For the past several years, Saturday Night Live always has pushed back against criticism about its lack of racial/ethnic diversity by claiming that it’s about the content of its comedy, and not the color of its cast members — and besides, Nasim Pedrad is Iranian.
Well, Pedrad is bound for FOX after New Year’s for production on at least six episodes of a Lorne Michaels sitcom for John Mulaney, Mulaney. With that defense walking out the door, and his own existing black men in the cast (Jay Pharoah and Kenan Thompson) going public with awkward quotes, and the show itself acknowledging it finally last month when Kerry Washington hosted…what’s a show to do?
The show held auditions over the past couple of weeks in Los Angeles and New York City. Normally everything about the SNL audition process is a closely guarded secret and anyone who divulges anything is, well, fired before they get hired?! Or at least threatened with as much.
But several of the women who auditioned for SNL in Los Angeles went straight to Twitter about it, and Bresha Webb even gave an interview to theJasmineBRAND. That posted Wednesday. Gothamist picked it up on Thursday, which broke the story wide open. The New York Times’ Bill Carter got Lorne Michaels on the line, and he not only gave on-the-record quotes describing the process, but even went so far as to announce that the final auditions for a new black female cast member will be held on Monday inside SNL’s studios at 30 Rock.
“All told we’ve seen about 25 people,” Michaels told the NYT. “A lot of the people we saw are really good. Hopefully we’ll come out of the process well.”
So who are those seven or eight lucky ladies to audition? Deadline’s Nellie Andreeva claimed to have the list leaked to her — with the names of Bresha Webb, Tanisha Long, Misty Monroe, Gabrielle Dennis, Amber Ruffin, Leslie Jones, Sasheer Zamata, Natasha Rothwell, and Briana KC. Andreeva hedges her bets by saying the latter three women are “possibly testing” in addition to the others.
But we’ll all know soon enough, now, won’t we?
If Facebook can claim victory by convincing SNL to let Betty White host, then certainly ColorOfChange would have something to say about this. So here is the statement emailed to The Comic’s Comic from Rashad Robinson, Executive Director of ColorOfChange:
“We applaud Saturday Night Live on its decision to add a Black woman to the cast. Given its broad influence on American culture and within the entertainment industry, SNL has the power to be a model for other shows and networks by depicting relevant and authentic portrayals of Black women. Just before Thanksgiving, ColorOfChange sat down with NBCUniversal executives to discuss SNL’s failure to address the exclusion of Black women from the soundstages at 30 Rockefeller Plaza, as well as share our members’ concerns about misleading stereotypes often used to portray Black people on the show. The decision to cast a Black woman is an important step in the right direction and shows that our members’ voices were heard. ColorOfChange looks forward to a continued dialogue with network executives to ensure that this new cast member has the support she needs backstage to be successful on screen.”