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Jay Pharoah on ‘SNL’ Firing: ‘You Go Where You’re Appreciated’

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SNL is having a banner year with its political sketches, but there’s no overlooking the absence of past favorites Jay Pharoah and Taran Killam. Pharoah in particular says the sketch comedy series had him in an “impression box,” and even had cast members commenting that he was undervalued.

The upcoming White Famous star detailed his SNL exit in an interview with HOT 97’s Ebro in the Morning (h/t Entertainment Weekly), assuring that he had no specific ill will with Lorne Michaels. That said, Pharoah had most often been called on for impressions like Barack Obama (which he claims writers “gave up” on using), while fellow cast noted that he’d gone unappreciated.

You go where you’re appreciated. If you have multiple people on the cast saying things like ‘You’re so talented, and you’re able, and they don’t use you, and it’s unfair. And it’s making us feel bad, because they don’t use you, and you’re a talent’ … They put people into boxes. Whatever they want you to do, they expect you to do. And I’m fiery too … I’m not a ‘yes n—–.’ That’s not me.

Pharoah also noted the near-loss of his job in 2013 with the push for more diverse casting, which brought stars Sasheer Zamata, Leslie Jones and writer LaKendra Tookes. And even as Showtime picked up his and Jamie Foxx’s new White Famous comedy, the plan had originally been that he’d balance the series with Season 42.

SNL will air its final April 2017 show with Jimmy Fallon and Harry Styles this Saturday, promos for which you can find below.

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