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After facing criticism over a lack of color in its female cast, “Saturday Night Live” has added Sasheer Zamata, an African-American from Brooklyn, to its lineup as a featured player, NBC announced today.
Zamata is the late night sketch show’s first black female cast member since the biracial Maya Rudolph departed in 2007.
Executive producer Lorne Michaels got heat when he added six new cast members at the start of this season, but none were black women. The problem became more glaring when “Scandal” star Kerry Washington hosted in early November. Washington's opening sketch even poked fun at the issue; with her presence, “SNL” was able to portray key figures like Michelle Obama and Beyonce.
After Washington’s hosting gig made clear how much the show needed a black woman in the cast, Michaels did something he’s never done before: He held targeted auditions with female African-American comedians.
Zamata beat out two dozen other hopefuls. The University of Virginia grad trained at the Upright Citizens Brigade (a major feeder to “SNL”) and has performed at comedy festivals and created videos for College Humor. She also appeared on ABC's hidden-camera summer series, "Would You Fall For That?"
Plus, she has a very famous fan in “Girls” creator Lena Dunham, who tweeted her approval last month.
Check out Zamata playing Michelle Obama, Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, and more in this YouTube character reel:
Zamata will make her debut on January 18 in the year’s first "SNL" episode, hosted by Drake.
"Saturday Night Live" airs Saturdays at 11:30 p.m. on NBC.