Comedian Leslie Jones leaving Saturday Night Live
Saturday Night Live cast member Leslie Jones is leaving the NBC show after five seasons, while Kate McKinnon is sticking around.
Jones’ departure was confirmed by a person familiar with the change who spoke Tuesday on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss Jones’ status with the long-running sketch series.
The departure comes as Jones is branching out into other projects.
The person also said McKinnon will return for her eighth season with the show. McKinnon’s portrayals of political figures including Hillary Clinton and Jeff Sessions have become an SNL staple.
The news came one day after the show announced Eddie Murphy will be returning to the place that helped launch his career.
The comedian will host the show Dec. 21, marking the former cast member’s first hosting appearance since 1984.
Murphy was a cast member from 1980 to 1984, starring in such landmark sketches as “Mr. Robinson’s Neighbourhood” and as Gumby, Buckwheat and Stevie Wonder.
He went on to star in numerous films, including The Nutty Professor, Bowfinger, Beverly Hills Cop and Coming to America.
Saturday Night Live, which is celebrating its 45th season, returns Sept. 28 with host Woody Harrelson and Billie Eilish as the musical guest.
Other planned guests this season include Fleabag actor Phoebe Waller-Bridge, singer Taylor Swift, Stranger Things actor David Harbour, singer Camila Cabello and actor Kristen Stewart.
Earlier this month, Jones announced she’s doing a Netflix stand-up special. Appearing on Jimmy Kimmel’s late-night show, Jones said it’s great to be an actress but that she’s really a “hardcore” stand-up comedian.
But she hasn’t abandoned acting: Jones is part of the voice cast of the recently released The Angry Birds Movie 2 and reportedly has been in discussions to join Murphy’s announced Coming to America sequel.
Her tenure on SNL was marked by an exuberant style and portrayal of celebrities including Whoopi Goldberg, whom Jones has called an inspiration.
She started with SNL as a writer, hired after the show was criticized in 2013 for a lack of diversity, particularly the absence of an African American woman among 16 regular or featured players. Cast members Kenan Thompson and Jay Pharoah, who has since left the show, commented publicly about it and refused to dress in drag to portray black women.
Jones was promoted to cast member early in the 2014-15 season and received three Emmy nominations for her work. Her representatives did not return a message seeking comment Tuesday.