Tracey Ullman has made a successful career being just about anyone but herself. The Emmy-winning actress has spent more than three decades on TV slipping into the skins of everyone from Dame Judi Dench to German chancellor Angela Merkel. And now in the third season of her HBO series, Tracey Ullman’s Show, she’s being more topical than ever, grappling with the political dystopia sweeping the world à la Brexit and Donald Trump. Ullman calls this season her “mini Saturday Night Live.”
“This season is more immediate,” Ullman says in the latest episode of Fast Company‘s podcast Creative Conversation. “Telling long, winding stories didn’t seem to be right this year. It’s just all about the news, and people are obsessed with politics right now.”
And why be so topical now?
“I’ve earned it. I’m older,” Ullman says. “I can talk about politics and reflect and look back on things that have happened, and how it’s cyclical.”
In addition to her incomparable Dench and Merkel, Ullman adds British Prime Minister Theresa May and French First Lady Brigitte Macron to her stable of characters. There are more obvious ways into certain sketches (May having an abysmal video conference with Trump, or ribbing the age difference between the Macrons), but Ullman says her biggest challenge is finding her place in the sketches her team comes up with where there’s no clear entry point.
In this episode, Ullman explains how she tackles hard-to-crack sketches, and how her approach to comedy has evolved.