“It is not the freshest I have ever felt, I will tell you that,” admitted Kate McKinnon during an early morning phone interview with Refinery29 this week. “But such is life promoting a big summer movie.”
A packed promotion schedule isn’t the only thing she and interview buddy (and Saturday Night Live cast mate) Leslie Jones have had to get used to since joining the Paul Feig-helmed reboot of the Oscar-nominated 1984 comedy starring Bill Murray, Sigourney Weaver, and Dan Aykroyd (all of whom have cameos in the new version). There was the avalanche of backlash — first by “remakes are blasphemy” purists and then by folks who claimed it was racist that Jones, the only African-American lead, was the only non-scientist character. Then there are all the sexist internet trolls who've been hating on the new vision of a female-tastic foursome fighting phantoms since immediately after the film was announced.
Although Jones allowed that the early response was “ridiculous and sad,” the two are trying not to let the hater hullabaloo affect their slime time in the sun. Instead, they preferred to spend our call discussing their recollections of the original, who would make the best phantom-fighter IRL, and whether they believe in ghosts.
When did you first see the 1984 original, and what did you think? Kate, I believe you were actually born the year it was released.
Kate McKinnon: "I think my mother may have seen it, so in that way, I saw it in 1984. But I was just a collection of cells at that point. I saw it later when I was a kid. It was definitely a staple of my household, and I love it a lot. Then I watched it for the first time in forever when I was on the plane to meet with Paul Feig about maybe being in the movie. And I thought, Oh my god, I've got to do it!"
Leslie Jones: "The first time I saw it was when I was in high school. Yeah, it's funny. Bill Murray is funny. It was a good movie."
It was an extremely popular film and remains beloved today. The last 10 years have seen many failed, unsuccessful, and uninspired remakes. Did you ever hesitate about joining the cast?
KM: "There was definitely no question for me. I wanted a chance to play a character that was a smart scientist and who wasn't wearing high heels or something like that. That's sort of rare still. Scripts that are written for women, it’s not unheard of, but it's definitely rare. But those are the kind of opportunities that Paul Feig is known for giving to his female colleagues. So there was no question that I wanted to play someone in this universe because it wasn't an opportunity before he came along."
LJ: "Maybe I had some doubts in the beginning, but after I saw who was cast and who was directing, I didn't have any."
Then the backlash, from what I would call small-minded online trolls disguised as purists and fans, started. Has that affected your excitement level or dampened the mood at all?
KM: "I didn't read all of it because I don't own a computer, but some of it trickled in, of course. It's disappointing. It was surprising to me that people think that in this decade or century. There are legitimate concerns whenever something is being redone, but some of it was just pure, misogynistic vitriol. And I thought that that was surprising, disappointing, but it didn't come into play at all really while we were filming. We just were trying to have a great time and we did. I hope they see it and I hope they end up liking it."
LJ: "At least see the movie before you start something."
I wanted a chance to play a character that was a smart scientist and who wasn't wearing high heels or something like that.
KM: "I don't think we're still at that point. I think that a lot of has changed as a result of Bridesmaids in particular. There's been a general movement toward progress. And I think that even though [that group and that misogyny] still exists, it has been steadily progressing."
Does being on a set with so much fierce feminine energy change how you work or maybe even the conversations going on between takes? It's unusual to have so many women leading a comedy.
KM: "Actually, a lot of the stuff I've worked on miraculously has a pretty good ratio of men to women. I mean, I've heard stories about other types of work environments, but I've never been exposed to them. But this was certainly a great, encouraging, healthy space to work in. Paul Feig is not only a handsome devil, but a very tender, sincere man who treats each person on the set, no matter what their job is or what their gender, with the same level of respect and amiability. He's just one of my favorite people. He created an environment that was just a complete joy to work in. He's here by the way. He had a gun to my head as I was saying that."
[Feig interrupts: “Here's your money.”]
"I thought of Kristen and Melissa as these Goddesses who exist in the stars. And then, I got to know them as people, and...we're sisters for life."
KM: "Yeah, definitely. Leslie and I have worked together for two years at SNL. We were very close by the time we got there to film and got so much closer, pathologically closer over the course of the summer in fact. I thought of Kristen and Melissa as these goddesses who exist in the stars. And then, I got to know them as people, and we all formed a really cohesive group. We're sisters for life and that's just real."
What was your favorite day on set? Favorite moment or scene to film? Why?
KM: "It's too hard because there were so many. It was three months of filming and every day was a new challenge and a new delight. So it's hard to pick one. I guess, for me, there was a scene where we were in an alley testing out all these new gadgets. I love gadgets. It's just fun to be at the helm of that."
You were very Q from James Bond in that scene.
KM: "I will certainly take that compliment."
LJ: "For me, it was the fight scene between me and Melissa."
KM: "There was real stuff in there. [Adds a dramatic pause for effect] I'm kidding. I'm kidding. We all loved each other. It was choreographed. Every part of it was choreographed, but Leslie sure kicked Melissa’s ass."
Have you ever had a paranormal encounter? Do you believe in ghosts?
LJ: "Yeah, yeah. I’ve had a couple experiences, but I think they were good ghosts. I don't think there are bad ghosts. The bad ones don’t get to stay."
KM: "Well, I had one experience that I consider to be paranormal. But over the course of this press tour, I told my colleagues about it and they informed that me that it was lame and not even worth telling. So I won't even tell it. But I don't know what happened."
Did it make you a believer?
KM: "No. It was something…well, there might have been rats in my elementary school. That's all I'll say."
Who would actually make the best Ghostbuster IRL? Why?
KM: "Definitely me, I have to say. I like to wear gear. So I think whatever gear I could find, I would turn it into a ghost-trapping machine."
LJ: "Yeah, agreed. It would be Kate. She’d love that job."
This summer, we're celebrating the biggest movie season of the year with a new series called Blockbust-HER. We'll be looking at everything film-related from the female perspective, interviewing major players in the industry and discussing where Hollywood is doing right by women and where (all too often) it is failing them. And now...let's go to the movies!