There was a lot of fuss over the weekend when Lorne Michaels revealed on Thursday that at least one new black female actress would join the cast of Saturday Night Live in January. The show had been under heavy scrutiny for its lack of diversity, especially with women of color, over the years. SNL has not had a black female on the cast since the bi-racial Maya Rudolph left the show in 2007 (who was the first one since Ellen Cleghorne left in 1995)– all this despite the fact NBC awards an NBC Universal Diversity Scholarship and runs an annual Stand-Up for Diversity Showcase, where it sees countless comedians of various colors, religions and sexual orientations every year.
It has been revealed today that three women, all alumni of the Upright Citizens Brigade, have been selected for the final auditions today in New York in this rare midseason casting move. The three women are NBC Universal Diversity Scholarship winners Natasha Rothwell, stand-up comic Sasheer Zamata, and sketch comic Kerry Coddett, who actually criticized the late night comedy show in November in a piece she wrote for the Huffington Post. Michaels admitted, “All told we’ve seen about 25 people.”
It’s phenomenal that the show lacks a variety of players when NBC puts up a solid front as ‘actively searching’ for minority talent. There must be countless of Stand-Up for Diversity finalists who may not have fit a sitcom project but would have been excellent people to audition for SNL. That none of them were good enough for the show but funny enough for the network overall is somewhat hard to believe. The show currently boasts two black actors (Jay Pharaoh and Kenan Thompson) and Nasim Pedrad, whose family is from Iran.