Do people expect you to be big and boisterous in real life because they’ve seen you play those kinds of characters before?
Oh yeah, all the time. When people know you are an actor, period, they think you’re going to tell this amazing story of what happened to you on the way to dinner and it’s going to be captivating. Add the fact that I’m known for doing mostly comedy and it’s like, “OK, where are the voices?” I’m not going to do characters right now. It’s assumed that acting is an extroverted thing. But it’s not, necessarily.
So where do you find those qualities in yourself when you’re playing those kinds of roles?
It depends on the character, but once I’m doing it — especially on “S.N.L.,” because it’s live and you have millions of people watching — you just get in a zone. And then afterward you snap out of it. It’s funny because even though Barbara in the beginning is nervous and unsure of herself, I found it harder to play that than who she becomes later.
Why was that harder?
Because I was resistant, at the beginning, to add humor to her. I didn’t want her to seem too much like things I had done before, or to seem like I wasn’t able to do this part without adding something that wasn’t Kristen. But Patty and I had this one talk that completely shifted my brain, where she was like, if you allow yourself to just let that humor come out, it’s going to feel authentic and it’s not going to feel as strange as you think it does. And it completely changed my experience. When Cheetah is evil, it’s like, OK, now I’m this person. Maybe because there is more of me in Barbara, I actually had a more challenging time with that part of the shooting.
Was there physical training for this role?
[Exhales audibly] Yesss. Almost two months before we started shooting, I got a trainer — the movie wanted me to, just to get started. When you watch the movie, we learned and did all of those fight sequences, in addition to our stunt people. There’s definitely some C.G.I. elements later on, but for the most part it’s wire work. That’s all real people. I was basically sore for like nine months. And it’s very easy to complain and say, oh my God, I can’t even walk up the stairs. But to be honest, being stronger was so helpful, to get into who this character was. It just made me feel really good.
[The next few questions contain mild spoilers for “Wonder Woman 1984.”]
There’s a scene where Barbara, just starting to come into her powers, enters a party and is delighted to find she’s the center of everyone’s attention. Was that as enjoyable for you to make as it is for her to experience, or do you feel the glare of the spotlight even more?