There’s only one woman who can convincingly play a musical Angela Merkel, a humorous Theresa May, a naughty Camilla Parker-Bowles, a dancing Maggie Smith and a criminally-inclined Judi Dench.
Tracey Ullman has been creating memorable characters and impersonating anyone and everyone for decades. She’s been in the business of sketch comedy for 30 years and has seven primetime Emmys to prove that she’s good at it.
“I started out as a theater actress, and I’ve always wanted to be a character actress. I mean, just mentioning Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, and Jessica Tandy, those are my heroes. I want to be working till I’m 90,” said Ullman at a recent press event.
In her latest series, titled Tracey Ullman’s Show, the veteran comic takes a look at modern life with a comedic twist. In the new season, she uses her signature brand of sharp satire to shape-shift into a range of public figures and offbeat original characters. In addition to Merkel, Dench and Smith, Ullman will introduce her takes on new Murdoch family member Jerry Hall and pop singer Adele.
“I’m sort of doing my own version of Saturday Night Live,” Ullman says of her work.She insists that it’s a great time to be able to filter world politics through comedic bend.
“I’m having a wonderful time doing Angela Merkel and Theresa May. I want to do Brigitte Macron too. I’ve got a great voice for my female contemporaries, so there’s a lot going on right now for me,” said Ullman.
While Ullman has been putting the British spin on her comedy for years, she actually holds dual British and American citizenship, and has lived in the U.S. for three decades. “I’ve really learned about American culture in a unique way,” she ruminated.
Ullman decided to become an American citizen in 2008, she explained, “Pretty much so I could vote for Obama. I took the oath at the Staples Center [in downtown Los Angeles]. It was a very patriotic and moving ceremony, actually.”
Now with a new regime in office, Ullman reflected on her role as political satirist at a time real-life politics are so volatile. “Yeah, the actual stuff is crazy. It’s really weird. It’s exciting because people want to talk about it, they want to see it. So, we’re just making it funny, as ridiculously funny as we can.”
To bring President Trump into the mix on her series, Ullman reached out to Anthony Atamaniuk, who plays Trump on Comedy Central’s The President Show.
“I saw him during the election and I just thought that he was the best Trump. I mean, Alec Baldwin is amazing, but I love Anthony’s take,” said Ullman.
“We wanted to have [German Chancellor] Angela Merkel and [British Prime Minister] Theresa May interacting with Trump and Anthony’s like always in character as Trump so it’s perfect. He’s been fantastic with what we’ve done so far. I’m going to have all sorts of people talking with him.” And she hints that the 45th president’s wife might make an appearance this season as well.
‘Tracey Ullman’s Show’ airs Fridays at 11 p.m e/p on HBO.
Anne Easton is a West Coast-based writer for Observer. She’s an Emmy-award winning writer and producer who has worked in news, sports and children’s television for FOX, ABC/Disney and the ReelzChannel. Follow her on Twitter at @anne_k_easton.
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