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Ego Nwodim Reflects on Viral ‘Saturday Night Live’ Character Lisa From Temecula

Back in February — before the writers’ strike — Saturday Night Live (SNL) had one of its best episodes in years when ultra hot Daddy Pedro Pascal hosted the show. We got some real gems, including the Mario Kart/Last of Us match up sketch. Another standout was the immediately viral Lisa from Temecula sketch starring Ego Nwodim. Turns out she had no idea the piece would be such a smash.

Nwodim did an interview with Gold Derby senior editor Marcus James Dixon and provided some fun insight into how the character came to be and the overall expectations for the hilarious sketch.

“I’m curious, what was your reaction when you saw all of the love pouring in for your quirky new character?” Dixon asked Nwodim.

“Marcus, I was not anticipating that. That’s the best. Surprises can be good sometimes, and so that was a surprise that was I think really, really good where I got to have so much fun playing the character.”

What about the virality? Did she have a sense that Lisa would cut through all the social media noise we get on a daily basis? Apparently no one did.

“I’ve never gone in into a sketch or a week or anything being like, ‘And this is going to go viral.’ I mean. Maybe somebody does, but I feel like that’d be sick and twisted and also lead to a lot of heartbreak and disappointment, because you can’t predict what’s going to go viral.”

When she first heard the sketch at table read, Nwodim said “we see so much funny stuff” there, so there’s no way to really tell what’s going to land. One of the pure joys of the sketch is watching everyone trying to keep it together while she’s sawing away at the meat. Nwodim said it was like that at the read.

“I could not do it without laughing, which is so not me, but I think the whole last page and a half, I was just barely getting words out at table read.”

What really surprised her, she said, was the response from the gen pop.

“It’s so special to be like, ‘Oh, this thing I love so much people have enjoyed watching.’ And I get people yelling, ‘Cook my meat,’ at me on the street, which would normally make me go, ‘Excuse me.’ But it’s Lisa.”

As is SNL tradition, a popular character is inevitably going to make a return on the show. Nwodim said the craziest part is it all kind of happened by happenstance. She didn’t even write the character.

“… the sketch was not written with like, ‘Oh, this is going to be a character of mine.’ I didn’t write it, but Alex English, it was born of his cousin ordered a steak well done at dinner, a family dinner, when he was home and he was like, ‘Okay, I’m making a sketch because she’s shaking the table and doesn’t know … cut through her hard steak.’”

The big line from the return sketch was “Toss my salad, Lisa.” Nwodim said that was born from the writers having an understanding that they were “probably not going to top the first one,” so they just said let’s “try to have as much fun and have this be as Lisa as Lisa can be.”

Something tells me we’ll be seeing Lisa from Temecula again.

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