'SNL': Civil Rights Group Praises Addition of African-American Talent

Sasheer Zamata Headshot - P 2013

Sasheer Zamata Headshot - P 2013

Saturday Night Live is getting high praise from civil rights group ColorOfChange.org.

The online organization, which previously criticized SNL for what it described as a lack of diversity in its cast, thanked the show's producers for three new hires this week.

On Tuesday, Upright Citizens Brigade alum Sasheer Zamata was tapped to join the series. She will be the first African-American woman in the cast since Maya Rudolph, who left the show in 2007. And Wednesday, LaKendra Tookes and Leslie Jones, both African American, joined the show as writers.

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“We extend our sincerest congratulations to LaKendra Tookes and Leslie Jones on being hired as writers for Saturday Night Live. Tookes and Jones will hopefully add a depth and freshness of perspective to SNL's writers’ room, fostering the creative environment necessary for new cast member Sasheer Zamata to thrive onscreen," ColorOfChange said in a statement Wednesday. "These hires -- found during a rare nationwide talent search conducted by SNL -- are indicative of the wealth of talented, often-overlooked black women comedians working today."

The statement continues: "These exciting hires are important steps toward fostering a comedic landscape -- and a larger media landscape -- that presents fair and humanizing portrayals of black women.”

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. The group met with NBCUniversal execs shortly before Thanksgiving to discuss diversity on the show.

The three new hires were found during a rare, nationwide search for a female African-American cast member.

SNL returns Jan. 18 for the first show of the year with host and musical guest Drake.

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