Saturday Night Live is getting a new cast member when the show returns next week (with Modern Family's Sofia Vergara hosting): UCB performer Kate McKinnon.
McKinnon is a veteran of Upright Citizens Brigade, the comedy troupe that also gave us Amy Poehler and Horatio Sanz in recent years, among others. She was nominated for the ECNY Emerging Talent Award in 2010 (maybe Lorne Michaels should have hired whoever WON...just kidding) and has done some voice work for Cartoon Network and Comedy Central, but nothing so high profile that you would necessarily recognize her.
McKinnon is one of four female performers that SNL has been testing in recent weeks, and will presumably fill the "featured player" void left by former cast member Paul Brittain, who abruptly parted ways with the show in February. I'm happy to see Michaels and company focusing a little more on female talent, since the ladies have been consistently strong but pretty underused in recent years.
The bigger question, of course, is whether or not the show is trying to shore up some female talent in the face of Kristen Wiig's contract being up at the end of this season. Wiig wrote and starred in one of the biggest comedies of last year, Bridesmaids, and was even nominated for an Oscar. This is usually the point at which cast members outgrow the show and move on to become full-time movie stars. What the loss of Wiig could mean for SNL, I really can't say, but it might be nice to see some other ladies on the show get a chance to shine.
Good luck, Kate McKinnon! Just remember: try not to swear on your first night. Just ask Jenny Slate.
Photo courtesy UCB