In its 42-season run, NBC's Saturday Night Live has seen a number of cast and creative turnovers: some were huge successes (the addition of Will Ferrell, Jimmy Fallon, and Tina Fey in the mid-'90s); while others, not so much (think early '80s SNL minus Eddie Murphy). The cycle continues with Season 43, as the show has confirmed Heidi Gardner, Luke Null, and Chris Redd will join the cast as featured players, beginning with this week's season premiere.
Redd (Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping) was an early favorite by many, and was able to negotiate a release from Netflix's comedy series Disjointed to join the cast. Gardner (SuperMansion) hails from the Groundlings comedy group while Null performed at iO Chicago.
Perhaps the biggest change taking place at SNL is behind-the-scenes, with the addition of seven new writers this season: Sam Jay (one of Comedy Central's "Comics To Watch"); Gary Richardson (appeared in The Law Firm: Law & Disorder as member of the Upright Citizen's Brigade); Erik Marino, (The Hughleys); Andrew Dismukes (performed at SXSW and The Out of Bounds Comedy Festival); Steven Castillo (Riot L.A. performer); Claire Friedman (The Harvard Lampoon) and Nimesh Patel (88th Academy Awards).
The announcement comes only days before SNL's season premiere, and caps off a series of auditions and tests that were held in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles over the past past several weeks. Reportedly, final cast selections were finalized over Emmy weekend; while writers' deals stretched into this week. Gardner, Null, and Redd are coming aboard at a time when the show lost three three main cast members at the end of of last season: Bobby Moynihan (8 seasons), Vanessa Bayer (7 seasons) and Sasheer Zamata (4 seasons).
Saturday Night Live has been riding a huge wave of success over the past season, with Season 42 being the show's most watched season in 23 years. SNL walked away from this year's Emmy awards with nine awards (the most for any program that night), including: Outstanding Variety Sketch Series; Outstanding Supporting Actor and Actress in a Comedy Series (Alec Baldwin, Kate McKinnon); and Outstanding Guest Actor and Actress in a Comedy Series (Dave Chappelle, Melissa McCarthy).
For SNL creator Lorne Michaels, the show is best when it reflects the absurdity of the times:
"I remember the first time we won this award. It was after our first season in 1976, and I remember thinking as I was standing there alone that this was it, this was the high point. There would never be another season as crazy, as unpredictable, as frightening, or exhilarating. I was wrong."
Saturday Night Live Season 43 premieres on September 30th, 11:29 p.m. EST (live on both coasts), with host Ryan Gosling (Blade Runner 2049) and musical guest Jay-Z.