Seth Meyers on Sasheer Zamata's First ‘SNL': ‘It Was Slightly Emotional’

Seth Meyers on Sasheer Zamata's First 'SNL': 'It Was Slightly Emotional'

TCA 2014: “I was just happy because in the end I think she got as honest a first week as anyone gets,” Meyers tells TheWrap

Seth Meyers celebrated and cherished new “SNL” cast member Sasheer Zamata's first week and show, something that he will likely never get to experience first-hand again.

The show, which returned Saturday with host and musical guest Drake after a several-week holiday hiatus, was business as usual Meyers said, but there was surely a little something extra in Studio 8H and its writers’ room.

“It's always exciting when there's new blood there,” Meyers told TheWrap during a one-on-one interview a few hours before his Television Critics Association Panel. “Those are exceptional weeks that stand out … Regardless if there's more or less press.”

Also read: Seth Meyers on ‘SNL’ Future: ‘I'm Two Shows Away From Cutting Ties’

“I was just happy because in the end I think she got as honest a first week as anyone gets,” Meyers continued on Zamata. “The show didn't make too much of a deal of it other than just having a new cast member to use.”

“One of the biggest thrills of working on ‘SNL’ is being there for people's first shows, and that is probably the last first show I'll ever be there for,” Meyers concluded. “So it was slightly emotional.”

See video: ‘SNL': Drake Reminds Us He's Black, Jewish and Canadian as First Black Female Cast Member in 7 Years Makes Debut

A media storm erupted early in the “Saturday Night Live” 2013-2014 season when cast member Jay Pharoah criticized his employer for not having a black female cast member. Fellow castmate Kenan Thompson took up for the show and their shared boss Lorne Michaels, saying that no one who fit the bill was ready.

Following debates — which mostly took place in the press — and special Los Angeles/New York auditions, “SNL” ended up hiring Zamata, as well as two black female writers, Leslie Jones and LaKendra Tookes, who all officially began this week.

Zamata had a limited but noticeable role in her first episode, playing Thompson's fill-in wife in the sketch comedy show's bar mitzvah cold open and Rihanna later in a “Before They Were Stars” sketch about '90s TV.

See video: SNL Hires Two Black Female Writers From Auditions That Cast Sasheer Zamata

“SNL” previously responded publicly to the controversy in its own humorous way, with a November cold open that required host Kerry Washington to play numerous black female celebrities. The episode and sketch was one of Meyers’ favorites of his final run.

“That was a really, really fun, exciting week and Kerry was an excellent person to have there at the time,” Meyers told TheWrap. “Looking back at this year and having stayed on until the launch of the new show, that was one of the weeks that I was sort of happiest to be there for it.”

Meyers told TheWrap that he will likely do two more new episodes of “SNL” before leaving permanently for his new “Late Night” gig, which debuts on Feb. 24. Those episodes will be hosted by Jonah Hill on Jan. 25 and Melissa McCarthy on Feb. 1.

  • Woop DeDoo

    “A media storm erupted early in the ‘Saturday Night Live’ 2013-2014
    season when cast member Jay Pharoah criticized his employer for not
    having a black female cast member. Fellow castmate Kenan Thompson took
    up for the show and their shared boss Lorne Michaels, saying that no one
    who fit the bill was ready.”

    I didn't know. I have new respect for Kenan.

    Hispanics outnumber black people, and Armisen is half white. Do they need an hispanic guy and woman now? Asians are the largest group of immigrants to the U.S. They probably need an Asian guy and Asian woman after they get the hispanic guy and woman.
    Is SNL xenophobic? I think that all of the SNLers are Americans although Lorne is Canadian. Is he a self-hating Canadian? It's maybe time that they hired a female and male Canadian or just someone who represents a different country's viewpoint.
    What about the transgender community…..?

    • LoveCoates

      It depends on whether or not they have sketches that call for these types. The criticism was not arbitrary, like your laundry list is: the shows black male cast members grew tired to being called upon to play the black female roles that SNL sketches often require. The complaint and the subsequent hiring were therefore practical and well-considered. Your rejoinder, by contrast, is not.

      • astroguy54

        Boo hoo, the black men on SNL were tired of having to do black drag. Then leave the show. Jay Pharoh especially has little room to complain.

        • LoveCoates

          No, they didn't leave the show — they highlighted what was an obvious practical need. The producer agreed. They got their wish. Boo hoo that you don't like it.

          • astroguy54

            Thank God they had a young, white male in the cast to play Justin Bieber. Oh, wait–he was played by a thirty-something white WOMAN. Oh, the horror, the outrage…..I'm looking for your post lambasting this obvious, practical need on SNL, but I can't find it. Please tell me you didn't even notice because this was a white character and not black….

  • astroguy54

    What a crappy, crappy show. Not much for Seth Meyers to jump ship with. And even less for a forced new cast member to hang a hat on. Sasheesha something was so special at the end of the show out front and center of the rest of the cast, smiling and taking bows for…..being black. The new people always start this way. Bye SNL, see ya.

    • LoveCoates

      She was taking bows for being a new cast member. Of course a racist like you would assume it was for her race. Bye you: SNL won't miss your viewership.

      • astroguy54

        When have new cast members EVER taken bows on their first show? You be so bright. LOL.

        • LoveCoates

          When have they not? And how do you know it was race-related? Maybe it was because she's a woman. Maybe it's because she's a friend of Amy Pohler. Maybe it's because she has a YouTube audience. Maybe it's because she stole the show. Maybe it's because she has brown eyes.

          Race-obsessed racists always have race on the brain.

          • astroguy54

            You do appear to be that way.

  • bellatrix318

    If it is so important to have an ecletic SNL cast, what about an American Indian castmate?? Seems American Indian, actors, comedians, ALWAYS get left out of the cold, we get nothing!!

  • Gary_Middleton

    I think this controversy would not have happened if they didn't happen to hire 5 new white guys all at once. That was very conspicuously ill conceived.