EXCLUSIVE: Saturday Night Live is going through the first phase of annual cast changeover, which involves not bringing back some existing players. As usual, most affected are first-year actors. I’ve learned that the contracts of Noël Wells and John Milhiser, who joined SNL as featured players last September, are not being renewed, joining fellow rookie Brooks Wheelan, who announced his dismissal yesterday on Twitter.
Things are murkier about Michael Patrick O’Brien, who made his debut as a featured player last season after a four-year stint as a writer on the show. I hear discussions are underway for O’Brien’s future on the show that could involve him returning to the writing staff or continuing to have an-screen presence if he stays on. With anchoring experience on the popular Web series 7 Minutes In Heaven, some have been calling for him to get a shot at co-hosting Weekend Update.
Of the seasoned SNL players, popular cast member Nasim Pedrad is leaving after five seasons as she co-stars on a new primetime series, Fox’s Mulaney, which is executive produced by SNL boss Lorne Michaels.
The first year on SNL is considered a boot camp, in which new cast members have a season to make a mark. This past year was particularly tough following the departure of six seasoned male cast members at the end of the 2012-2013 season. The show brought in a whopping six new cast members in the fall: Kyle Mooney, Beck Bennett, Milhiser, Wells, Wheelan and O’Brien, plus another one, Sasheer Zamata, in January.
Wells, the only female new cast member to join last fall, is best known for a handful of impersonations, including playing Lena Dunham in the season premiere’s parody of Girls, as well as Emma Stone and Nancy Grace. Most of O’Brien’s memorable bits came in the second part of the season, including Bird Bible, Elevator, Monster Pals and Dragon Babies. Milhiser was practically invisible the second part of the season after a few cameos early on, including a Jon Cryer impersonation.