January 08, 2014 9:42am PT by Lesley Goldberg
'Saturday Night Live' Adds Two African-American Female Writers (Exclusive)
Saturday Night Live has just added a new African-American woman to its cast, and now the show is adding two to its writers' room as well.
LaKendra Tookes and Leslie Jones, who were discovered during the sketch show's recent auditions, will join SNL's writers' room starting on Monday, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.
Tookes and Jones were both among the black female comedians who auditioned during showcases held in New York and Los Angeles after the long-running Lorne Michaels sketch series faced widespread criticism that its new cast lacked diversity -- specifically the inclusion of an African-American woman.
Following the auditions -- the first in SNL history to focus exclusively on minority women -- Upright Citizens Brigade alum Sasheer Zamata was tapped to join the series. She'll make her debut on Jan. 18 when Drake hosts.
Jones, an actress and stand-up comedian who was a finalist for the new castmember spot, has performed at the Comedy Store in Los Angeles, guest-starred in comedies including The League and Sullivan & Son, and written for and appeared on Def Comedy Jam and 1st Amendment Stand Up. She's performed at the Just for Laughs festival in Montreal as well as the Aspen Comedy Festival. In 2011, her comedy special Problem Child was broadcast on Showtime. Jones is repped by Integral Entertainment and Pierce Law Group.
Actress-comedian Tookes, meanwhile, is a former news reporter from Florida who has performed at iO West. Check out her character reel here.
Sources tell THR that producers were impressed with both Tookes and Jones and thought they were talented, smart and funny. Currently there are no plans to have either of them appear onscreen, though a number of SNL writers in the past have transitioned to larger roles. Most recently, Mike O'Brien was promoted to featured player for the current 39th season after joining SNL as a writer in 2009. Others, including breakout Jason Sudeikis, have followed similar career trajectories.
The additions come in advance of Seth Meyers' planned SNL exit in the spring as he transitions to replace Jimmy Fallon as the host of NBC's Late Night.