Laura Benanti, with her uncanny resemblance and musical-theater-trained ear, was definitely the right person to do a Melania Trump impression, and the night after the potential future First Lady plagiarized part of her speech at the RNC from the current First Lady was the right time for a Melania send-up. There was just one problem: Benanti wasn’t in the right place to make it happen. On Monday, she had driven with her family to Delaware for vacation. Lucky for the American public, however, when The Late Show called Tuesday morning and asked if she wanted to do the impression on the show that night, Benanti knew it was too perfect an opportunity to pass up and hopped on the soonest train. The rest, as you’ve surely seen on the internet today, is history. Vulture spoke with Benanti, who is back on vacation, about how it came to be, how she nailed Melania’s accent, and whether she’d reprise the role on Saturday Night Live if asked.
What were you thinking when you first saw her speech?
My immediate reaction was I hope I get to do something with it!
And then how did you find yourself on the Late Show doing it?
In March, I had been a guest on the show to promote She Loves Me, a musical I was starring in on Broadway, and Stephen pointed out my similarities to Melania. He put a picture up of her and then I did her squinty pout. Then we had joked, “Wouldn’t it be funny if I came back as Melania!” But that was that.
Monday morning, I had driven with my family down to Delaware, for my grandma’s 92nd birthday, and then Tuesday morning I got a call from Vinnie Favale who is a producer on the show and one of my biggest supporters asking if I would come do a sketch for Melania, so I traveled hours back.
Had you worked on the voice before then?
Oh, no. Monday night was the first night I really heard her talk. It’s not like she’s done a whole lot of talking. So on the train back to New York, I studied her voice and studied her movements, much to the confusion of the man sitting next to me on the train.