Alec Baldwin Looks Like a Sad Trump Clown on The Atlantic's Latest Cover

The Actor's Ambivalence Shows Through as Magazine Asks, 'Can Satire Save the Republic?'

Published On
Apr 26, 2017
Alec Baldwin Cover

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Ahead of Donald Trump's 100-day mark as POTUS, The Atlantic features a cover of his arguably more popular stand-in, Alec Baldwin.

Baldwin as Trump on SNL has provided much welcome comic relief for those who feel as if the country's been in a tailspin since the billionaire took office. But this image, shot by photographer Andrew Hetherington to tease Chris Jones' story, "Alec Baldwin Gets Under Trump's Skin," depicts a side of him we don't see on Saturday nights. While the props scream comedy -- he sits in his chair getting his fake-bake on holding a dummy wearing his faux mango mane -- his face is stern, tinged with a hint of uncertainty.

"Our aim with this cover was to capture Baldwin's ambivalence about playing a character he loathes, and to show the toll that it's taking on him," The Atlantic Senior Editor Denise Wills, who edited the cover story, told Creativity over email. "We'd floated a number of concepts with Baldwin, but this was the one that really resonated with him -- to show him almost as the sad clown getting ready for a performance, with an expression that says 'what have I done?' And it goes perfectly with the story, in which he says this is a role he never wanted but that he hopes might somehow make a difference."

The shoot was no small feat. "Baldwin himself had to pull strings to make this shoot happen," Wills said. "The publicist for SNL told me this was only the third time in the show's history that an outside photographer was allowed behind the scenes. Apparently the other two were war photographers. Because SNL is a chaotic place and the shoot happened on a Saturday before the show, our photographer had to work extremely fast; he had only about 60 seconds to get his shot."

While the cover has an overarching sense of gloom, it's also driven by a sense of hope. The Atlantic Editor-in-Chief Jeffrey Goldberg wrote in a letter to readers that while the country has demonstrated susceptibility to "totalitarian, or fascist, impulses One of the reasons I think it premature to write the obituary for freedom is that people are still allowed to mock the president, on national television, on the internet, in The Atlantic magazine. In other words, Alec Baldwin is the canary in the coal mine of the American democratic experiment." His cover serves an important purpose -- "to ask a very big question: whether satire will save the republic."