Last year, SNL announced that Jay Pharoah wouldn’t be returning after six seasons on the sketch comedy program. It was surprising news to fans of the comedian who entertained millions with his spot-on impressions of President Obama, Jay Z, Denzel Washingon, and many others. Unfortunately, Pharoah’s impressions may have proved to be a double-edged sword, so claims the actor in a recent interview with Hot 97’s Ebro In The Morning.
“They put people into boxes, and whatever they want you to do, they expect you to do,” Pharoah says about SNL not using his full potential. “You go where you’re appreciated. You have multiple people on the cast saying things like, ‘You’re so talented, and you’re able, and they don’t use you.’ It’s unfair because they don’t use you and you’re a talent.”
He also recalls one instance when higher-ups wanted him to wear a dress, something he’s vehemently against, revealing, “I’m fiery too. I’m not one of those yes [men]. That’s not me.” Pharoah says they couldn’t understand why he would be so opposed to wearing the dress, wondering, “‘What?! What do you mean you’re not doing it?’ However, the actor couldn’t be moved, telling SNL bosses, “I mean I’m not putting on a dress.” For what it’s worth, man-in-a-dress skits in 2017 are pretty lazy and uninspired.
Pharoah reveals another instance where he wanted to play Obama during Trump’s campaigning but was shut down by SNL bosses. “If you notice, for the last year and a half, they didn’t know any Obama sketches, at all. I was like, ‘Just let me do my character and we’ll be fine.’ They didn’t wanna do that.” Overall, he feels like SNL simply gave up on him and stopped caring. “I feel like they stopped, especially for me. They were like, ‘Cool. Whatever.’”
While he was officially fired in 2016, Pharoah claims he was nearly let go in 2013, when he spoke out and said SNL didn’t have any black female cast members. “When [the interview] went viral, I almost lost my freaking job.”
Ironically, the controversial statements led to the hiring of Sasheer Zamata, SNL’s first black female cast member in seven years. It also made way for Leslie Jones and LaKendra Tookes as writers.