Some shakeups are in store for the new season of Saturday Night Live, and they’re rather unexpected. TV Line broke the news last night that the contracts for cast members Taran Killam and Jay Pharoah have not been renewed, and the two performers will not be returning for the show’s 42nd season. Both actors joined the series in Fall 2010 and had been with the series for six seasons. Saturday Night Live normally signs its actors for seven-year deals, but for whatever reason Lorne Michaels and/or the show’s other executive producers opted to leave it be and discontinue the contracts ahead of what was likely to have been Killam and/or Pharoah’s final SNL season.
So, what gives? What’s the reason for this abrupt departure? In an interview with Uproxx’s Mike Ryan, Killam admitted he still doesn’t entirely understand what happened:
“I don’t know fully. I don’t know the other side of it. You sign for seven years, so I had one more year. I had sort of had it in my head I would make this upcoming year my last year, but then heard they weren’t going to pick up my contract. I was never given a reason why, really. I can assume until the cows come home. But I do know I’m directing this movie [Why We’re Killing Gunther with Arnold Schwarzenegger] and I’ll have two months of post-production that would have bled into the SNL production schedule, so we kind of communicated that.
I honestly don’t know what happened on the other side, but I do know we had expressed I have work on this film and in bonding this picture, that has to get cleared with SNL. And then [another offer] came up. I wasn’t going to have to take any time off to do it, but it was a thing that they would have had to okay.”
Clearly Killam’s gonna be fine—he’s directing a movie starring Arnold Schwarzenegger for goodness sake—but it’s still a surprising and sad development for both him and Pharoah, who’ve turned in consistently solid work over the years and who were something of SNL veterans at this stage.
With these departures as well as the fact that new featured player Jon Rudnitsky isn’t returning, expect SNL to announce some new cast additions ahead of the Season 42 premiere.