Leslie Jones will not be returning to the Lorne Michaels-produced sketch comedy series when it returns in September for its new season. Sources say Jones opted to depart the veteran comedy 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 Saturday Night Live for its upcoming 45th season.
For her part, Jones joined SNL as a cast member back 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 back 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 feature credits include Ghostbusters.
SNL typically undergoes cast changes every year ahead of its new season. Last year at this time, Luke Null was let go from the series 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 cast member to replace Jones, who was the show’s oldest cast member and earned a supporting actress Emmy nomination in 2017 and 2018.
SNL returns Sept. 28 with host Woody Harrelson and musical guest Billie Elish.
Source: The Hollywood Reporter