“Saturday Night Live,” which has long been criticized for its lack of diverse casting choices, just made a major step forward in Asian American representation.
NBC confirmed Thursday that three new featured players, including Asian American actor and comedian Bowen Yang, will join “SNL’s” revolving door of performers for its 45th season. The sketch show has also tapped Chloe Fineman and Shane Gillis for coveted positions in its comedic repertory.
The announcement comes a little more than a week after “SNL” fan favorite Leslie Jones said she was walking away from the series. Jones first worked as a writer for the show before auditioning in late 2013 at a casting session focused on adding an African American woman to its lineup. She became a featured player along with Sasheer Zamata and Pete Davidson in 2014.
While other recurring cast members, such as Fred Armisen and Rob Schneider, have Asian heritage, and stars of Asian descent like Awkwafina, Kumail Nanjiani and Sandra Oh have been memorable hosts, Yang will make a significant stride for Asian American and LGBTQ+ representation when he takes the “SNL” stage this fall. Fellow industry members have already posted several congratulatory messages to Yang on social media for his historic moment.
“Ahhhh!!! ... @bowenyang is making history!!” tweeted “Crazy Rich Asians” director Jon M. Chu. “As always expected!!! Congrats my friend. this is HUGE.”
Fellow comedian Joel Kim Booster and TV writer Ira Madison III joined Yang’s chorus of internet fans, who also know him for his famous videos hilariously lip-synching over iconic lines from movies and TV shows like “America’s Next Top Model” and the Julia Roberts film “Erin Brockovich.” He also served as a staff writer for “SNL” last season.
Fineman and Gillis have also built up some credits. Fineman has appeared on the small screen in series such as “Search Party” and “Jane the Virgin,” while Gillis was named a “New Face” at the Just for Laughs Festival and co-hosts “Matt and Shane’s Secret Podcast.”
“SNL” returns Sept. 28 with host Woody Harrelson and musical guest Billie Eilish.