The cast of Saturday Night Live has included many actors and actresses. Since the show's fifth season, the cast has been divided into upper and lower groups, with cast members often promoted up.
The Not Ready for Prime Time Players
- Main article: The Not Ready for Prime Time Players
The original cast was called The Not Ready for Prime Time Players, a name intended to mock Howard Cosell's "Saturday Night Live", whose cast members were known as the "Prime Time Players". This designation was dropped for the show's fourth season.
When Lorne Michaels and the original cast departed at the end of season five, new producer Jean Doumanian decided to retain the two-tier system that had been created the season before (see below). "The Not Ready for Prime Time Players" would become reserved for the original cast, and the new top tier of Doumanian's cast became known as the Repertory Players, a name still used today.
Few large turnovers have taken place since season 21. As such, no new cast members are hired directly as repertory players- all repertory players are promoted from featured. The last cast members hired directly to repertory status were Ana Gasteyer and Tracy Morgan, both hired for season 22 (though Chris Parnell was fired after season 26 and rehired directly to repertory in the following season).
The Featured Players are the lower tier of cast members.
The separate grouping was created for season five. At the end of the previous season, Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi had departed, and Michaels decided to also create a lower tier of cast members for bit parts. Previously, writers had played these parts uncredited, and indeed, most of the new credited featured players were long-time writers on the show. (During the season, Harry Shearer was promoted to The Not Ready For Prime Time Players; he was the first featured player ever promoted and the only person to ever be promoted to The Not Ready For Prime Time Players.)
When Doumanian took over the following year, she decided to keep this two-tier system. While the entire cast was new, she placed the actors into separate categories.
After Doumanian's firing, new producer Dick Ebersol made little use of the featured player category, with only one in season 7 (Brian Doyle-Murray, a featured player in season five and writer under Doumanian), and none in the following three seasons. When Lorne Michaels returned for season 11, he did as Doumanian had done in the sixth season and placed his new cast into two groups, thus cementing the system. From Michaels return into the 1990s, featured players were only credited when they were scheduled to appear; in any given episode, only some of the featured players on the cast roster would appear in the opening montage.
The featured players are where new cast members are placed; all new cast members since season 23 have started as featured.
Middle cast category
Seasons 16-18 used a system of dividing the cast into three groups. The new middle group didn't have an official name; announcer Don Pardo simply prefaced the first name with the word "with", while variously using "with" or "starring" to introduce the repertory players. When the category was created, it was comprised two new cast members, Chris Farley and Chris Rock; after season 18, all five members of the category were promoted to repertory status.
|Repertory||Featured||Middle group||Other role|
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