Lorne Michaels took the first step in fixing Saturday Night Live's diversity problem by hiringSasheer Zamata earlier this week, making the Upright Citizens Brigade alum the first black female cast member on the series since Maya Rudolph left in 2007. Zamata will face extra pressure, thanks to the ongoing controversy surrounding SNL's whitewashed cast, but new co-star Bobby Moynihan has full faith she'll be able to handle it with ease.
"I've seen her perform at UCB and I've never seen a more beautiful, confident person onstage than Sasheer," Moynihan tells TVGuide.com. "I think we're very, very lucky to get her."
SNL came under fire this fall when it added six new cast members, all of whom are white and only one of whom, Noel Wells, is a woman. Longtime cast member Kenan Thompson told TVGuide.com that the reason for the show's lack of black comediennes was simply because, "in auditions, they just never find ones that are ready."
Thompson's dismissal of the countless black women currently working in comedy ignited intense outrage, yet oddly also inspired one of SNL's best opening sketches in years. The week following Thompson's interview, host Kerry Washington began the episode by frantically changing between every major black female celebrity the show hasn't been able to feature since Thompson and Jay Pharaoh took a stance against performing in drag.
Moynihan says that it was important for the series to acknowledge its lack of diversity with the Washington sketch, but he's hoping people will once again think of SNL in relation to comedy instead of the controversy . "We just wanna make everybody laugh, so let us do it," he says. "I'm very happy [Zamata's] on board now and we can start doing that.
"We can do characters we haven't [done] or people have wanted to see," he continues. "There's a lot of famous black women and now we can do that," Moynihan says, adding that he's sure we'll soon see Zamata as First Lady Michelle Obama. "But all in all, the most important thing is that we just got a really talented, awesome, funny person on the show."
As for whether SNL will be adding a second new cast member this season as Michaels hinted, Moynihan says his guess is as good as ours. "I found out about Sasheer about 10 min before the world found out. So, they don't tell me anything," he says. "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!'"
Zamata will make her SNL debut when the show returns with host and musical guest Drakeon Jan. 18 (11:30/10:30c on NBC). And there's no doubt the controversy preceding Zamata's hiring will put increased scrutiny on the comedian. "She's going to have a crazy couple of weeks," Moynihan says. "So, the only advice I can give her is enjoy it. Just relax and enjoy it."
While there are surely those who are (wrongly) suspicious of Zamata's talents, Moynihan believes people will likely underestimate Drake, as well. "I feel like it's going to be like the Bruno Mars show with Drake. I don't think people had high expectations for comedy because he's a singer, but he showed up and killed it, knocked it out of the park. And I think Drake's going to do the same thing," he says.
And SNL better get a good prop wheelchair handy, because Moynihan teases, "I'm sure there's going to be a Degrassi sketch."