Saturday Night Live is getting ready to launch its 42nd season, but just because the show has reached middle age doesn’t mean it’s done so with a ton of growth. The proof: Saturday Night Live just announced three new cast members, two of which are white guys.
SNL revealed the addition of three new featured players on Monday, Sept. 12, Mikey Day (pictured above), a writer since 2013, Alex Moffat and Melissa Villaseñor. The announcement came just weeks after the show shocked fans by firing SNL fan-favorites Taran Killam and Jay Pharoah before their contracts were up. Around the same time, the show also let go of featured player Jon Rudnitsky, who had only been on the show for one year. Despite calls for diversity so loud Saturday Night Live was forced to host a last-minute casting session for a black female comedian only a few years ago (that’s how we got Sasheer Zamata and Leslie Jones, FYI), apparently Lorne Michaels and the minds behind SNL feel that two white guys can’t go without being replaced by two other white guys. It's a sad reality check, particularly since Saturday Night Live has, itself, poked fun at the lack of diversity in Hollywood.
Of course, the news isn’t all bad. Villaseñor is making history as the first Latina cast member in SNL history. Villaseñor, who was previously introduced to American audiences on Season 6 of America’s Got Talent, is no doubt a thrilling addition to the cast, and it could even be a sign that SNL is moving toward a more diverse cast. However, the fact that SNL still hired two white men is more than a little disheartening, especially considering the fact that one could make the argument that Villaseñor is just replacing another POC comedian. One could accuse SNL of trading in one of their three black male comedians (Pharoah) for a Latina, though that is a bit harsh on Villaseñor, who no doubt deserves her spot on the show by her own merits, not just her ethnicity. Still, the cynic in me sees these new hires as proof that SNL wants to keep its ethnic makeup consistent going into its next season.
It would seem, perhaps, that the folks over at SNL don’t really get how increasing diversity works. If they were truly committed to making a show that wasn’t dominated by white men, then they would have to allow for some white men to leave the show without being replaced by other white men. That’s just how math works. Either the showrunners at SNL have forgotten what a diversity push means or they’re not attempting to diversify their cast any more than they already have.
Of course, as featured players, it’s likely we won’t be seeing a lot of Villaseñor, Day or Moffat, at least not at first. Funny or not, featured players tend to be stuck in the background at Saturday Night Live, and they have a tendency to get fired (see: Rudnitsky). Should firings occur after this season, the next time SNL has some hiring to do, let’s hope they take diversity more seriously.
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