In May 2012, Saturday Night Live said good-bye to two of its biggest stars, Andy Samberg and Kristen Wiig, prompting the usual gloom-and-doom forecast for NBC’s veteran late-night sketch comedy program.
A few months later, SNL introduced one of its strongest group of female performers ever with Kate McKinnon, Cecily Strong and Aidy Bryant, who all were featured players at the start of Season 38 in the fall of 2012 (McKinnon made her debut on the show at the end of Season 37). The trio, along with SNL doyen Kenan Thompson and several strong newer cast additions, including Leslie Jones, have kept SNL thriving even after Samberg and Wiig’s departures were followed by the exits by Jason Sudeikis, Fred Armisen, and Bill Hader a season later.
The standard SNL contracts are for seven years. I hear McKinnon is under her original contract, which is coming up. Meanwhile, I hear Strong and Bryant had renegotiated theirs at some point and each has another year on theirs.
Thompson, who holds the record for the longest-tenured SNL cast member, is currently in his 16th season on SNL. By this point after so many years, I hear Thompson and SNL boss Lorne Michaels are in a mutual option situation where they mutually decide on extending his run on the show.
McKinnon, who has emerged as one of the most heralded SNL cast members, winning two Emmys to date for her work, had been mulling her future on the show since at least January.
During her tenure on the show, McKinnon also broke out in features with several starring roles, and recently signed on to star and executive produce The Dropout, a limited series for Hulu about the rise and fall of Elizabeth Holmes and her company, Theranos.
McKinnon and her team are yet to make a final decision about possibly extending her stay on SNL and will likely make it at the last minute.
Thompson, who has become the heart and soul of SNL during his tenure, was recently quoted as saying that he currently has no plans to quit SNL. Yet, it may become difficult for him to continue to tackle multiple shows for a foreseeable future.
He has an NBC comedy pilot, The Kenan Show, executive produced by Michaels, in strong contention at NBC. I hear he recently flew to Los Angeles, filmed five days of the pilot, flew back to tape SNL and then back again for five more days of filming of the pilot before taking the red-eye to return to New York for an SNL taping. Then during the recent short SNL hiatus, he shot NBC’s Bring the Funny comedy reality competition series. That is a brutal schedule to maintain. But if the pilot goes to series, as the signs currently point to, and if it films in New York or is picked up for midseason, there may be an opportunity for Thompson to continue on SNL is some capacity or stay on the show at the beginning of the season before segueing to his primetime series.
Thompson and Michaels have a close relationship, and Michaels has been very supportive of the comedy star, so the two are expected to make a decision that works for all.
“I think I’ll definitely go back next season,” Bryant said in February about SNL’s upcoming 2019-20 season. “I’m going to take it as it comes. Especially being at SNL, I’ve really learned to not plan ahead, but being in the moment. But I know I would be incredibly sad if this was my last season and I’m not ready to go,”
Still, Bryant also has a series on Hulu, Shrill, executive produced by Michaels, which was recently renewed for a second season. Bryant had indicated how difficult it was for her to squeeze filming the six-episode first season of Shrill during her summer hiatus from SNL and indicated that she likely won’t be able to juggle both for a long time. Shrill was picked up for an expanded second season, which consists of 8 episodes.