How one WU alum made it to Saturday Night Live
This is the fourth installment in a new Cadenza series, Under the Spotlight, that will highlight the musicians, artists and other creators of the Washington University community. If you have suggestions for people we should interview in the future, fill out this form.
Annie Butler graduated from Washington University with a degree in Art History in the spring of 2019. While at Wash. U., she was an integral part of the performing arts culture on campus and since graduating, she has continued to foster that love of performance by working in acting professionally. Butler now lives in New York working as a tutor and an actress, as well as working on her own projects. For her most recent acting credit, she was an extra on Saturday Night Live (SNL). Student Life talked with Butler about life as an actress and her moments of late night comedy stardom.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Student Life: Can you tell me how you got your start with acting and performance?
Annie Butler: I guess since I was little I’ve always wanted to perform. I guess I was a dancer first, in the way that all kids are—or all little girls are made to do dance, and I really liked it. And then I just saw some shows at our local theatre and just fell in love and from then just started taking classes and doing shows. I never really questioned that that was what I wanted to do. I’ve always flirted with other ideas, like maybe I wanted to write or do something else in the industry but it’s always come back to acting.
SL: You said you’ve always wanted to do acting. Has there ever been a point in time where you looked at acting and said “I don’t want to do this” and you’ve come back to it?
AB: Yea, I think it’s a very weird profession. It’s—you’re told that if you can see yourself doing anything else, do it, because it’s so hard and the success rate is so low. When I first got to college, to Wash. U. and I was figuring out what I wanted to study, I was thinking about fashion or writing—you know I wrote for StudLife for a very brief period of time…I was thinking through all these other ideas because I knew it would so hard to be an actor. And I was like ‘Maybe if I find something else that I’m passionate in, I should do that,’ but sophomore year I was an extra in a couple movies in Atlanta, where I’m from. Being there in my first professional acting experience, I realized that now that I’ve gotten a little taste, there’s no way I can not try it or go on without giving it a shot.
SL: Tell me about these movies you were an extra in.
AB: So a lot of filming is done in Atlanta now…and that’s where I’m from. I was there for the summer and I started reaching out to different casting agents and agencies and I was in the background of “Blockers”…I was way, deep in the background. There’s a prom scene and I was wearing heels for like 13 hours. It was very fun, but you can’t really see me in the movie. I was also in “A Bad Mom’s Christmas,” which is the second “Bad Moms” movie and you could definitely see me in that one. It was a really cool experience—I was hired as a carol singer, so we sort of sang a little bit with Christine Buranski and walked around in the fake snow when it was 95 degrees outside in Atlanta. [Butler laughs] And yea, just lots of really long days and I could not have been happier. It was very cool to see that in action. [“Bad Moms” and “Blockers”] were the sort of last background things I did before SNL most recently, but they were definitely foundational experiences for me.
SL: Let’s talk about SNL and what that was like, because you sat next to [Schitt’s Creek star] Dan Levy…
AB: Yea, it was so cool. It came about because one of my closest friends works there, and she knew the right person to get into contact with and being on SNL has always been a dream of mine, whether as a cast member, as a host—comedy’s really my thing—it just sort of happened. They asked me once over the holidays and I was home in Georgia, so I was devastated that I had to say no and then luckily enough they asked me again, and it’s a very last minute sort of thing. You go in on Friday and sort of spend the whole day there and you rehearse a couple times…It was very cool to see it in action and how quickly everything comes together.
SL: You mentioned a love of comedy. Can you tell me where that started?
AB: Sure! I never really knew I was—and this going to sound weird—I never really thought of myself as funny until coming to Wash. U. I immediately sort of fell into Kids on Campus, the sketch comedy group. I heard about it through a friend because we had an acting class together; she told me to try it and I was just there as an actor…and then I realized how much I loved writing comedy and being in things that were funny. Most of my work up until then had been musical theatre, which is half comedy and half drama sometimes, but this was totally new, this comedy experience. After loving Kids on Campus, I realized I should try improv ,which is something that I’d always been terrified of doing….I actually tried out for [Suspicious of Whispers] my junior year, which is pretty unusual. Normally improv groups take people freshmen and sophomore year, and I got in and it was a whole different chapter of college for me.
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