Laura Benanti came close to breaking the internet July 19 with her dead-on impression of potential First Lady Melania Trump and her partially plagiarized speech to the Republican National Convention the previous night.
Benanti, who just completed a Tony-nominated Broadway run in She Loves Me, unveiled the impression on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, coiffed and dressed like the wife of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. A clip of the performance has drawn more than 3.5 million views on Facebook.
Benanti told W magazine that she was visiting her mother in Delaware Tuesday morning when she got a call from Colbert's staff, asking her to return to New York to tape the parody speech.
She told the magazine, “So my mom and sister drove me to a train in Wilmington. I took a train, got back to the city, we rehearsed the sketch. I got turned into Melania by my brilliant hair and make-up team, the wardrobe team at Colbert, and we did it. So I was essentially watching her video and learning her accent and mannerisms on the train. This guy next to me probably thought I was an insane person. So at 9 AM I learned I was going to do it and by 11 PM I was doing it. There wasn’t a lot of time for deep Meisner work on it.”
First, she had to work on Mrs. Trump's look. “I had her face down, her sort of squinty pout. I had worked on that. But I hadn’t worked on her dialect because we hadn’t heard her speak very much. This was her debut, sadly.”
Then there was the accent: “Honestly, trying to honor the dialect in a way that didn’t feel like I was mocking a person when English is not their first language. That was really my biggest concern. And it’s not an easy dialect. Slovenia actually has many, many different dialects depending on where you’re from.”
As for the physical movements, including the over-the-shoulder pout at the camera: “She [Mrs. Trump] certainly doesn’t do things like that. That’s where I took liberties. I didn’t want to take liberties with her dialect, because that seemed rude. But I thought as a former model and someone in the fashion industry that is a place where I could really be over the top, with her physical body language.“
Here is the result:
Benanti said she hopes she gets to do the impression again: “I would also love to go back on Colbert as the character. I think it’s really fun. And it doesn’t feel mean-spirited to me. It’s just funny. And I like making people to laugh.”
Read the full W interview here.