Kate McKinnon sits down for an interview to discuss her starring role as the voice of a hilarious goat called Lupe in the animated film, FERDINAND. From Blue Sky Studios, the movie tells the unlikely and delightful story of a bull who prefers flowers to fighting. John Cena stars as the voice of the titular character, a peace-loving animal with no desire to battle matadors, like the rest of the herd, which makes him an outsider.

Here, McKinnon speaks about the film, her role, why she got involved and much more. Read on to find out what she had to say…

I believe you once visited Blue Sky Studios. Is that what interested you in working with Carlos and his team?

Yes, a dear friend of mine works at Blue Sky and gave me a tour of the studio eight years ago and I was freaking out at their animation. I couldn’t understand it – but it was all amazing. I just wanted to be involved in some way in one of their projects. And then years later, they asked me to play Lupe. I am a huge fan of Carlos’s work and when he pitched me the idea of playing this character, Lupe, a calming goat who is too loud to do her job effectively, I thought ‘oh my God, I love it!’

What is it about the story of this unusual bull and his friends that’s so delightful and appealing?

Ferdinand doesn’t espouse the values of ‘bull-dom’. He doesn’t want to be a destructive force and fight matadors in the bullring; instead he wants to smell flowers and take joy in nature and celebrate friendship and connection and love. How could you not just delight in a character who is such a force of positivity and sweetness?

John Cena is the voice of Ferdinand; there is great chemistry in the film between the two characters. Did you two meet?

We didn’t meet during the production, but we did meet when he hosted Saturday Night Live. John is just the sweetest, the most sincere and positive person, which you wouldn’t imagine from his physique. He is a wrestling star. In person, John is a total joy and a great actor. When we met I just felt that standing next to him there was a funny little juxtaposition in our size because he’s so big and I am so small – and I think that inherent comedy came out in the movie between our characters.

What was it like in the sound booth working with Carlos?

Carlos is great because he let me improvise a lot and I think doing voice work on an animated film like this is the most fun you can have. You don’t have to worry about anything other than what’s happening with your voice and you can just channel everything into that. Also you can wear your pyjamas to work if you want to… and what’s wrong with that?

Can you discuss Lupe’s personality?

What appealed to me about Lupe was that she was supposed to be doing one job – calming the bulls on the ranch where she meets Ferdinand, but she actually has a dream of being a coach instead and using her god given brashness and loud voice and ability to scream. I just found that very compelling. It sort of mirrors Ferdinand’s journey because he also wants to be himself in this culture that is asking him to be something else.

It is ironic isnt it, that the thing Lupe wants to do training bulls is not going to work with Ferdinand because he doesnt want to fight?

Yes, but she figures that out and what touches me the most is the friendship that develops between Lupe and Ferdinand because they’re both outcasts on the ranch. I identify with them because I know that all my own extremely close friendships were born out of that situation too and that’s why those people are still my friends. We became best friends because we felt like misfits in some way and then we commiserated over that fact and then celebrated it together. That is how most of my close friendships began from school onwards and in different areas of my life.

You must have built some great friendships working on Saturday Night Live with the team?

Oh my God, you have no idea! It really is the closest kind of camaraderie; we have such a strong bond. I admire the people I work with so much and I’m blown away by their talent and their passion for the show, week after week. It really has become a family. We all love comedy and we love each other too. That’s probably the best part of the job -- the people that I work with.

Returning to Lupe, what makes her so funny?

Well, I feel like there’s something very funny about a tiny animal who is getting kicked around yet she is also being so brash and outspoken, so I played that up. I love characters like Lupe who are kind of down in the dumps but they don’t know it! They’re having a grand time anyway, seizing life and trying to make the best of it all, despite having, in Lupe’s case, very jacked up teeth and a stomach that stores old cans!

What was your response when you saw what Lupe looked like and how the Blue Sky team had animated the character?

I found her quite beautiful and majestic. I think the character design is my favourite design I’ve ever seen. Every time I see Lupe it makes me laugh. They really nailed it.

How interesting is the theme revolving around the value of being true to yourself?

Oh my gosh, I think that everyone’s struggle throughout life is to come to terms with who they are and then celebrate that about themselves. I think if you can do that, as Ferdinand manages to do, you can actually change the minds of the people around you and they come to celebrate those things as well.

Do you think children will identify with Lupe and Ferdinand, because it’s quite common for kids to think that they don’t fit in?

Yes, I think everyone feels that way, even the popular kids. I know that the popular kids in my school were actually total sweethearts, they were lovely and all felt different in some way. Growing up, everyone feels like they don’t quite fit in with the culture at large, or they don’t quite fit what people’s expectations of them are. So I think that’s why this movie has a universal appeal. The message of not shying away from who you really are has always been resonant and is especially relevant now.”

Home is another theme. What does home mean to you and where is home for you?

Home for me is on Long Island near New York City. Growing up, my home was actually a sanctuary of humour. My whole family is very funny and we just delighted in each other’s humour. I happen to be blessed with two parents who were really funny. So we all had to be funny. My younger sister is very funny as well.

Who were your comic inspirations?

Well, Saturday Night Live was a big one and I loved Tracey Ullman (the British actress and comedian) who is obviously the ultimate shape shifter. I loved Catherine O’Hara (the Canadian actress and comedian) and the cast of all of the great Christopher Guest mockumentaries. They were big inspirations for me as well. In terms of film comedies, Young Frankenstein was the biggest one. I watched it just the other week and it still made me cackle.

It must be rewarding to have grown up watching SNL and then actually become a part of the show…

I still pinch myself. I don’t quite understand what happened but I’ll take it!

How challenging is it going from one character to another on SNL? Hillary Clinton is probably your most well-known impression internationally…

It’s not so bad (laughs). For some reason I do not find it that hard. The writing is hard but the performing is just pure joy. As for Hillary, I love that character who I created with the writers and who is obviously not the ‘real thing’, the real woman. I happen to love the real life woman too, who I have met! The characters I create become like little entities all their own with their own lives and desires and dreams. They grow and change over time and it’s exciting for me to get to do the characters over and over again on the show.

You are still busy with SNL and your film career is thriving too. How much are you enjoying the mix of television and movies?

I love how in sketch comedy at SNL, I get to become a range of different people and take on a bunch of personas and I love how in a movie, you get to really invest in one person and discover a lot of different things about their personality, so they are both equally challenging and rewarding in different ways. I love it all.

Ferdinand is out in cinemas across the UK now.