This was a rough year for Saturday Night Live. That the show ended so well is a tribute to Executive Producer Lorne Michaels’ leadership—or perhaps to his ability to refocus and rebuild mid-season after getting off track early on.
It should be noted that these predictions are highly speculative—based entirely on close watching the show all season. We have no insider information and, frankly, give no weight to showbiz gossip.
So with that caveat, here are our predictions for who will be back, who will go, and who is on the cusp.
100% chance of return
Having just completed her fourth year with SNL, Strong has proven to be one of its most versatile cast members. She was born to play on Saturday Night Live. It’s unimaginable that she would leave this summer or be dismissed. Expect her to be around for at least another two or three seasons, and possibly more.
95% chance of return
As SNL’s only new cast member for Season 41, Rudnitsky acquitted himself like an old pro. His Dirty Dancing Live audition on Weekend Update (“Larry David/The 1975”) was the best thing that happened on the show all season. He’ll return next fall as a featured player, but expect him to join the repertory company in short order.
Beck Bennett, Aidy Bryant, Taran Killam, Kyle Mooney
90% chance of return
It’s a good bet that each of these repertory players will be back for Season 42. Though things started pretty shaky for Bennett with a bad run of forgettable roles, by season’s end the writers had remembered that he’s no frat house boor. The same goes for Bryant, Mooney and Killam. When they are cast well, they are as good as any of their fellow cast members. (In particular, Killam’s really excelled this year.)
85% chance of return
Davidson’s still not found much range acting-wise, though it does seem like Lorne Michaels likes him and sees a place for him at SNL—usually as the kid. Expect him to be promoted to repertory company for the fall.
75% chance of return
It’s always a tough call with impressionists. Pharoah’s value to the show is strictly his ability to mimic, not to craft original comic characters. Expect him back, but don’t be surprised if he winds up with a new gig…especially if NBC starts buzzing about new cast members over the summer.
Vanessa Bayer, Bobby Moynihan, Kenan Thompson
70% chance of return
These three are SNL’s senior class. All have done terrific work this year—especially Bayer, who improved mightily after a dismal Season 40. But it feels like it may be time to move on to new things. Kenan’s just completed his 12th season on the show, which is one of the longest runs of any actor in the show’s history. Last year at this time there was a specific announcement that he’d be staying on. This year, all is quiet.
65% chance of return
Che’s an interesting case. Whereas last year it seemed like the flailing Weekend Update was a sure sign he’d be out, this year things have improved. The segment seems to be working. Though he probably won’t get the bump up to repertory player, he probably will be back.
60% chance of return
SNL’s oldest cast member is a tough call. She’s had good moments and bad…while outside of 30 Rock, she’s about to become a movie star with Ghostbusters. Best bet is that she returns as a repertory player, with an eye on departure after next season.
55% chance of return
Like his Weekend Update co-anchor Michael Che, Colin has managed to survive a full season with great improvement over the last. Still, the Update desk feels a little up for grabs. Who knows?
50% chance of return
Should she stay or should she go? As the current cast’s most obvious breakout star, Kate McKinnon does have options. If we do see her back, expect it to be along the lines of ad hoc cast member Larry David who, after a full season of playing Bernie Sanders, felt like a full cast member. Expect Kate to appear through the fall as Hillary Clinton, then ghost after the election.
10% chance of return
Sasheer should have been a Cecily-like core cast member, but it just didn’t pan out that way. She’s super-talented for sure, but an ill-fit for SNL. Give the show credit for trying her out in several different kinds roles—even as herself in a recent Weekend Update segment. But it is highly unlikely she will return…and doubtful she will be replaced.
NBC typically announces Saturday Night Live cast additions just before the new season starts in mid-September. In the meantime keep your eyes on those Ghostbusters grosses. Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones are both leads in that film who might be big, big stars come Labor Day and decide to move on.
Keep in mind that Lorne Michaels worked as hard as he’s ever worked before to make this cast work out this season. By year’s end, he’d formed a finely tuned ensemble that didn’t really have any breakout stars, but did seem to know how to make us laugh. It is doubtful he wants to remix that chemistry at this point. We very well could be looking at the first Saturday Night Live summer hiatus with no cast changes whatsoever since 2011.
Check out how we did on our predictions from last year.
Chris White writes and directs independent feature films. His latest is
a southern gothic comedy starring Patti D’Arbanville and Michael Forest. Follow Chris on Twitter.