Maya Rudolph Talks Mom Guilt and Not “Messing Up” Kamala Harris

The "hot vice president in charge" says her kids inspired her for her latest 'SNL' role. Plus, why she's back working with Adam Sandler for 'Hubie Halloween.'

by Donna Freydkin

It’s the stuff of trite motivational posters featuring kittens and rainbows but somehow, when Maya Rudolph says it, you sit up a little straighter and put on your listening ears. Because dammit, this is Donatella Versace, Beyonce, Oprah Winfrey, and Kamala Harris schooling you on making good life choices.

“Love what you do is, I think, the biggest thing,” says Rudolph, during an evening Zoom interview from her home in Los Angeles. “Find something you love and try to do that.”

Yeah, that pretty much sounds like the type of low-key common sense advice her “H.V.P.I.C” aka hot vice president in charge would dole out. Harris is peak Rudolph (or perhaps vice versa): She’s already won an Emmy as the winking, gently scolding “fun aunt” on Saturday Night Live, where she was a cast member until 2007. Not since Tina Fey’s Sarah Palin declared that she could see Russia from her house has casting been this spot-on: Rudolph returned to studio 8H, opposite Jim Carrey as Joe Biden, when the show premiered Oct. 3 in front of a live studio audience, its first since March.

“It feels like an honor that I really want to take good care of. Because this race is so important. And I don’t want to mess this up, and I want to see her win,” says Rudolph.

The mom of daughters Minnie Ida, 7, Lucille, 10, Pearl, 14, and son Jack, 9, with her longtime partner, filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson, talks to Fatherly about Mamala, motherhood, and why it’s always best to follow your bliss.

So Maya, the most pressing question first: how does it feel to be playing Kamala Harris during such a pivotal election cycle?

It’s so exciting. I mean, I’ve never been a part of the presidential race before — the vice presidential race, so to speak. And it’s incredibly exciting to be a part of this — it’s such an unbelievable honor. I love SNL, I love getting to be a part of it. I remember when it happened to Tina Fey for Sarah Palin, and we thought ‘God, this is perfect.’ And similar things started happening to me, where you start to hear people say ‘Oh, it’s too bad. You’re not on SNL, you should play Kamala Harris.’ And then it starts happening a lot. And you think maybe I really could portray this person.

I didn’t think that I resembled her much, even though it’s nice that we have a lot more in common than most people that have played people in the past. I haven’t been able to play people because of skin tone or whatever. And I feel like this one was just like handed to me. And it’s really exciting. It’s incredible.

As a mother of daughters, what does it mean to you in terms of representation?

It’s huge. I’m definitely a big proponent of making sure my daughters are aware — and my son— of the fact that I love what I do. And I make choices based on comfort, enjoyment, fulfillment, as opposed to doing things that make you unhappy. I’ve tried to force my children to play instruments for many years. One of my daughters just will not do it. It’s hard for me. I feel like I want to give you this gift.

Love what you do is the biggest thing I want to give my daughters, especially. They’re seeing me out there in the world. They’re seeing people react to me. And I’ve noticed, especially because of playing senator Harris lately, my daughters are really proud. And it’s pretty wild to see.

That’s pretty amazing.

My kids love TikTok, and just the other day my daughter came to me and said, ‘Mommy, somebody said, I’m really excited for Kamala Harris. Because if she wins, we get to see more Maya Rudolph.’ And she said, ‘Maya’ and ‘Rudolph.’ She didn’t say, Mommy. I’m aware of what they’re seeing. So I want it to be positive.

How do you balance being a woman, a mother, a performer, a singer? You’re in Adam Sandler’s Netflix comedy Hubie Halloween, you’re doing Kamala Harris, and you’ve got kids at home.

Parents of children in online and remote learning are all in the same boat. And we all understand each other. And we’re all looking at each other, like, ‘I got you.’ Some families have chosen to home school. We haven’t. They’ve stayed with their schools. I’m so grateful for their teachers and for the relationship that we have with them, and what they’re giving our kids right now, which is immeasurable.

I noticed pretty early on in motherhood, that I’m doing a lot of things. But I never feel like I’m doing anything completely. And that’s really frustrating. But it’s also common and normal.

And the working mom guilt!

Especially as a mother, I don’t think I’ve ever met a working mother, who doesn’t have that working mother guilt. It’s just inherent. And I think that’s just par for the course, unfortunately. But I find a lot of relief in talking to other working mothers. I have a good friend who said, ‘Make sure your children know that you love what you do. And when you leave, you’re not leaving them, but you’re leaving to do something that makes you happy, and that you love.’ I felt like if I’m away from my kids, it better be worth it. And it better make me feel good inside.

But look, I can’t remember what day it is. It allows you to sort of tear away the things that are not important because your kids are the most important thing and I think everything else starts to fall in place after that.

In other news, what’s next for Princess, your Prince cover band?

Well, as soon as people can be out in the world seeing live music we’ll play again. When this pandemic started, we thought we’d do a benefit show helping people register to vote and that didn’t happen. So whenever it’s safe to come out and play, we will be there. Princess will be there.