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Leslie Jones is leaving SNL, Kate McKinnon to return for Season 45

  • Jones has decided to leave Saturday Night Live ahead of the Season 45 premiere after five seasons, with two years remaining on her contract, to focus on her feature film career, as well as her upcoming Netflix special. McKinnon, whose contract expired in May, has agreed to return for an eighth season. "McKinnon, one of the most heralded SNL cast members with two Emmys to date for her work, had been mulling her future on the show since at least January," reports Deadline's Nellie Andreeva. "It came down to the wire, but she has opted to return. It is unclear whether she would be on the show full-time." Jones became an SNL cast member in fall 2014 after joining the show earlier that year as a writer following the show's widely publicized casting call to find an African-American female cast member amid a controversy over a lack of black females. The 51-year-old Jones was the oldest cast member in SNL history. "The show opened a lot of doors for her and, after five years on SNL and two Emmy nominations for her work on the show, Jones has decided to take advantage of those new opportunities," says Andreeva. "They include her first standup comedy special Netflix, which was recently announced, and several feature projects, including a role in the Coming To America sequel." Chris Rock originally lobbied Lorne Michaels to hire Jones. "I recommended J.B. Smoove for Saturday Night Live, and I just helped Leslie Jones get on that show," Rock wrote in a 2014 Hollywood Reporter essay. "She’s about as funny as a human being can be, but she didn’t go to Second City, she doesn’t do stand-up at The Cellar and she’s not in with Judd Apatow, so how the hell was she ever going to get through unless somebody like me says to Lorne Michaels, 'Hey, look at this person'? I saw her at a comedy club four or five years ago, and I wrote her name down in my phone. I probably called four managers — the biggest managers in comedy — to manage her, and all of them said no. They didn’t get it. They didn’t get it until Lorne said yes a few years later, and then it was too late." ALSO: Revisit Leslie Jones' most memorable SNL sketches.

    TOPICS: Leslie Jones, NBC, Saturday Night Live, Chris Rock, Kate McKinnon