LaKendra Tookes, Leslie Jones
In addition to adding Sasheer Zamata to its cast, Saturday Night Livehas hired two new black female writers. According to The Hollywood Reporter, LaKendra Tookes and Leslie Jones will start work on the sketch show on Monday.
Both comedians were discovered during the recent auditions Lorne Michaels held in response to criticism of the show's lack of diversity.
SNL adds Sasheer Zamata
Jones is a stand-up comedian who was a finalist for the spot eventually given to Zamata. She has guest-starred on The League, Sullivan & Son, and has written and appeared on Def Comedy Jam and 1st Amendment Stand Up.
Tookes is a former news reporter-turned-actress-comedian. Watch her impressive character reel below, featuring impressions of Oprah, Chris Rock, NeNe Leakes and Michael McDonald.
As of now, there are no plans to have Tookes or Jones appear on screen, but it's not an uncommon trajectory for writers on the series.Tina Fey, Jason Sudeikis, John Mulaney and most recently Mike O'Brienall began in the writers' room.
With the addition of Tookes, Jones and Zamata, it seems as though Michaels is taking the diversity criticism very seriously. The series added six new cast members this fall, all of whom are white and only one of whom, Noel Wells, is a woman. In an interview with TVGuide.com in October, cast member Kenan Thompson blamed the lack of a black female comedian on the show for seven years on the fact that "in auditions, they just never find ones that are ready."
Bobby Moynihan praises new SNL cast member Sasheer Zamata
When asked whether the series was going to add a second new cast member this season as Michaels previously hinted, cast memberBobby Moynihan told TVGuide.com that he's as in the dark as us. "I found out about Sasheer about 10 minutes before the world found out. So, they don't tell me anything," he said. "As far as casting and all that stuff, sometimes I just show up and they're like, 'These are your new coworkers,' and I'm like, 'Oh, neat!'"
SNL returns Jan. 18 at 11:30/10:30c on NBC.