Longtime S.N.L. cast members Jay Pharoah and Taran Killam will not be returning to 30 Rock’s Studio 8H when the NBC sketch-comedy show returns this fall, as confirmed by the New York Times. Taran Killam, a graduate of the famed Groundlings Hollywood improv school, joined the show’s cast as a featured player back in 2010 and became a full cast member for the 2012 season. He has since become an integral member, playing characters ranging from Michael Cera to Senator Ted Cruz. Jay Pharoah also joined the cast as a featured player for the 2010 season and as a full cast member for the 2012 season, and is best known for his Barack Obama and Will Smith impressions.
Taran Killam spoke to Uproxx on his reasons for leaving S.N.L. Apparently he had intended to leave after this upcoming season, but he never got the chance to make the decision as his contract was not renewed: “You sign for seven years, so I had one more year. I had sort of had it in my head I would make this upcoming year my last year, but then heard they weren’t going to pick up my contract. I was never given a reason why, really. I can assume until the cows come home”.
Speculating on why his contract wasn’t picked up, Killam wondered if his upcoming movie, which would be in post-production during the show’s season, had something to do with it: “I do know I’m directing this movie [Why We’re Killing Gunther with Arnold Schwarzenegger] and I’ll have two months of post-production that would have bled into the SNL production schedule, so we kind of communicated that”.
While Killam gave an in-depth interview about the details of his departure, Pharoah declined to comment further than an affirmation of his departure, according the New York Times. Saturday Night Live has a long history of high cast turnover, with members leaving to pursue personal film and television projects all the time, so an event like this is far from unprecedented. However, Killam and Pharoah were in it for the long-haul, and both took part in many hilarious sketches over the years. Hopefully their private projects will be funny and successful, but they will most certainly be missed by the S.N.L. cast and audience alike.