NBC’s Saturday Night Live will feature one fewer familiar face when it returns for its 45th season.
Leslie Jones will not be returning to the Lorne Michaels-produced sketch comedy show when it resumes in September. Sources say Jones has opted to depart the veteran series and will instead focus on her upcoming feature film projects and Netflix comedy special.
Meanwhile, Emmy winner Kate McKinnon has closed a new deal to return to SNL for its upcoming season.
For her part, Jones joined the show as a castmember in 2014 after originally boarding the series as a writer and broke out during multiple appearances on its popular “Weekend Update” segments. Jones was one of the original comedians who were considered to join the sketch show in December 2013 after SNL was criticized for having a predominantly white cast. Sasheer Zamata ultimately landed that spot.
Jones so far is the only cast departure for the upcoming 45th season. The repertory players include Beck Bennett, Aidy Bryant, Michael Che, Pete Davidson, Mikey Day, Colin Jost, McKinnon, Alex Moffat, Kyle Mooney, Cecily Strong, Kenan Thompson and Melissa Villasenor. Heidi Gardner, Ego Nwodim and Chris Redd are featured players.
On the feature side, Jones next stars in Coming to America and recently was part of the voice cast for The Angry Birds Movie 2. Her credits also include Ghostbusters.
SNL typically undergoes cast changes every year ahead of its new season. Last year at this time, Luke Null was let go and Nwodim joined the series as a featured player as Day, Moffat and Villasenor were upped to part of the repertory cast.
It’s unclear if SNL will add another castmember to replace Jones, who, at age 51, was the show’s oldest castmember and earned a supporting actress Emmy nomination in 2017 and 2018.
SNL is set to return Sept. 28 with host Woody Harrelson and musical guest Billie Elish.
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