The Saturday Night Live cast reshuffle is an annual tradition, one reflecting the show’s confidence in its future. Some years more than half of the ensemble will turn over, a sign of a transition between eras; at other times, like last year, there are barely any changes made. This summer is falling somewhere in the middle: After the somewhat surprising firing of Jay Pharoah, Taran Killam, and Jon Rudnitsky, the show will add three young comics as featured players for its 42nd season premiere on October 1. They include the show’s first Latina performer, Melissa Villaseñor, as well as Mikey Day and Alex Moffat.
The fact that SNL has never employed a Latina performer in its 42 years perfectly illustrates how slow it’s been to acknowledge demographic changes in comedy. The show has featured two performers of Latin descent: Horatio Sanz, who is Chilean-American, and Fred Armisen, whose mother is Venezuelan and whose father was Japanese and German. Villaseñor, an L.A.-based comedian, was a competitor on America’s Got Talent in 2011, where she showed off her skills as an impressionist; she should prove a valuable addition for a show that often calls on its white performers to impersonate Latina women. From a demographic standpoint, the only surprising move among the hires was the lack of a younger black actor to replace Pharoah; his wide range of impressions, from Barack Obama to Will Smith to Jay Z, will be difficult to replace.