'SNL': Civil Rights Group Praises Plan to Add African-American Woman to Cast

ColorOfChange.org, which says it met with NBCUniversal execs before Thanksgiving, calls the move "an important step in the right direction."
Courtesy of Casey Rodgers/AP Images for 42Below VOdka
Lorne Michaels

Saturday Night Live's decision to add an African-American woman to its cast by January is getting high praise from a civil rights group that previously criticized the show for what it called a "deficit of Black onscreen talent."

"We applaud Saturday Night Live on its decision to add a Black woman to the cast. Given its broad influence on American culture and within the entertainment industry, SNL has the power to be a model for other shows and networks by depicting relevant and authentic portrayals of Black women," ColorOfChange.org Executive Director of Rashad Robinson said in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter.

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In late October, ColorOfChange.org sent a letter to SNL executive producer Lorne Michaels asking him to address the lack of African-American women in the cast. Robinson says shortly before Thanksgiving, ColorOfChange.org met with NBCUniversal execs "to discuss SNL's failure to address the exclusion of Black women from the soundstages at 30 Rockefeller Plaza, as well as share our members' concerns about misleading stereotypes often used to portray Black people on the show."

"The decision to cast a Black woman is an important step in the right direction and shows that our members' voices were heard," Robinson writes. "ColorOfChange looks forward to a continued dialogue with network executives to ensure that this new cast member has the support she needs backstage to be successful on screen."

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As THR previously reported, SNL intends to add at least one African-American woman to its cast by January, and recently held two showcase auditions consisting entirely of African-American women. The showcases were the first in the show's history to focus on minority women.

Currently, Kenan Thompson and Jay Pharoah are the only African-Americans in the cast of 16, while Nasim Pedrad is Iranian-American. Of the six new faces the show added for season 39, all of them were white, with the exception of Noel Wells, who is of Hispanic and Tunisian decent.

E-Mail: Aaron.Couch@THR.com
Twitter: @AaronCouch