Everything makes so much sense now!
On Monday, we learned that Jay Pharoah and Taran Killam were leaving SNL, each with a year left on their seven year contracts. Killam claimed he was not given a reason for not being asked back, but assumed it had something to do with his upcoming projects that would interfere with the show's rigorous schedule.
Today, Showtime announced that it had cast both Pharoah and Killam as the lead roles in their own pilots, set to debut in 2017, which presumably would have begun filming before season 42 of the NBC sketch show would have ended.
Pharoah will be playing the lead in White Famous, which is a half-hour comedy about a young black comedian "whose star is rising, forcing him to navigate the treacherous waters of maintaining his credibility as he begins to cross-over towards becoming 'white famous.'" The pilot was written by Tom Kapinos based on an idea by Jamie Foxx, and Foxx will play a recurring character.
Killam, meanwhile, will star in Mating, a half-hour anthology comedy pilot from Jason Katims (Parenthood, Friday Night Lights) and Stu Zicherman (The Americans, The Affair). The first season will focus on Killam as a recently divorced guy who married young and now finds himself unprepared for the current world of dating. Future seasons would tell different dating-related stories.
Showtime executives David Nevins and Gary Levine addressed the SNL exit news while speaking to reporters during Showtime's Television Critics' Association press tour, calling the casting of two SNL stars at the same time a "coincidence."
"Our conversations have always been with the actors," as opposed to conversations with Saturday Night Live, Nevins explained. "It's been happening over the last several weeks, individually, and we were prepared to work around their SNL schedule."
"Knowing they were going into their final year, we were comfortable working around it," Levine said.
"Our schedule got easier when they were released from the show," added Nevins, who later also explained that the two actors being dropped from SNL was "unexpected."
Pharoah and Killam also sounded off on their new gigs after the announcement was made:
"Current mood," Pharoah tweeted, alongside a picture of him grinning with a giant bottle of vodka.
Killam, meanwhile, immediately started making Friday Night Lights references to celebrate working with Jason Katims.
Basically, both guys seem thrilled, and despite the fact that we'll miss them both greatly on SNL this season, we're pretty thrilled too.
(E! and NBC are both part of the NBC Universal family.)