Saturday Night Live is searching for a new black female cast member. The show’s producers held a showcase audition at LA’s Groundlings Theater last Sunday during SNL’s week off, with all black female performers auditioning. Bresha Webb, Nicole Byer, Amber Ruffin, Simone Shepherd, Tiffany Haddish, LaKendra Tookes, Damirra Brunson, Azie Dungey, Beth Payne, Misty Monroe, and Gabrielle Dennis all tried out. Webb posted a photo of the group of auditioners on Instagram last week. “They used our space but ran everything internally,” said a rep from Groundlings. SNL brought in its own list of performers to try out; this was not a showcase of Groundlings performers.
Brunson was who SNL cast member Jay Pharoah singled out when commenting on the show’s diversity issue, saying, “She’s really talented. She’s amazing. She needs to be on SNL. I said it. And I believe they need to follow up with it like they said they were going to do last year.” Lorne Michaels told the press last month, “It’s not like it’s not a priority for us. It will happen. I’m sure it will happen.”
If SNL’s producers like one of these performers and wants to add her to the cast, the show could hypothetically have a black female cast member as soon as January. Midseason has been a time when SNL has traditionally added talent, on occasion. With Seth Meyers most likely leaving to host NBC’s Late Night around midseason, there’ll be room in the cast and the show’s budget for a new performer.
After hiring six new performers this fall — all of whom are white and five of whom are males — SNL has come under fire for its lack of diversity, with most of the criticism focusing on the show’s lack of a black female cast member. The situation came under further scrutiny after comments from Kenan Thompson made the rounds. During the Kerry Washington-hosted episode last month, SNL addressed the diversity issue and goofed on it a bit. The show hasn’t had a black female cast member since Maya Rudolph, who departed in 2007.
UPDATE: Lorne Michaels did an interview with The NY Times following news of this audition breaking out and said that the show is holding an audition in studio for seven or eight black female candidates. Michaels also held a showcase audition of another dozen black female performers in New York last Monday, and the performers invited to audition on stage will be culled from the East Coast and West Coast showcases. Michaels says that as many as two performers could be hired, but he doesn’t want to add too many new women to the show because the cast already has six (as opposed to its 10 dudes). All performers at the 30 Rock audition have been asked to perform a Michelle Obama impression.
2ND UPDATE: The East Coast showcase was held at NYC theater The PIT on December 2nd and auditioners were primarily African-American women, but there were also performers of other non-white races, as well. Brianna Baker, Kerry Coddett, Abbi Crutchfield, Liza Dye, Jen Kwok, Tanisha Long, Veronica Osorio, Natasha Rothwell, and Sasheer Zamata were amongst those who auditioned.