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Kate McKinnon on Her Audible Fantasy-Comedy Series ‘Heads Will Roll’

Audible and Lorne MichaelsBroadway Video announced in February a deal for the “Saturday Night Live” creator’s company to produce original series for the Amazon-owned audio platform. The first show to come out of the deal is “Heads Will Roll,” a fantasy-comedy created by and starring “Saturday Night Live” mainstay Kate McKinnon and her sister, stand-up comic Emily Lynne. The series debuts on Audible May 2.

Had you and Emily worked together on anything like this before?

We’ve been making videos and stuff together our whole lives. In terms of doing a project as adults, we definitely did a web series for Broadway Video, Lorne Michaels’ company, a few years ago called “Notary Publix,” about notaries. A hard-hitting drama. But this was definitely the first audio show that we have attempted. 

How did you come up with the idea for “Heads Will Roll”?

Broadway Video was partnering with Audible, which I thought was very exciting, because we both are huge, insane podcast fanatics. I find that I can no longer sit in silence or walk anywhere in silence, which is actually a problem. So we wanted to hop on board this new thing that’s happening. I always wanted to do something about a Maleficent-style evil queen, who’s having a little bit of a crisis of conscience or wondering if she really wants to be in charge or not. We both grew up obsessed with Disney, and obsessed with fairy tales, and obsessed with Shelley Duvall’s “Faerie Tale Theatre.” We love fairy tales, and we love fantasy. We just thought if we could combine that with the foibles of modern existence, then we could make something fun.

How was writing for audio different from writing for television?

Definitely some distinct advantages and some distinct disadvantages. We could do anything we wanted without worrying how much it was going to cost to produce or make it look like that. There’s a ton of stuff that would just be really crazy to try to make happen visually. But you can’t rely on anyone’s facial expression or any visual cue about what anything looks like. So you really have to find creative ways of letting people know what’s happening.

You’ve got a number of really famous people who’ve voiced parts for the show, like Meryl Streep and Tim Gunn and Peter Dinklage. How did
you get that cast?

Our producer, Austin Breslow at Broadway Video, I don’t know what he said but he said it and he’s very good. That was the most thrilling part. I mean obviously, Meryl Streep is my one and only, and that was just beyond crazy to have her walk in and do a part.

There haven’t been a lot of scripted comedy podcasts that have broken out. Do you feel this format lends itself toward what you’re trying to do with it?

I definitely think so. I mean, I definitely laugh when I’m listening back to “Heads Will Roll.” It’s very much a mix of comedy and genre fiction. It’s very much a fantasy with a journey and a story that is, we think, very compelling. Hopefully you’re laughing but you’re also wanting to know what’s happening next. I think that the combination of the two really lends itself to the medium. 

Things You Didn’t Know About Kate McKinnon

AGE: 35 BIRTHPLACE: Sea Cliff, N.J. FAVORITE PODCASTS: “Savage Lovecast,” “Casefile,” “This American Life”

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