Backstage at Saturday Night Live, Will Forte is washing some makeup off his face in his dressing room. He apologizes profusely as fellow cast member Seth Meyers extends his comparatively dry hand to say hello, giving Forte a moment to finish cleaning up. You'd never see that kind of teamwork between the respective candidates they've so deftly portrayed during this political season. (That's Forte as President Bush and Meyers as Senator Kerry). With Election Day nearly upon us — and Forte's face now clean — the duo tell TV Guide Online about the nifty impressions you'll get to enjoy all over again on Saturday Night Live's Presidential Bash 2004: The Great Debates. The NBC special, which skewers everyone from Gerald Ford to the present-day nominees, airs tonight at 10 pm/ET.
TV Guide Online: What personality traits have became shorthand for impersonating Bush and Kerry?
I found a couple things about Kerry: One, there's a real tonality to the way he speaks. There's a rhythm to it. No matter what he's talking about, he just says it the same way. I like to say it's like a beautiful song that is very hard to dance to. And then he uses his hands a lot, like somebody told him he should be more animated and he just started using his hands, and sometimes they don't exactly have much to do with what he's saying, but he's constantly in motion.
Will Forte: I would say the main thing I go to is [Bush's], uh... kind of halting style of speech... the searching for words... like what I'm doing right now. My Bush voice isn't always there, if it's ever there. [Laughs] He has a hoarseness to his voice, that I just, for some reason, am not able to fully pick up, so I try to concentrate more on the pacing and delivery.
TVGO: Seth, we interviewed John Kerry for the magazine recently. Have you read that, by any chance?
I did. Well, I read about me. That's all I tend to do with articles. [Both laugh]
TVGO: Were the 500 other words too daunting?
When did TV Guide turn into The Economist?
TVGO: Anyway, Kerry said, "Saturday Night Live is my favorite... Seth's very good. I laughed." What's your reaction? Relieved? Disappointed?
Just happy. I met him once. He was really complimentary. He's [often] said that SNL is his favorite show. I think if he means that, [he knows] sometimes we're going to be flattering, sometimes unflattering, but mainly we gotta find something to make fun of. You know, I invite the Kerry people to tell me what we should be poking fun at, because we do have to do jokes about both people.
TVGO: So you would encourage them to send you ideas?
TVGO: How did you end up landing your respective roles?
When Al Gore hosted in 2002, we did a Bachelor spoof about him choosing his running mate for his campaign. So I played Kerry then — a very small part, but you get something like that because you look like the candidate, and by "look like," I mean when you take the field of [the cast]. It's not like we're dead ringers or anything. And then once you play somebody, you sort of get ownership of that.
Forte: They hadn't done a Bush one in a long time by the time I got to do it the first time. I played a young George Bush — George Bush in the '60s with John Kerry and Bill Clinton. So Darrell Hammond was playing Bill Clinton in that sketch and they needed someone to play the young Bush, and I did that. And I guess it was kind of an audition in a way and it went all right, so toward the end of last year, I did a couple of them.
TVGO: The Bush impression started with Will Ferrell. After he left, Chris Parnell and Darrell Hammond both gave it a shot. Will, was this transition slightly awkward, since two of your costars had also played Dubya?
They've been so supportive. They've been fantastic about it. In fact, Darrell gives me tips all the time and he's the master. We both feel the same way about him. He's just amazing to work with, to watch.
TVGO: You guys have been spending a lot of time together lately. Sick of each other yet?
Not at all. I feel incredibly lucky to have gone through this with Will because it's pretty unique for both of us. We're not really "known" impressionists. To get such a [big] responsibility and have a friend with you has been very nice.
Forte: Yes. We were movie-watching friends before, and we've taken our friendship to the next level. We actually went through this crazy streak where I think we might've seen seven movies in six days.
Meyers: And then Will gave me a Valentine's Day card with all the ticket stubs in it.
TVGO: [Laughs] That's funny...
It's not a joke. [Laughs]
Meyers: It was a joke, but he actually did do it.