It looks like there will soon be a new addition to the cast of Saturday Night Live. After criticism from cast member Jay Pharoah about the lack of black female comediennes on the show, the program is reportedly down to at least three contenders.
The women were part of casting calls that took place in New York and Los Angeles. Even the auditions were criticized — by one of the women trying out, no less — for being a publicity stunt.
If it’s a publicity stunt, it’s not a very good one since they were kept relatively quiet. Unless they wanted it to leak out, in which case, success! But the stakes are high for both the show and the prospective new star, with all eyes on how the situation will be handled.
The show poked fun at its own lack of diversity in a Kerry Washington skit that aired a few weeks back, with the guest host being forced to play every single black woman featured — from Michelle Obama to Oprah. But once a woman is actually added, onlookers will be watching for the kinds of parts she’ll be playing and how much screen time she gets. It won’t go over well at all if SNL‘s response is to add a black woman who doesn’t get the chance to show her stuff in some juicy skits.
There will be a lot of attention paid to how funny the newbie is as well. If the program makes a specific effort to add a black woman and she’s not very good, that would be most unfortunate. Particularly after cast member Keenan Thompson’s earlier comment that the show just hadn’t been able to find a black female comedian who’s “ready” for primetime.
From Eddie Murphy to Maya Rudolph and Chris Rock, SNL has a multicultural history, though there’s definitely room for improvement to its current state. With so many shows featuring a more diverse stable of actors these days (Scandal, Sleepy Hollow, and American Horror Story are just a few), the lack of it is more likely to stand out.
But you can’t pay lip service. No doubt Lorne Michaels is carefully considering how he’s going to handle this situation. If it’s ultimately perceived as stunt casting to quell the backlash, he’ll have a new problem on his hands.
Below is a clip of one of the women who’s said to be a finalist, Kerry Coddett, who has written about SNL‘s deficiency in the past. Kind of NSFW in a spot or two for language.