NBC has added three new cast members to the Saturday Night Live family at 30 Rockefeller Plaza for the show’s 45th Season: Chloe Fineman, Shane Gillis, and Bowen Yang. The additions come shortly after the departure of long-time cast member Leslie Jones. Kate McKinnon was rumored to be leaving the show, but will return – as will Kenan Thompson, even with working beginning on his own series.
Created by Lorne Michaels, SNL’s 45th season will premiere with host Woody Harrelson (Zombieland: Double Tap, Midway, The Highwaymen) and musical guest Billie Eillish. Other hosts announced include Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Fleabag), David Harbour (Stranger Things, Hellboy), Kristen Stewart (Seberg, Charlie’s Angels) and returning alum Eddie Murphy (Dolemite Is My Name, Coming 2 America). Additional musical guests confirmed so far include Taylor Swift and Camila Cabello.
Fineman and Gillis were New Faces at the Just for Laughs Festival in Montreal in 2018 and 2019, respectively. Like many other former SNL alum, Fineman was a performer at the Groundlings. She’s also appeared in Jane the Virgin and Search Party. Gillis has a background in stand-up. Yang joined SNL in 2018 as a writer and is co-host of the Las Culturistas podcast with Matt Rogers. Yang also appeared in TV shows Broad City, The Outs, Above Average Presents, High Maintenance, and the film Isn’t It Romantic (2019).
As the son of Chinese immigrants, Yang will also be the series’ first East Asian cast member. The fact is shocking itself considering past alum with Asian ancestry in Fred Armisen (a quarter Japanese), Rob Schneider (a quarter Filipino), and Nasim Perdad (Iranian descent). Bobby Lee was cast on one-time competing show Mad TV on FOX, but the lack of an East Asian player on SNL was grossly evident when long-time production designer Akira Yoshimura was recruited to play Japanese Hikaru Sulu – played by George Takei in Star Trek: The Original Series. Yoshimura appeared in SNL‘s Star Trek-oriented sketches: Star Trek: The Last Voyage during the show’s early years, then recently in Star Trek: The Lost Episode with host Chris Pine (star of the Paramount films reboot from JJ. Abrams) playing William Shatner as Captain James T. Kirk.
The lack of diversity was later addressed on-air in a tongue-in-cheek sketch by Melissa Villaseñor – then a new cast member – in a 2016 sketch about the Vice-Presidential debate: “Hello, I’m the new Hispanic cast member and I’ll be playing Asian moderator Elaine Quijano. Because baby steps.”
The three new players join current featured player Ego Nwodim along with repertory players Beck Bennett, Aidy Bryant, Michael Che, Pete Davidson, Mikey Day, Heidi Gardner, Colin Jost, McKinnon, Alex Moffat, Kyle Mooney, Chris Redd, Cecily Strong, Kenan Thompson, and Villaseñor.