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Speaking to The New York Times about whether she had made a decision, the comedian and actress told the outlet that “I’m stilling thinking.”
“Throughout the year, there were times where I felt like a fifth-year senior and I’m just hanging around, dead weight. Then there would be moments that felt so good,” she explained. “There’s things I want to do, and I want to be open for these things. If I’m there, great — if I’m not there, great. I just want it to feel like the right thing.”
Summer is typically when annual cast negotiations take place for SNL, and executive producer Lorne Michaels confirmed the two were currently in talks, with Michaels pulling for Strong’s return. “My hope is she’ll come back,” he said. “What I said to her, and what I believe, is that I don’t think she’s done yet.”
Strong may not be the only one Michaels is vying to bring back. The SNL producer is reportedly looking to get some of the show’s potential graduating cast to return to the sketch and variety show through 2024, which would mark the NBC show’s 50th season, sources told Variety earlier in the week.
Seven seasons is the standard length of an SNL contract, but a number of the show’s season 46 cast were notably past that, including Kenan Thompson, Kate McKinnon, Aidy Bryant, Colin Jost, Beck Bennet, Kyle Mooney, Michael Che, Pete Davidson and Strong, who has been on the show for nine seasons.
While Che (who came under fire last week over social media comments about Simone Biles) told The View in May that he was “99.9 percent sure” he’ll be back, Jost has gone back and forth — writing in his memoir A Very Punchable Face that he was “preparing mentally to leave SNL in the near future” before clarifying in an October 2020 appearance on The Ellen Show that “I don’t have a real timeline, I just meant like I started to potentially psychologically brace for the concept of leaving.”
Thompson, who has been on the show for 18 seasons, has told several outlets he currently has no plans to leave. And during THR‘s Comedy Actor Roundtable, Davidson said he was “ready to hang up the jersey,” but later said his decision was “still up in the air” based on scheduling.
During the season 46 finale, Strong was among a group of cast members, which included Davidson, McKinnon and Bryant, that took the stage during the cold open and playfully and jokingly recalled the difficulties of filming during the pandemic. Their particular portion of the cold open focused on goodbyes — with Strong, at one point, tearing up — raising more speculation around whether the long-time cast members would be departing.
Senior SNL writer Bryan Tucker told the Times that he also deliberately wrote Strong’s wine-slinging Weekend Update sketch “My Way” (which aired later in the episode) as a “victory lap” for the comedian. “She’s such a special part of the show, and I wanted to write something for her that gave her a big send-off,” he said. “I thought I may never get another chance to do something like that.”
Speaking to her experience doing the sketch, Strong shared that the tank she immersed herself in was actually full of warm, watered-down grape juice.
“The safety guy was like, don’t open your eyes under there because the juice will burn, and I was like, OK, thank you, I wasn’t planning on it,” she recalled. “And then he said, I splashed it in my eyes to test it out, and I was like, you didn’t have to do that.”
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