LOS ANGELES | Carlie Craig had one night to come up with five impressions that she could use to wow the producers of “MADtv.”
“I didn’t really have any original characters, so I just decided to do five impressions,” the former Florida State University student says.
She settled on Ariana Grande, Emma Stone, Gwen Stefani, Britney Spears and Kristin Chenoweth, performers she admires – and imitated on a YouTube video.
“If I had a week to prepare, I would have been filled with anxiety and wouldn’t have been able to nail the audition,” Craig says. “But going into it so quickly, I had to be on my toes. I thrive under pressure, so it was perfect.”
Craig got the job – she’s one of the regulars in the rebooted series – and now has viewers marveling at her ability to channel those very talents.
Her Chenoweth, in fact, was so good it was included in one of the early episodes. The actress, Craig says, hasn’t said anything but she considers her a role model.
“I’m a huge Kristin Chenoweth fan,” she says. “I grew up doing theater. At 7, I was singing songs from ‘Charlie Brown’ and ‘Wicked’ because I loved her so much.”
In that video – which “went semi-viral” before the audition – Craig offers a sampling.
“It got me into the audition,” she says. “They knew I was capable of doing impressions and, since I didn’t have to rely on hair and makeup, it could just be me and my physicality. They laughed a lot, so I felt good about it.”
Now trying to give “MADtv” new life, she and the others have been working with the original cast members as guest stars. Nicole Sullivan came in to do a guest spot and, immediately, she was paired with Craig. The two played Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren.
“It was mind-blowing,” Craig says. “She was so warm, so welcoming and so happy for us. She and the others made us feel really comfortable.”
Craig, though, didn’t just luck into the CW show.
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She moved to Los Angeles three years ago and started behind the scenes in production. She worked with choreographer/actor/singer Todrick Hall, helping him with everything from booking to performing. “I was the girl behind his brand,” Craig says.
When she decided to make her own celebrity impressions video, she relied on much of the information she learned working with the former “American Idol” contestant and MTV regular.
“It definitely helped,” she says. “It led to the audition, which got me on the show.”
An internet profile, she insists, is extremely important for newcomers. “I wouldn’t say you can rely solely on that but it’s important to have a YouTube presence. It helps get people’s attention. Then you just have to back it up with your talent and your craft.”
When the first version of “MADtv” premiered in 1995, social media didn’t exist.
“Now, it’s a totally different landscape,” Craig says.
The show, as a result, has a different vibe and a much different playground.
Kristin Chenoweth as skit fodder? She was just making her Broadway debut when the first “MADtv” was in its infancy.
Now, she’s part of Carlie Craig’s repertoire.
“I hope she sees what I’ve done,” Craig says. “She’s such an amazing talent.
“If you see her, would you let her know I said that?”
Meanwhile, Craig has to hone her skills with another notable – Fox anchor Megyn Kelly. “I don’t watch Fox News,” she says, “so I’m watching a lot of videos. I’m always up for a new challenge.”