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Here's Why SNL's New Cast Member Is Notable

Bowen Yang, one of 3 new cast members, will be show's only Asian American performer
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 12, 2019 2:37 PM CDT
This undated image released by NBC shows Bowen Yang who, along with Chloe Fineman and Shane Gillis, will join the cast of "Saturday Night Live," premiering its 45th season on Sept. 28.   (Alex Schaefer/NBC via AP)

(Newser) Saturday Night Live is adding three new cast members for its upcoming 45th season, including the show's only Asian American performer. Bowen Yang, who joined NBC's SNL last season as a staff writer, will be a featured player, NBC said Thursday. Yang is co-host of a podcast, Las Culturistas. Also joining the show as featured players are Chloe Fineman and Shane Gillis, the AP reports. Fineman has been a regular performer with the Groundlings improv company, and both she and Gillis were featured as "New Faces" at the Just for Laughs Festival in Montreal. The show returns Sept. 28 with host Woody Harrelson and musical guest Billie Eilish.

Saturday Night Live has taken heat over the years for an overall lack of ethnic diversity, with scant Asian representation among its cast members or hosts. Former players Fred Armisen and Rob Schneider both are one-quarter Asian, but neither has been widely recognized for their Asian ancestry. Among hosts, the long history of SNL includes a short list of Asian or Asian Americans, with Awkafina, Aziz Ansari, and Jackie Chan among them. Change is a constant at SNL. Leslie Jones, who joined the show after it was criticized in 2013 for the absence of an African American woman among its regular or featured players, is focusing on stand-up and movies and won't be back this season.

(Read more Saturday Night Live stories.)

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