NBC’s Saturday Night Live will return without both Taran Killam and Jay Pharoah this coming season, NBC has confirmed. The six-season veterans are leaving to pursue other opportunities, the network says, though Killam, at least, reportedly seemed somewhat surprised.
Killam has been SNL‘s utility player for much of his run, and has played everyone from Steve Doocy and Paul Ryan to, perhaps most famously, Brad Pitt and Matthew McConaughey. Pharoah will be remembered for, among other impersonations, a spot-on Will Smith and a very weird, very flamboyant Dr. Ben Carson.
TV Line reported the departures first.
Killam, who is directing and writing the Arnold Schwarzenegger comedy Why We’re Killing Gunther, told the website Uproxx tonight that he was caught unaware by the decision. Asked what happened, Killam told the site, “I don’t know fully. I don’t know the other side of it. You sign for seven years, so I had one more year. I had sort of had it in my head I would make this upcoming year my last year, but then heard they weren’t going to pick up my contract. I was never given a reason why, really. I can assume until the cows come home. But I do know I’m directing this movie [Why We’re Killing Gunther with Arnold Schwarzenegger] and I’ll have two months of post-production that would have bled into the SNL production schedule, so we kind of communicated that.”
Killam played Donald Trump before largely ceding the character to SNL announcer and occasional returnee Darrell Hammond. Pharoah was the show’s resident Barack Obama. This political season looks wide open for SNL‘s aspiring candidates.