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LI's Kate McKinnon: Playing Ruth Bader Ginsburg 'a profound joy'

"Saturday Night Live" star Kate McKinnon, who had

"Saturday Night Live" star Kate McKinnon, who had a running sketch-comedy segment as Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, says she was inspired by the late justice's "lifelong service to this country." Credit: Getty Images / Jon Kopaloff

Sea Cliff native Kate McKinnon, whose "Saturday Night Live" impressions of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg helped earn the comic her two Emmy Awards, has paid tribute to the legendary jurist, who died Friday at age 87.

"For so many of us, Justice Ginsburg was a real-life superhero: a beacon of hope, a warrior for justice, a robed crusader who saved the day time and again," McKinnon, 36, said of the Brooklyn-born feminist icon in a statement to media Saturday.

"Playing her on 'SNL' was a profound joy," McKinnon continued, "because I could always feel the overwhelming love and gratitude that the audience had for her. It was one of the great honors of my life to meet Justice Ginsburg, to shake her hand, and to thank her for her lifetime of service to this country."

Ginsburg had been familiar with McKinnon's "SNL" homages but had not seen the comic's impression of her until her children urged her to do so. "I liked the actress who portrayed me," Ginsburg told NPR's Nina Totenberg at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, where the documentary "RBG" debuted. "And I would like to say 'Gins-burn!' sometimes to my colleagues," she quipped, using a catchphrase by McKinnon's character to indicate a victorious put-down.

McKinnon and Ginsburg had met in August 2019 while each was attending the Off-Broadway revival of "Fiddler on the Roof" in Yiddish at Stage 42 near Times Square. Audience and cast member photos and videos show McKinnon shaking hands with a seated Ginsburg and later posing together as the crowd took pictures. In one video, North Shore High School graduate McKinnon is among a throng of audience members offering Ginsburg a standing ovation.

"Live from New York, it's Tuesday night!" tweeted "Fiddler" cast member Bobby Underwood at the time. "In addition to #RuthBaderGinsburg, we welcomed #KateMcKinnon to @fiddlernyc tonight! One of the evening's highlights was watching the #SNL RBG meet the real #RBG for the first time," he wrote, posting photos. The production itself retweeted a post showing Ginsburg and McKinnon two shaking hands: "OMG, RBG! We are so honored to be joined by the LEGENDARY Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg tonight as well as the incomparably funny Kate McKinnon!!!"

In other photos and videos, Ginsburg, who had celebrated her 27th year on the Supreme Court bench on Aug, 10, is seen backstage, gamely shaking hands with stunned cast and crew members.

McKinnon, born Kate McKinnon Berthold, obtained a theater degree from Columbia University in 2006 and was an improv performer with Upright Citizens Brigade. Other early work includes the Logo cable series "The Big Gay Sketch Show." She joined "SNL" in 2012 as the show's first out lesbian cast member. (The late Danitra Vance, from season 11 in the mid-1980s, was not out during her lifetime.) McKinnon has starred in such films as "Ghostbusters" (2016) and "The Spy Who Dumped Me" (2018).

"Saturday Night Live" returns with McKinnon and the rest of last year's cast for a 46th season on Oct. 3.

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