Jay Pharoah is coming clean about his time on “Saturday Night Live” in a new interview — and he’s not holding anything back.
The comedian’s contract with “SNL” was not renewed last summer, after starring on the NBC series for six seasons.
“You go where you’re appreciated,” Pharaoh said in a radio interview this week with Hot97. “If 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 and it’s making us feel bad because they don’t use you and you’re a talent…”
He continued, saying, “They put people into boxes and whatever they want you to do, they expect you to do. And I’m fiery. I’m not a yes n—-.”
NBC declined to comment on Pharoah’s interview, per Variety‘s request.
Pharoah, who was most famous for his portrayal of President Barack Obama, says that he was put into an “impression box” where he was asked to do all the black impressions on the show. He explained to the radio hosts that when he was asked to do certain bits, such as wearing a dress, he wasn’t afraid to say no. He explains the reaction was, “‘What do you mean, you’re not doing it?!'”
This past season, “SNL” has had booming ratings and much success with Alec Baldwin taking on President Donald Trump. The show has also brought on A-list comedians, such as Melissa McCarthy playing press secretary Sean Spicer, to rave reviews from critics and fans.
“If you really noticed, for the last year and a half, they didn’t do any Obama sketches at all. I was like, ‘Just let me do my character, and we’ll be fine.’ They didn’t want to do that,” Pharoah said, noting that “SNL” has turned to more celebrity cameos this season, and adding that he would have liked to share scenes as Obama with Baldwin’s Trump. “No disrespect to them, but I kind of feel like they gave up … gave up on the Obama thing … I think it was just a whatever attitude.”
Pharoah also took credit for “SNL’s” inclusion of more black female comedians, which saw the hires of players like Leslie Jones and Sasheer Zamata. He also alleges that the show almost fired him for speaking up about the lack of diversity among the cast, calling the series, “Wonder Bread — straight up.”
“I was at the audition and me speaking up, they were ready to get rid of me in 2013 when I spoke up,” he said about the casting call for African-American women. “When I said what I said and it went viral … I almost lost my job.”
Among his criticism of the show, Pharoah did maintain that he has a good relationship with “SNL” creator Lorne Michaels.
“I’m just a little more affirmative than some of the other cast members. A lot of people are scared of Lorne. Lorne, I respect the hell out of him,” he said. “I like Lorne. Ain’t no problem with Lorne Michaels … there ain’t no beef with Lorne. We’re on good graces and everything, but there have been some shaky times and that time was a shaky time.”
Following his “SNL” departure, Pharaoh landed the lead role on Showtime’s upcoming series “White Famous.” Looking back at the NBC show, he said “it was definitely a good experience and it was a stepping stone to other opportunities, which I viewed it as that as soon as I got there.”
As for his standup, he said, “I’ve got superfans. They show up to my shows and they say, ‘F— ‘SNL.” I’m like, ‘Wow, I feel you, my n—-.'”
Watch Pharoah’s full interview here: