Leslie Jones is walking away from “Saturday Night Live” before the start of Season 45, The Times has learned, but fellow star Kate McKinnon is sticking around.
Jones, a stand-up-comic-turned-actress, first joined the show as a writer. She had auditioned in late 2013 at a casting session that was focused on adding one African American woman to the cast, which had long been criticized for its homogeneity. After a couple of on-camera appearances, she became a featured player in October 2014, then returned for the next four seasons.
Since joining the cast, she costarred in the female incarnation of “Ghostbusters” and added her voice to “The Angry Birds Movie 2,” among other projects.
The 51-year-old has become known for her raucous social media presence, even earning a job covering the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro after gaining attention with her enthusiastic comments on Twitter. But social media hasn’t been all fun for Jones: She’d been in a “personal hell” on Twitter just months before the Olympics, when the “Ghostbusters” release unleashed a slew of hateful, racist attacks on her.
“I know who I am,” Jones told The Times right before the attacks began. “And I don’t care if you think I’m sexy.”
“The Internet has made it so we don’t have to sit together anymore,” she continued. “It’s so self-absorbed. No one has to talk to each other anymore, and people don’t realize that that is killing us.”
McKinnon, who joined the cast as a featured player in 2012, is best known for her impressions of Justin Bieber, Hillary Clinton and, more recently, Marianne Williamson. She also costarred in “Ghostbusters.”
On Monday, “Saturday Night Live” announced its initial lineup for Season 45, which kicks off Sept. 28 with a show hosted by Woody Harrelson and featuring Billie Eilish as musical guest. Other hosts on tap so far are Phoebe Waller-Bridge with musical guest Taylor Swift; David Harbour with musical guest Camila Cabello; Kristen Stewart and Eddie Murphy.