Sasheer Zamata Joins "Saturday Night Live," 1st Black Woman New Cast Member in Years

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    NEWSLETTERS

    "Saturday Night Live" returns to NBC this weekend, and when it does, Sasheer Zamata will make her debut as a regular on the sketch comedy show — and as its first black female cast member in years.

    "SNL" announced Zamata was joining the cast after it auditioned around two dozen candidates in early December. The series had come under fire late in 2013 for failing to add a black female comic to the cast in recent years.

    The controversy over the lack of diversity was spurred by "SNL's" only black cast members, Kenan Thompson and Jay Pharoah. Thompson voiced his displeasure at having to play black female characters in drag, while Pharoah lobbied for the addition of a specific comic, TV sitcom actress Darmirra Brunson.

    According to Zamata's website, she's a New York-based actress, writer and comedian who has performed with improv troupes Doppelganger and Bucky. Zamata also has a web series called "Pursuit of Sexiness."

    After graduating from the University of Virginia with a degree in Drama, Zamata moved to New York in 2009 and began performing at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater.

    It's "100 percent good for the show to have an African-American woman" in its ranks, "SNL" executive producer Lorne Michaels told the New York Times in December. The show has had just four black women in its regular cast lineup since premiering in 1975. The most recent was biracial Maya Rudolph, who left in 2007.

    "Saturday Night Live" returns this weekend, on Jan. 18, with Drake serving as both host and musical guest.