Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Screening Room: Who Might Be The Next Black Actress On 'SNL'?

Kerry Washington (with Taran Killam) recently appeared on <em>SNL </em>to spoof the show's lack of a black female cast member.
Dana Edelson
Kerry Washington (with Taran Killam) recently appeared on SNL to spoof the show's lack of a black female cast member.

Word has hit the Internet streets that Saturday Night Live recently hosted special — some folks are saying "secret!" — auditions for black women to add to its cast.

Things are moving fast: Bill Carter of The New York Timesreports that Lorne Michaels, SNLcreator and executive producer, said he was committed to finding a black actress by January.

The tryouts follow a sputtering of criticism over the absence of a black actress on SNL since Maya Rudolph left in 2007. Kenan Thompson and Jay Pharoah, two of the show's black cast members, had previously lamented its lack of black women. Thompson, who said he was no longer going to dress in drag, came in for particular criticism after telling TV Guide that SNL auditions never turn up any black female comedians who are ready for the job.

Kerry Washington appeared on SNL in November after this debacle, opening with a sketch in which she portrayed, like, a whole lot of black women. That drew this on-screen acknowledgement from the producers:

"The Producers at Saturday Night Live would like to apologize to Kerry Washington for the number of black women she will be asked to play tonight. We made these requests only because Ms. Washington is an actress of considerable range and talent and also because SNL does not currently have a black woman in the cast. As for the latter reason, we agree that this is not an ideal situation, and look forward to rectifying it in the near future ... unless, of course, we fall in love with another white guy first."

So which of these women might we see gracing the tee-vee on future Saturday nights? Several women tweeted that they were at the auditions; you can see some of their YouTube material below. Deadline has circulated the names of some more SNL potentials. Feel verrrry free to hop into the comments and share more links to your favorite skits, clips and what-have-yous from black female performers you think should be on the show.

Gabrielle Dennis

Dennis played Janay on the BET series The Game and graduated from Howard University with a theater degree. She was also in Blue Mountain State,The UndergroundandBring It On II: Fight To The Finish.


Simone Shepherd

She was Peaches in Tracks.She's also an active YouTuber, and works with performer Torrei Hart to make videos for PrettyFunnyFish. Shepherd's a prolific Viner, as seen in the above delightfully random compilation.

@SimoneShepherd; YouTube; Vine

Tiffany Haddish

Haddish is a stand-up comedian, actress and dancer. She has appeared on It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia,My Name Is Earl, Janky Promoters and Meet the Spartans.


Bresha Webb

She plays Imunique in Love That Girl!and was the character Cookie in LearningTown.Webb has also appeared on ER and State of Mind.

@BreshaWebb; YouTube

Azie Dungey

Dungey is best known for her video series Ask a Slave.

@AzieDee; YouTube

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit

Kat Chow is a reporter with NPR and a founding member of the Code Switch team. She is currently on sabbatical, working on her first book (forthcoming from Grand Central Publishing/Hachette). It's a memoir that digs into the questions about grief, race and identity that her mother's sudden death triggered when Kat was young.
KUER is listener-supported public radio. Support this work by making a donation today.