‘SNL’ invites black women to secret auditions

Actress Azie Dungey, in character for her comedy web series "Ask A Slave." (Photo by Johnny Shryock/Courtsey of Azie Dungey)
Actress Azie Dungey, in character for her comedy web series “Ask A Slave.” (Photo by Johnny Shryock/Courtsey of Azie Dungey)

“Saturday Night Live” held auditions recently — just for black women.

Azie Dungey, creator of “Ask A Slave,” was one of the women who was invited to the secret auditions at the Groundlings Theatre in Los Angeles last week.

Instagram photos from the showcase showed that Bresha Webb (Love that Girl), Simone Shepherd, Tiffany Haddish, Beth Payne, Darmirra Brunson, and Gabrielle Dennis (The Game) were among those invited to perform.


Jasmine Brand broke the news on her blog, where she posted an interview with Webb after the showcase.

“SNL’s” two current black castmembers, Kenan Thompson and Jay Pharoah, expressed trepidation earlier this year at dressing in drag to play black female characters. The controversy came to a head when Thompson said in an interview that casting directors for “SNL” never seemed to find black comediennes who were “ready.”

NPR’s Eric Deggans reported last month that the Fox network — home to “Sleepy Hollow” and “Almost Human,” which both feature black leads — began pursuing casting diversity because it made good business sense, not out of a sense of moral obligation to accurately reflect America’s increasingly varied ethnic makeup.

Is it possible that NBC is seizing the same opportunity with black women after being forced to acknowledge their embarrassing absence from the “SNL” cast?

UPDATE: “SNL” creator and executive producer Lorne Michaels told the New York Times that he expects to hire at least one black woman who will join the cast in January.

Soraya Nadia McDonald covers arts, entertainment and culture for the Washington Post with a focus on race and gender issues.
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