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With Rumors Of A Possible Kate McKinnon Exit, Ex-SNL Stars Discuss Recent Change That Could Affect Her Decision



(Image credit: Saturday Night Live/ NBC)

Fans have generally been pretty positive about the current season of Saturday Night Live, but one recurring question has consistently bubbled to the surface: where is Kate McKinnon? The comedienne is off filming her new Tiger King show and will return at some point. Exactly when that some point might be is unclear, and the extended absence has started to be a point of conversation among fans. In fact, it has also started to become a topic of conversation in interviews with former SNL stars.

Rachel Dratch and Ana Gasteyer were recently doing promo for their upcoming comedy homage to Hallmark movies A Clusterfunke Christmas when they were asked about Kate McKinnon’s prolonged absence. Dratch said she keeps up with her SNL “family” but neither have any inside knowledge of what’s going on. That being said, Gasteyer talked about one key change that has happened more recently behind the scenes on the show, and I think it’s an important point when thinking about McKinnon’s future. Here’s what she told US Weekly…

People can kind of come and go. And so I don’t see any reason why someone like Kate would leave unless she had something else she wanted to go do, because if you can kind of hop in and out, that’s the ideal reality.

For most of the show’s run under creator Lorne Michaels, if you were a cast member on the show, your first commitment was required to be to the show. That’s why so many people over the years have left after getting offers to film a movie that would overlap with production. That’s not the case anymore. It’s not publically known what the exact rules are about how long you can be absent for or how the agreements work, but Michaels is reportedly much more open now to Not Ready For Primetime Players leaving for limited stretches. 

Kenan Thompson, as an example, flew back and forth between New York and Los Angeles a lot of weeks last season to work on both SNL and his sitcom Kenan, which also included co-star Chris Redd. The process often required a stand-in during rehearsals. Others including Aidy Bryant have also found tremendous success outside the show while remaining a cast member. She was even recently nominated for an Emmy for her work on the delightful and honest Shrill.

We likely won’t know what’s going on with Kate McKinnon until the end of the Saturday Night Live season or even well into the summer. Sometimes cast members don’t even announce they’re leaving the show until right before the new season. In the near future, I would expect to see Kate McKinnon sooner rather than later, and I’d expect, when that happens, for there to be an explosion of support and excitement on Twitter. It’s basically a guarantee at this point that any episode she doesn’t appear in will result in a stream of tweets from fans wondering where she’s at. So, you’d have to expect a return to produce a much more heightened response.

As for whether she’ll leave or not after the season, I don’t know. A lot of people really love doing Saturday Night Live. There’s nothing quite like the excitement and pressure of live television, which McKinnon talked about in her decision to return this season with The Hollywood Reporter…

I’m going to Australia [for three months] to shoot something now, and so I’ll see what it’s like to come back. But in the past, it’s just a beautiful counterpoint to every other thing. I love working in other venues, and then I love coming back to a family and to the immediacy of thinking of something on a Tuesday and shooting it and airing it a few days later — there’s just nothing else like it.

Kate McKinnon is an absolute joy to watch on Saturday Night Live. Her sense of humor and willingness to jump in and commit to any character makes her a perfect fit for the show. Whenever she leaves, it’ll be really sad to see her go. But the great thing about SNL is there’s always new talent waiting for their next opportunity. More have gotten their chance with her prolonged absence at the beginning of this season, and it’ll be fantastic to see her play off them when she returns. 

Enthusiastic about Clue, case-of-the-week mysteries, the NBA and cookies at Disney World. Less enthusiastic about the pricing structure of cable, loud noises and Tuesdays.

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