Saturday Night Live typically does not wait until this late in the summer to announce departures, but five or six weeks ahead of next season’s premiere, TVLine is reporting that Jay Pharoah and Taran Killam are leaving the show.
Both Pharoah and Killam, who have been with SNL for six years, are reportedly leaving to pursue other opportunities. Pharoah and Killam have both been popular with SNL audiences. Pharoah, of course, is best known for his impressions, but with Obama leaving office, maybe Pharoah saw it as a natural exit point. Meanwhile, for a few seasons, it seemed like the show would try to build around Killam. However, in recent seasons, he’s been somewhat overshadowed by Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones, who have become the show’s break-out cast members.
NBC has confirmed the departures.
Killam is currently directing Why We’re Killing Gunther, starring himself, his wife Cobie Smulders and Arnold Schwarzenegger. The comedy is about a group of eccentric assassins who get fed up with Gunther, the world’s greatest hit-man and decide to kill him. Pharoah, meanwhile, has booked voice work on two upcoming film projects.
In an interview with Mike Ryan over on Uproxx, Killam suggests that his exit wasn’t entirely his idea:
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.
Read more from Ryan’s review on Uproxx.