Saturday Night Live is saying goodbye to one beloved cast member this year, but it's not the one you were thinking. Leslie Jones will repeatedly exit the series ahead of the 45th season. Additionally, Kate McKinnon, whose contract was up in May, has reportedly decided to come back for what will be her eighth season on the show.
Deadline first reported Jones made the decision to leave before the end of the her contract. Typical SNL cast deals are for seven years. However, the actors' options are picked up every year, and the performers also can ask to be let go early.
Jones, who started on the NBC series as a writer, quickly established herself with some memorable appearances on "Weekend Update" and joined the cast in fall 2014 becoming the oldest new cast member at 47. Since then she had made several viral moments, with one of her most memorable impressions being of Whoopi Goldberg.
Jones has not commented on her exit as of publication time.
The comedian leaves the show after two Emmy nominations and slew of new opportunities on the horizon. They included her first standup comedy special on Netflix coming in 2020, and several feature film projects, including a role in the Coming to America sequel. Jones is also set to star alongside Chris Rock in the upcoming film I Am Maurice, and with Kristen Bell in the indie film Queenpins.
For her work on the long-running variety sketch series, Jones was nominated for a Supporting Actress Emmy in 2017 and 2018, receiving a third nomination this year for Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics for "The Upper East Side."
McKinnon had reportedly been going back and forth about returning to the series, with many speculating she would be departing back in May at the end of Season 44. The outlet reports that it came down to the wire and she opted to return for another season. It is not clear whether she plans to return to the series full time.
Along with McKinnon, Kenan Thompson is also set to return for Season 45 despite staring in a new NBC family comedy and continuing as the longest-tenured SNL cast member in history. Aidy Bryant and Cecily Strong are also set to return.
Saturday Night Live will return for its 45th season Sept. 28, featuring host Woody Harrelson and musical guest Billie Eilish, at 11:30 p.m. ET on NBC. This season will also feature the return of Eddie Murphy as host on Dec. 21.