“Live from New York, it’s…” finally a woman who’s not Maya Rudolph who can play Michelle Obama on Saturday Night Live.
In less than two weeks, Saturday Night Live will have a black female cast member for the first time since 2007. Deadline Hollywood reports that Sasheer Zamata, an alumna of the Upright Citizens Brigade comedy troupe, will make her debut on the late-night sketch series on Jan. 18, featuring Drake as host and musical guest.
SNL’s lack of diversity has incited rumblings of discontent for decades—there have been only four women of color on the series in its 38-year history. But the rumblings erupted into roars late last year when Kenan Thompson suggested that black female comedians didn’t have what it takes to join the SNL crew. “It’s just a tough part of the business,” Thompson said. “Like in auditions, they just never find ones that are ready.”
Zamata graduated three years ago from the University of Virginia, has been performing at the UCB Theatre in New York, and has already logged an impressive resume of sketch appearances—both on-screen and in live theater. The show hasn’t had a black female cast member since 2007 when Maya Rudolph left the show.
Back in November, SNL shrewdly skewered its diversity problem with its Kerry Washington-hosted outing. If the ringer Washington was put through in the episode’s cold open is any indication—she was tasked, as the only black female at Studio 8H, to play Michelle Obama, Oprah, and Beyoncé—Zamata could be looking at an exhausting run with the show. Here’s the self-aware message that scrolled on the screen during the sketch:
“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 request both because Ms. Washington is an actress of considerable range and talent, but also because SNL doesn’t currently have a black woman in the cast. As for the latter, we realize 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.”
Turns out Lorne Michaels warmed up to Zamata before another potential McConaughey-portrayer had the chance. Here’s how her former collaborator, W. Kamau Bell, foresees her first day on the job going:
"So umm… this is where I keep all my wigs. You can totally use any of them!" Keenan Thompson to Sasheer Zamata on her 1st day on the job.
— W. Kamau Bell (@wkamaubell) January 6, 2014
That’s gonna be a lot of wigs. Best of luck, Sasheer.