and contributed to a ratings boost. Now that the real Trump is headed to the White House, will Baldwin become a full-time cast member or will the show recast?
Baldwin has proven himself an "SNL" staple, having appeared on the show more than some cast members — around 30 times, including a record 16 times as host — before his current run as Trump. Ben & Jerry's even named an ice cream flavor "Schweddy Balls" in honor of one of his most popular sketches.
But playing Trump was never meant to be a permanent gig. Baldwin has said that "SNL" creator Lorne Michaels had to convince him to take on the role of Trump at the suggestion of his former "30 Rock" co-star Tina Fey.
"When I was approached by Lorne, who is a friend of mine, to do it, my first impulse was 'no,'" Baldwin said on “Here’s the Thing,” the WNYC radio show he hosts. "In order to do that effectively, you need to have some appreciation of the person ... some kernel of appreciation, for which Trump I have none.”
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Baldwin’s guest on his radio show, R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe, challenged Baldwin, saying entertainment culture helped Trump's rise.
"I blame media completely for it. Including 'Saturday Night Live,' sorry to say it," Stipe told Baldwin.
Baldwin did not say whether he agreed with Stipe's criticism, but "SNL" has at times been accused of increasing the popularity of certain politicians based on how they are portrayed on the show.
Cast member Will Ferrell has said he believed his own portrayal of George W. Bush helped humanize the politician and possibly influenced voters to elect Bush in 2000 and again in 2004.
Ferrell played Bush with almost childlike innocence and a penchant for making up fun new words like "strategery," which was actually embraced by members of the Bush White House who reportedly created a "Strategery Group."
The impression was so popular it was turned into a Tony-nominated play and live HBO special called "You're Welcome America. A Final Night with George W Bush," which aired in March 2009, months after Bush had left the White House.
But Baldwin’s portrayal of Trump is far from friendly and Baldwin himself has been vocal in his opposition to a Trump presidency. Many of the show’s cast and writing staff also publicly supported Hillary Clinton at fundraisers and on social media.
As for Trump, he railed against Baldwin’s portrayal of him and even called for the show’s cancellation.
"Watched Saturday Night Live hit job on me. Time to retire the boring and unfunny show. Alec Baldwin portrayal stinks. Media rigging election!" Trump tweeted last month.
On the final live show before the election, Baldwin and Kate McKinnon broke character as Trump and Clinton mid-sketch to reflect on how "gross" the presidential race had gotten, opting to take a cathartic run together through Times Square to hug strangers instead. The sketch felt an awful lot like a send off to Baldwin and McKinnon’s dynamic duo.
At the time, the sketch also seemed most likely a goodbye to Baldwin’s regular appearances as the GOP candidate, something Baldwin said he would welcome.
"I hope it's over," he said on "The Brian Lehrer Show" radio program before the election. "If he wins, I would imagine there might be some opportunity for (returning), but I want my weekends back so I can go be with my kids."
Then, Trump’s stunning victory caught many people off guard, including Baldwin.
"The billionaire Republican businessman is close to winning the race and world markets are crashing. He's all yours, America. He's all yours," Baldwin tweeted as election results came in on Tuesday.
There's no telling if Baldwin will remain the show's go-to Trump, but — given his track record with the show — we likely haven't seen the last of him. And if Baldwin's tweets are any indication, viewers may be in for an even more biting Trump if the actor does return to the role.
"Trump must be watched, monitored, critiqued, held accountable, challenged every step of the way. He's earned that," Baldwin tweeted on Friday.
Reps for "SNL" did not respond to a request for comment. The show will air a new episode Saturday with Dave Chappelle making his much-anticipated hosting debut alongside musical guest A Tribe Called Quest.