After a very public audition process, Saturday Night Live has found its latest cast member. And just as promised by show creator and guiding creative force, Lorne Michaels, this performer is both black and female.
Sasheer Zamata comes to the hallowed halls of Studio 8-H from the same star factory that has produced many other comedy luminaries of the past decade or so–the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater in New York City. During her time performing at the UCB, Zamata appeared in a number of sketches online, including ones with SNL current cast member Cecily Strong and for Michaels’ online production unit, the Above Average network, as well as her own series, The Pursuit of Sexiness. She also graduated from the University of Virginia three years ago.
Zamata is the first black female Saturday Night Live cast member since Maya Rudolph left the show in 2009, and her casting is not by happenstance. After the dramatic exit of a handful of key performers on the show last spring, six new cast members were added in the fall–all of them white, and five of them male. An uproar about this lack of diversity arose online, and was even echoed by cast members Kenan Thompson and Jay Pharoah. The famously self-reflexive show even paid tribute to its diversity problem in a good-natured mea culpa moment, by having guest host Kerry Washington play several prominent black female characters in the span of one sketch, thus highlighting the dearth of other suitable proxies.
Last December, news quietly spread that auditions were underway, with the specific goal of finding a black female cast member. Now, it looks as though that goal has been achieved. Zamata will make her SNL debut when the show returns from winter hiatus on January 18th, with host and musical guest Drake.
Have a look at Zamata’s best sketches so far in the slides above.
H/t to Deadline Hollywood