The between-seasons buzz about Saturday Night Live has been more about who may be leaving than who will certainly be staying, but if a report is to be believed the show’s creator is interested in keeping its biggest free agents around for a long time.
Variety reported on Monday that Saturday Night Live creator Lorne Michaels wants most of the show’s cast to return this fall and beyond: at least until the show’s 50th season.
The process usually starts in August, but has commenced earlier this year, according to two people familiar with the matter, as Michaels works to convince cast members whose contracts may have lapsed not only to stay, but to stay for a while.
“SNL” is about to enter its 47th season, but Michaels hopes to get some cast members to agree to stay through the show’s 50th, according to these people, a landmark occasion that is slated to start in the fall of 2024.
There are some vague speculations and reading of the proverbial tea leaves in the story, but it does offer some context to the behind-the-scenes shuffling taking place this summer for the most-watched show on network TV for NBC’s most valued demographic. For starters, the off-season hoopla about some long-running cast members who have hinted about leaving the show like Kate McKinnon, Cecily Strong and Aidy Bryant, all who have hesitated to commit to returning for Season 48.
One interesting factor here is the future of the show itself, with Variety noting that Michaels only has a deal with NBC for the show until 2025. Keeping strong ratings and a familiar, cohesive cast around until then is likely to increase its chances of staying on the air. Which, as the report notes, may explain why members of the cast have been able to pursue other projects while missing some time on the show in the process and not drawing Michaels’ ire. That may help stars itching to do movies and other projects while still holding down the sketch comedy show as a cast member for what would be several more years.
Such a commitment would be a long one for cast members who have already worked on the program for several years, but these people say Michaels is willing to grant some flexibility, giving cast who have other opportunities the chance to work on those projects as well as on the show. “SNL” demonstrated some of this elasticity last season, when both Cecily Strong and Aidy Bryant were able to commit to outside projects like Apple’s “Schmigadoon” and Hulu’s “Shrill” while missing multiple episodes of “SNL.” Michaels has also worked to find ways for Kenan Thompson and Chris Redd to take part in the NBC sitcom “Kenan” without missing much of “Saturday Night Live.” It helps that all of these series are produced under the auspices of Michaels’ own Broadway Video.
Meanwhile, Kenan Thompson has said he’s going nowhere, so that’s at least one cast veteran Michaels won’t have to worry about this summer. But it certainly makes for an intriguing offer, especially if there’s added flexibility to work on other projects along the way.