After an epic five-year run, Saturday Night Live’s Leslie Jones will not be returning for the show’s 45th season. According to reporting by Deadline and the Hollywood Reporter, the Emmy-nominated comedian is leaving the show to concentrate on film projects, such as the upcoming sequel to Coming to America and a comedy special on Netflix. Meanwhile, Kate McKinnon, long rumored to have been considering leaving the show at the end of her contract this year, is reportedly staying on for at least another season, though the capacity of her involvement is unclear. Like Jones, McKinnon is also involved in a number of non-SNL projects, including The Dropout, a limited series on Hulu about Elizabeth Holmes. Jones is currently the only cast member who is reportedly not returning for the coming season.
Jones was hired on SNL as a writer in 2013, at a time when SNL was under increased scrutiny for its lack of female black players. She was subsequently promoted to full-time cast member in 2014 and has since been nominated for two Emmys, while also taking prominent roles in films like Ghostbusters and The Angry Birds Movie 2. During Jones’ tenure on SNL, the comedian also became the target of an invasive internet troll campaign, which lead her to publicly speak out about internet abuse and racism. As a 51-year-old woman of color, Jones’ voice will be sorely missed on SNL. The 45th season of Saturday Night Live will premiere on Sept. 28 with returning host Woody Harrelson and musical guest Billie Eilish.