2ND UPDATE NOON: I’ve learned that there will be a fifth new cast member on Saturday Night Live this fall, and he is coming from within the SNL ranks. Michael Patrick O’Brien, who has been a writer on the show for the past four seasons, also is expected to become a featured player, joined by John Milhiser, Noël Wells, Kyle Mooney and Beck Bennett. O’Brien has already done bit roles on SNL and hosts his own show, 7 Minutes Of Heaven, on Yahoo. I also hear writer-actor-comedian Mickey Day and improv player Claire Mulaney will be joining SNL‘s writing staff.
EXCLUSIVE, UPDATED THURSDAY 5 PM: I hear comedian John Milhiser, actress Noël Wells and performers Kyle Mooney and Beck Bennett have emerged as top candidates to join Saturday Night Live as new featured players this fall. No official announcement yet from NBC’s venerable late-night show, but the four are heavily rumored to land the coveted spots. All four have been performing at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, which has given SNL current cast members Bobby Moynihan and Kate McKinnon. Mooney and Bennett, aka the guy from AT&T’s kids commercials, are members of sketch comedy group Good Neighbor, along with Nick Rutherford and filmmaker Dave McCary. The group has a deal at Comedy Central, which complicates a hire at SNL but I hear there is an effort to work things out. SNL has had success with comedy groups, most notably Andy Samberg and the Lonely Island. And just like it did with the Lonely Island guys, I hear SNL is employing everyone from Good Neighbor, with McCary added as a director. SNL boss Lorne Michaels had been on the hunt for fresh talent this summer as the sketch comedy show is facing a transitional season, with Jason Sudeikis, Bill Hader and Fred Armisen departing in May and Seth Meyers slated to exit in late fall.