Comedian Sasheer Zamata has landed the coveted spot on “Saturday Night Live” after weeks of auditions.
“SNL” creator Lorne Michaels broke tradition by hiring a new cast member in the middle of the season, following criticism the show lacked diversity.
The show had six straight seasons without a woman of color.
A spokesman at NBC confirmed Zamata’s hiring on Monday.
Zamata is aan alumna of Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, the improv comedy troupe founded by former-SNL star Amy Poehler. She currently acts in the online web series “Pursuit of Sexiness”.
Sasheer beat out NBC Universal Diversity Scholarship winner Natasha Rothwell and sketch-comic Kerry Coddett in the final round of auditions.
Zamata’s competitor Coddett was one of the many critics of the show’s lack of diversity, penning a scathing essay on the Huffington Post responding to a comment from black cast member Kenan Thompson who said the show often auditions black females but finds they’re never “ready”.
Coddett pointed to the show hosted by Kerry Washington in November, saying perhaps it was the white male dominated SNL writing room that wasn’t ready to handle black female characters.
She wrote, “The SNL writers showed what they could do with a “ready” black actress: pigeonhole her. They took an Emmy-nominated actress and made her play a nagging girlfriend; a sassy eye-rolling assistant; and a rage-filled Ugandan beauty queen. Why can’t they create interesting and funny characters outside race? How long will it take the SNL writers to learn that black is not a punch line?”
Rumors that a new player might be added to the cast started last month, when quiet auditions were held earlier at the Groundlings theater for black female comediennes in Los Angeles.
Lorne Michaels confirmed the rumor, stating, “All told we’ve seen about 25 people. A lot of people we saw are really good. Hopefully we’ll come out of the process well.”
Michaels said the criticism of not having black females to play characters such as Michelle Obama, Beyonce, or Oprah had nothing to do with his decision.
He explained, “That’s a weird sort of way of looking at it because you don’t judge comedy that way. Versatility is what we look for.”
We’re betting Keenan Thompson is pleased with Sasheer being part of the cast. Maybe he won’t have to dress in drag anymore?
Sasheer Zamata seems like a great addition to SNL. We’ll be excited to see her on the show!
Click thumbnails for larger pictures