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Saturday Night Live Makes Big Diversity Changes For the First Time in Five Years

NEW YORK, NY - The long-standing sketch showcase show that is Saturday Night Live has been under some scrutiny lately for their lack of diversity and suspected disinterest in changing things. When half-African-American Maya Rudolph left the show five years ago, what was left was a cast with no African-American women, and people noticed. Saturday Night Live had announced that they were holding specific castings to bring a new African-American woman onto the show, people were suspicious of how publicized the matter was, but SNL came through and closed the gap with newest cast member Sasheer Zamata, seen in the photo posted above.

Despite the public’s concern that Saturday Night Live wasn’t being proactive in their search and doing it for the wrong reasons, it turns out that they had been scouting Zamata for years, and that she had already been a part of one of their casting showcases in the past. Still, Zamata is only the fifth black female to be cast on the show in its history of 38 years. Since graduating from the University of Virginia five years ago, Zamata has been a part of the Upright Citizen’s Brigade and has been performing at clubs all over New York.

While the public has been interested in the matter, the hiring process might have been turbo-charged by some concern from people on the inside. Announcing the very public audition process for a black woman was to respond to statements made from other cast members. When cast members Kenan Thompson and Jay Pharoah announced that they were not going to play women in drag anymore, it put some extra pressure on the show to come through.

In addition to casting a new black cast member, SNL just added two new writers to the team who are also black women and found during the recent audition process for comedians: Leslie Jones and LaKendra Tookes. Jones is an actress and comedian who reportedly made it to the finalists for the cast member spot on the show, and Tookes was a past news anchor in addition to being an actress and a comedian. There are no current plans to include the new writers in the on-camera portion of the show but past members have worked their way on. Hopefully the new diversity in the writer’s room will pave the way for Zamata to settle in as well as bring some new voice to the show in its entirety. 

Tookes and Jones are reportedly already hard at work in-house, and Sasheer Zamata made her Saturday Night Live debut on January 18th.

Photo courtesy of