Billie Eilish has played in front of arenas packed with fans, scored multiple Grammy, VMA and Billboard Music Award wins and recorded the theme to the James Bond movie No Time to Die. But taking the stage in her Mrs. Claus club dress for the monologue on this weekend’s Saturday Night Live was, hands down, the most nerve-racking experience of her life.
Doing double-duty as musical guest and host, Eilish, 19, seemed as cool as a cucumber in a bowl of hot sauce, ripping off jokes about her family and ribbing her own style evolution in the opening sketch. But to hear her tell it on Monday morning (Dec. 13) during a Zoom call with SiriusXM’s Howard Stern, she was not at all okay.
“SNL, whoosh, it was the most crazy s–t ever… Saturday was, like, you know, one of the best days of my life, it was so much fun and so amazing and surreal and ridiculous,” Eilish told Stern about her most extensive acting gig to date. Eilish said the grueling week leading up to Saturdays’ show, though, was “f—ing nuts… it’s literally alien. I mean I cried every single day of the week, no joke at all.”
When Stern asked if the tears were a result of her nervousness about acting alongside the hugely talented, notoriously nimble SNL cast, Eilish openly admitted that not only is she not a professional actor, but that the legendarily intense format of the prep leading up to the weekend show is beyond exhausting. Though she loved to act in plays as a kid, unlike her parents — and collaborator brother Finneas — she has not had that much experience on screen and unlike a concert stage, it is not native territory for her.
“That’s not my world, so I don’t know what the f–k I’m doing,” she said, despite getting almost universally high marks for her hosting duties. “I feel like I am terrible, like I suck.” She tagged Wednesday’s table read as the most exhausting portion of the week, detailing the process of reading more than 40 scripts alongside the cast to help winnow the week’s best bits.
During a break after the first 20, Eilish said she retreated to her green room for a good cry as she tried to wrap her head around the whole scenario. “I was scared. It’s SNL, these amazingly talented actors surrounding a table where somehow I’m the main course for this show that I didn’t feel qualified for,” she said.
Stern asked if she felt like she might throw up before taking the stage for the monologue and Billie said she actually did lose her lunch — which was news to Finneas, who accompanied her during her two performances and showed up in a sketch as well — as part of a “full-body reaction” to being anxious about the whole SNL week. “Threw up on the plane coming here, had crazy s—s when I got here like you would not believe,” she added, describing that scenario where you have to got “fully naked” on the toilet because of the seriousness of the situation.
“That’s not a usual thing,” she promised Stern. “I’ve had stomach aches all week, I’ve been anxious and nervous… just because that’s not my world and I’m petrified of people thinking that I suck.” Somehow, though, she kept it together and soared, serving up two excellent performances and holding her own with the show’s resident cold-eyed comedy killer, Kate McKinnon, who got the musician to break character during the night’s final, supremely silly, sketch about a non-luxury hotel.
For the record, Eilish said, she never gets nervous before performing on stage during her concerts, so the butterflies she felt at famed Studio 8H were just “jarring.” And while she felt like she was going to hurl right before facing an audience for the first time during the dress rehearsal on Saturday evening — logging her symptoms as “shivering, shaking and nervous” — once she saw the crowd and felt their joy the nerves magically went away.
“I think that is just my love of performing and then I was like, ‘Oh this is actually really incredible and this is just for for fun,'” she said.
Why do the show if it was so vertigo-inducing? “Well, it’s Saturday Night Live and it’s kind of the most — if not one of the most — iconic and incredible things you can even be a part of at all,” she said, noting that she was crying and violently eliminating all week is because she realized in the middle of it all that hosting was actually “my worst nightmare come to life… for years and years I was like, ‘I’m never acting, I hate it, it’s so scary. I don’t know what I’m doing, I’m not good at it.'”
In the end, Eilish was able to settle herself and summon her moment of courage by remembering that the opportunity to host/perform on SNL is an “insane” honor that she could not have passed up. “The reason I was having these breakdowns through the week was because I realized that this was the thing I was terrified of doing and now I’m doing it,” she said.
Watch Eilish on Stern below.