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Comedy Star Cecily Strong Dishes on ‘Saturday Night Live,’ Her Dog and Her New Role in ‘The Garfield Movie’

Learn about her sweet new partnership to help senior shelter dogs!

Cecily Strong has been making us laugh for years, and upon ending her 10-year role on Saturday Night Live in 2022, she made history as the longest-running female cast member ever to be on the show. Since then, the affable actress has continued with comic roles, and delighted viewers in the satirical musical series Schmigadoon! from 2021 to 2023.

Strong can next be seen (or rather, heard) in The Garfield Movie, which hits theaters on May 24. In this animated story of the popular orange cat, she voices Marge, an Animal Control officer.

To promote this family-friendly film and support a valuable cause, Strong just partnered with Hill’s Pet Nutrition to show off some sweet senior shelter dogs on the Garfield-colored orange carpet and raise awareness about the importance of giving senior pets good homes. Hill’s will also donate up to $100,000 to PetSmart charities to cover a portion of the adoption fees for every pet adopted at PetSmart Adoption Centers from now through May 26.

Cecily Strong spoke to FIRST for Women about being a dog mom, her time on SNL and why she’s always related to Garfield.

Cecily Strong on the orange carpet for the premiere of 'The Garfield Movie' with adoptable senior dogs, 2024
Cecily Strong on the orange carpet for the premiere of The Garfield Movie with adoptable senior dogs Michael Simon/

A devoted pet parent

Strong is an advocate of adopting pets, and got her own dog, Lucy, from Best Friends Animal Society in 2014. “I’d always wanted a dog, but I didn’t know if I could fit something like that in my life with the really long hours I was working on SNL,” she admits. Fate intervened one day, as she recalled, “I wasn’t sure how to do it, and my agent at the time, one of his clients was a New York dog trainer guy whose whole thing was that everybody could make it work. That was the final push I needed to do it.”

As soon as she met Lucy, Strong knew she had found her dog. Fast forward 10 years, and Lucy is now an 11-year-old senior dog living her best life. “She is the boss and she owns it,” says Strong. “I think basically everything she does is cute. She’s very talkative and I say she’s singing to me half the time.”

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The actress with adoptable senior dogs at the orange carpet premiere of 'The Garfield Movie' 2024
Cecily Strong with her shelter dog friends on the orange carpetMichael Simon/

Cecily Strong looks back at SNL

During her long tenure on SNL, Strong was beloved for her Weekend Update appearances and quirky array of characters. “It’s exciting now, having some space away from it, I still enjoy going back and rediscovering sketches like the Designing Women one we did with RuPaul,” she says. “I loved that one, and I always loved playing Cathy Anne, the porn star, and the Girl You Wish You Hadn’t Started a Conversation With at a Party I had a blast with most of it. If you saw something twice, then I definitely enjoyed it.”

Asked what lessons she learned from being part of the notoriously fast-paced and demanding show for so long, Strong says, “I definitely didn’t learn work-life balance! But it was all about having a sense of humor and rolling with the punches.” She elaborates, “One of Lorne Michaels‘ favorite sayings is that the show always has to happen at 11:30. Whether we’re ready or not the show goes on at 11:30. You have to learn to work with what you have and to improvise.”

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(L-R) Colin Jost, Cecily Strong, Vanessa Bayer, and Michael Che attend the SNL 40th Anniversary Celebration at Rockefeller Plaza on February 15, 2015 in New York City
Left to right: Colin Jost, Cecily Strong, Vanessa Bayer and Michael Che at the SNL 40th Anniversary Celebration in 2015D Dipasupil/FilmMagic/Getty

“Understanding my platform near the end was a big deal for me,” she says. “I think Kate McKinnon and Aidy Bryant were similar. I was really happy being in that group, and I think we all helped each other and empowered each other.”

A musical adventure with Schmigadoon!

Strong showed off a new side of her comic prowess in the musical series Schmigadoon! Musicals have long been a part of Strong’s life. “I grew up doing plays. I think I took my first drama class when I was around 3 years old,” she says. “My parents were like, ‘She’s strange and performs at home. What do we do? Put her in a drama class!'”

“My uncle is also a Broadway producer, so I grew up getting to see his shows,” she adds. “I remember the first one. My dad and I flew out to see The Secret Garden in New York. Musicals have always been part of my relationship with my dad and they’re an exciting thing that we share. It’s always been passed down to me through my family.”

Cecily Strong and Keegan-Michael Key attend Apple TV+ "Schmigadoon!" Season 2 FYC event at Saban Media Center on April 13, 2023 in North Hollywood, California
Cecily Strong and Keegan-Michael Key promoting Schmigadoon! in 2023Kayla Oaddams/FilmMagic/Getty

Schmigadoon! gave Strong an opportunity to go back to her theatrical roots, but she says, “The most unnerving thing was feeling okay singing in a room where you’ve got Kristin Chenoweth and Jane Krakowski and Alan Cumming and Aaron Tveit and Ariana DeBose. It’s just a murderers’ row. Having the courage to sing in front of those guys was probably the toughest part.”

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Cecily Strong on Garfield

Strong’s latest project is a perfect fit, given her longtime Garfield fandom. “It’s so nostalgic,” she says. “I even have running jokes from 15 years ago about Garfield with a couple friends. I have a friend who I think is more excited about The Garfield Movie than anything else I’ve ever done in my career!”

Strong calls voiceover work the “most comfortable” way to act. As she puts it, “You just go into a little room and you get to be silly for a couple hours. You get to play around. What other jobs are there where it’s like, ‘Make a sound like you’re running and you slip on a piece of cheese’?”

The actress at 'The Garfield Movie' premiere, 2024
Cecily Strong at The Garfield Movie premiereEric Charbonneau/Getty for Sony Pictures

While Strong plays a human in the new movie, she says she relates to the chunky orange cat. “I’m a great lounger, which is why I feel like I have so much respect for Garfield. And my dog is good at lounging with me,” she says, and whether she’s lounging, voicing a cartoon character, singing in a musical or appearing in an SNL sketch, she’s always a delight.

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