Studio 8H has been rocked by a bait and twist: A major cast member is exiting Saturday Night Live, but it’s not Kate McKinnon. TVLine has learned that fellow cast member Leslie Jones will not be returning for show’s upcoming 45th season. Meanwhile, McKinnon — whose SNL pact expired in May — has extended her contract for (at least) another year, sources confirm.
An NBC rep declined to comment, but an insider tells TVLine that Jones chose to depart to focus on other opportunities (like her forthcoming Netflix standup special).
SNL is set to kick off Season 45 on Sept. 28 with Woody Harrelson and Billie Ellish serving as host musical guest, respectively.
An SNL staple since 2014, Jones has twice been nominated for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series at the Primetime Emmy Awards (in 2017 and 2018). She’s an Emmy nominee again this year for co-writing the lyrics to “Upper East Side,” a song featured in SNL‘s 44th season.
Jones’ additional TV acting credits include roles on ABC’s Kevin (Probably) Saves the World, NBC’s The Blacklist, Hulu’s The Awesomes, Comedy Central’s Workaholics, and FX’s The League. Jones also hosted the 2017 BET Awards, and contributed to NBC Sports’ coverage of the 2016 and 2018 Olympic Games in Rio and Pyeongchang, respectively.