A grilled-cheese sandwich over and over again

It takes only seven minutes to turn Alec Baldwin into Donald Trump.

A dusting of Clinique Stay-Matte powder in honey. A hand-stitched wig. Eyebrows glued up into tiny peaks. The rest is left to Alec Baldwin: the puckered lips, a studied lumbering gait and a wariness of humanizing a man he reviles.

The transformation of Mr. Baldwin, an outspoken liberal, into the president-elect, Donald J. Trump, for his running parody on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live,” entails a tangerine hairpiece and a tricky tightrope walk. It means balancing a veteran actor’s determination to subsume his identity into a character, even as, in his offstage life, he is firm in his belief that the man about to take office is a dangerous figure.

The key to a convincing Mr. Trump, the actor said, are “puffs” — his word for the pregnant pauses in the president-elect’s speech. “I see a guy who seems to pause and dig for the more precise and better language he wants to use, and never finds it.”

Haaaaaaaa exactly. He never finds it because he never had it. He knows how to “make deals” but not how to think or be eloquent.

“It’s the same dish — it’s a grilled-cheese sandwich rhetorically over and over again.”

See Trump couldn’t make that joke or that metaphor, because he doesn’t have that kind of intelligence. There are other kinds of intelligence, certainly, but he doesn’t have those either. He has cunning, but that’s all.

His Trump is as much censure as impersonation. He does not write the sketches. He is paid $1,400 for each appearance on the show, he said.

“I’m not interested much by what’s inside him,” he said, but in how he moves and takes up space. Mr. Baldwin then amplifies the gestures, and distills them. An emphatic wave becomes a goofy “wax-on, wax-off” movement, he said, the simple hand motion reducing a candidate to an essence: pitchman.

There isn’t anything inside him. I’ve seldom seen anyone so empty in my life.

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