Maya Rudolph holds court in EW's exclusive cover portraits
She's All That
Strike a Pose
Rudolph (photographed for EW on Jan. 15 in Los Angeles by Ramona Rosales) tells the magazine that she didn't know for sure that she would be asked to return to Saturday Night Live to play then-Senator and POTUS candidate Kamala Harris. But, she admits, "I smelled it coming. I remember when Tina [Fey] smelled it coming for Sarah Palin. "
My Little Pony
Rudolph, seen here with a miniature horse named Mini G, lives in her native Los Angeles with her husband, director Paul Thomas Anderson (Boogie Nights, There Will Be Blood), and their four children.
The Big Pink
Last fall, after more than two decades in the business, Rudolph, 48, picked up two Emmy Awards — one for playing Harris on SNL, and the other for her voice role as the Hormone Monstress on Netflix's animated series Big Mouth.
Al-pac-a Your Bags
While she's booked to appear indefinitely as Harris, Rudolph (seen here with her EW photo shoot costar Chester the llama) will also stay busy this year with additional voice roles including Fox's Bless the Harts and the feature-length The Mitchells vs. the Machines, due later this year on Netflix.
Growing up, says Rudolph — her mother was the famed '70s pop-soul singer Minnie Riperton, her father songwriter Richard Rudolph — "My brother was the one that was funny, and I just wanted to make him laugh. We were obsessed with The Gong Show and a show called Make Me Laugh, where you had 60 seconds to make a person in a chair laugh, and Mel Brooks movies. Just really stupid stuff."
If there's a bustle in your hedgerow
In high school, Rudolph admits, "I had horrible SAT scores. I just wanted to do improv and theater, and I knew that." Still, in order not to be "a boring old person who never left home and hasn't seen the world," she chose to go off to UC Santa Cruz for college. "And we all laugh about it now. We're like, 'And now I have a degree in photography!'"
Lean on Me
In the beginning, she took any acting job she could find, including playing a nurse at least three times (on the Steven Bochco show City of Angels and in the 1997 movie Gattaca). "Yeah," she laughs, "I think that's code for like, 'new ingenue.' Or maybe 'not white.'"
Shoots and Ladders
Soon, though, she was off to New York — after a fateful audition for legendary SNL executive producer Lorne Michaels: "I blew it, I think. He always has popcorn on his table, and I took a handful of popcorn — which is like the worst thing you can do in an interview, because your throat's dry. And the only thing I really remember was him asking me, 'Why do you think you should work here?; And I said, 'Because I love wearing wigs.'"
Today she takes appearing on SNL as its own kind of circa-2021 challenge. "I really see that hurdle for doing a sketch comedy show on television right now being a lot higher. Because by the time you're telling a story or doing an impersonation of someone, it's already been done on Twitter many times and really well. So it's tough to find the thing. With Kamala, she's got some infectious joy, this charisma, but she's just so damn gorgeous. I loved being able to kind of hook onto that and like kind of play this confidence in that. That's a fun game."
Maya Rudolph on EW's cover
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