LOS ANGELES - “Saturday Night Live” is adding three new cast members for its upcoming 45th season, including the show's only Asian American performer.
Bowen Yang, who joined NBC's “SNL” last season as a staff writer, will be a featured player, NBC said Thursday. Yang is co-host of a podcast, “Las Culturistas.”
Also joining the show as featured players are Chloe Fineman and Shane Gillis. Fineman has been a regular performer with the Groundlings improv company, and both she and Gillis were featured as “New Faces” at the Just for Laughs Festival in Montreal.
“Saturday Night Live” has taken heat over the years for an overall lack of ethnic diversity, with scant Asian representation among its cast members or hosts.
Former players Fred Armisen and Rob Schneider both are one-quarter Asian, but neither has been widely recognized for their Asian ancestry. Among hosts, the long history of “SNL” includes a short list of Asian or Asian Americans, with Awkwafina, Aziz Ansari and Jackie Chan among them.
Change is a constant at “SNL.” Leslie Jones, who joined the show after it was criticized in 2013 for the absence of an African American woman among its regular or featured players, is focusing on stand-up and movies and won't be back this season.
The show returns Sept. 28 with host Woody Harrelson and musical guest Billie Eilish.