But it turns out that Strong, as well as some other senior cast members rumored to be departing NBC’s late night sketch series ― including Kate McKinnon, Aidy Bryant, Pete Davidson, Kenan Thompson, Colin Jost and Michael Che ― will stick around for another season, the network announced on Monday.
Joining them for the 47th season will be returning faces Mikey Day, Heidi Gardner, Alex Moffat, Kyle Mooney, Ego Nwodim, Chris Redd and Melissa Villaseñor. Chloe Fineman and Bowen Yang have been promoted to repertory players in the new cast, while Andrew Dismukes and Punkie Johnson will return in their roles as featured players.
Beck Bennett, however, will be leaving “SNL” after eight seasons. The actor confirmed his departure on Instagram, writing: “Gonna miss you so much. Thank you for eight years of remarkable people and incredible experiences that completely changed my life. I had so much fun.”
Bennett joined the series in 2013 and stands as one of the most versatile performers to come through Studio 8H, impersonating everyone from Russian President Vladimir Putin to former U.S. Vice President Mike Pence.
Featured player Lauren Holt, the youngest woman in the cast, also won’t be returning.
To round out the cast, three new featured players will be welcomed: Aristotle Athari (“Silicon Valley”), James Austin Johnson (“Tuca & Bertie”) and Sarah Sherman (“The Eric Andre Show”).
Heading into Season 47, the ensemble will consist of 21 cast members ― the largest in recent history ― which will allow for flexibility in the notoriously punishing “SNL” schedule.
“Some veteran members of the cast are likely to appear less frequently than usual and will have some leeway to pursue projects outside the show,” a source told Variety, noting that cast members, including Thompson, Bryant and Strong, have launched their own shows in recent years. “The large cast should give ‘SNL’ a chance to fill absences with contributions from some of the show’s up and coming staff.”
Owen Wilson is set to host the show for the first time to open the new season, alongside Kacey Musgraves, on Oct. 2. Kim Kardashian and musical guest Halsey take over the following week, whether Debra Messing likes it or not.