Saturday Night Live is preparing for its upcoming 36th season by hiring three new featured players, and saying goodbye to one of its recent mainstays.
While NBC has yet to confirm (the network typically holds off saying anything about SNL personnel until just before the start of a new season), various reports indicate that the show has hired Taran Killam, a regular sitcom guest star presence and a former cast member on onetime SNL rival MadTV; and Chicago-based improv performers Vanessa Bayer and Paul Brittain.
Last week, it was announced that Will Forte would be leaving SNL after eight seasons, news that points to this being an important year for the show. Forte will take numerous veteran characters with him, and it's been quite a while since a newcomer to SNL has made a big splash. At some point, Lorne Michaels and company will need one of their featured players to begin shouldering some of the load. No one who has been brought on to SNL the last several years has broken out of the pack.
There have been no reports that any other cast members are joining Forte on the way out, though it would seem strange that a budget-conscious show and network would hire three people with just one leaving. With Forte gone, the most veteran name in the current cast is Kenan Thompson, but it's doubtful he would be leaving SNL now, coming off his first really strong season ever. It's more likely that one or more of the recent featured player hires will be let go, as Michaela Watkins and Casey Wilson were last summer.