Earlier this year, we discovered Cecily Strong has impeccable aim when she flung wine over her shoulder and repeatedly splashed Colin Jost on "Saturday Night Live," all while singing Frank Sinatra's "My Way" as Jeanine Pirro.
But with her new memoir, "This Will All Be Over Soon" (out now, Simon & Schuster), we learn that the "Schmigadoon" star also has a gift for beautiful prose. Strong eloquently writes about her experiences with loneliness, anxiety and depression, all of which intensified at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic early last year. She began seeing a man who tested positive for coronavirus just a few weeks after they met; meanwhile, she was still grieving her vibrant cousin Owen, who died of an aggressive brain cancer in January 2020 at age 30.
Strong achingly conveys her fears of loss and uncertainty, as well as the emotional scars left by a physically abusive boyfriend she dated on and off for years.
The book began as a sort of exercise for Strong, 37, who started writing nearly every day during lockdown.
"I felt like in doing that, it allowed me to start processing," she tells USA TODAY. "I was also discovering these little 'gifts' and connections between things. It made me feel like I had a magical realism story of my own. I think you need a little magic to process really heavy things."
Strong, who is still unsure whether she'll return to "SNL" for a 10th season, talks more about her memoir and favorite memories on the NBC sketch show.
Question: In your book, you write, "I’m trying to get comfortable with living with the unknown from day to day." What has helped you cope with that?
Cecily Strong: Being more gentle with myself and letting myself be a little softer. I feel I had harder edges before. And I think looking for sunshine. Sunshine and gardening make me feel great. Just finding joy in little things like a good dinner. Taking the wins where you can get them and enjoying them.
Q: You write candidly about your abusive ex-boyfriend. How long did it take for you to recognize that relationship for what it was?
Strong: Even writing that was trying to see it in a different way. It feels like it's something we don't talk about a lot, and I wanted to make sure I'm explaining the love as much as I'm explaining the bad thing. It's really the first time I've ever talked about it, and that certainly felt hard. But as long as you're being honest and leading with love and compassion, then it made it feel OK to talk about.
Q: You leave 11 pages blank at the end of the chapter, to represent all the things he asked you to omit after reading it. Why were those important to include?
Strong: When I sent that to him, I was expecting a different response. It was just so cold and it really threw me and I was really upset for a couple days after that. It was sort of like, "Doesn't my story belong to me, too?" So I think that's why I needed to include that because even today, years later, it hurt me to have him coolly dismiss everything I'd just written and my own experiences. I hope he can read it in the way I intended to share it, which is that there's love there, too. It's not meant to hurt somebody.
Q: Congratulations on your second Emmy nomination for "SNL." How did it feel to be recognized for this season in particular?
Strong: The show being nominated for 21 awards felt really good, just because everybody put in so much. It was a really tough year and it was difficult a lot of the time to do this show. Me personally, even just getting the rapid test and the crazy anxiety you have for 30 minutes every other day, thinking, "Today's the day I find out I have COVID." And then thinking, "I just had that crazy anxiety. Now I have to go do comedy."
So it was a really challenging year for everybody, but it was so great to have each other and that last show was just so unbelievably moving. People (online) were talking about us crying at the top of the show – we were crying because we walked in and saw this audience for the first time in a year. It was such a loving experience to get to have that as the final show.
Q: I have to know: What was your trick to always nailing Colin Jost with Jeanine Pirro’s throwing wine?
Strong: (Laughs.) I don't know! I think it was just the magic of getting to do a live performance, because I'm not known for having good aim. I don't think anyone has ever said that about me before. My favorite thing about doing "SNL" is those moments of controlled chaos.
Q: Did you practice at all beforehand?
Strong: No, we couldn't practice. I got in on Saturday and we weren't even sure I was gonna have my tub of wine until dress rehearsal. So we were figuring it out in dress and on air. That's why the show is so much fun. You're nervous for eight years, and by the ninth year, you're like, "Let a dog crawl on my head," "let me climb into a tub of wine," anything.
Q: Two of my all-time favorite sketches of yours are "Reality Stars" with Will Ferrell and "Horace" with Bill Hader.
Strong: Oh my God, those are ones I'll watch every six months or so because they make me laugh so much. And obviously I'm laughing so hard (in the sketches), although in the "Reality Stars" one, it's hidden a little bit more because my face is pulled back.
Q: I'm sure it's like picking children, but is there one sketch you consider a highlight of your time at "SNL?"
Strong: It's tough to say. I love "Singing Sisters." I love "Debra's Time." I just went to Club Cumming after the "Schmigadoon" premiere and one of the guys came up and said, "You know, we sing 'Debra's Time' here every now and then." Hearing that just makes me so happy.
If you or someone you know has been a target of domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233 any time day or night, or chat online.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'SNL' star Cecily Strong gets candid about 'crazy anxiety' in new book