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'SNL' announces black female cast member, upcoming January host

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In response to the criticism levied against the long-running sketch show for not having a more diverse cast, Saturday Night Live confirmed on Monday that producers have added a black woman to its ensemble.

Producers held a series of casting calls and auditions for black women last month and was, as executive producer Lorne Michaels put it, "driven purely by talent considerations" in the wake of the criticism. New York-based actress, writer, and comedian Sasheer Zamata was the show's top pick and will make her SNL debut on the first live show of the new year, which airs Jan. 18 and features Drake as the host and musical guest.

Zamata is a member of NYC's Upright Citizens Brigade and has several additional acting credits, including the Cooking Channel's original web series Fodder and Inside Amy Schumer, plus a web series entitled Pursuit of Sexiness that she co-created. She is a graduate of the University of Virginia with a drama degree and will be the first black female cast member since Maya Rudolph, who left in 2007.

Meanwhile, SNL also announced on Monday that actor Jonah Hill will host the Jan. 25 edition with musical guest Bastille. Hill had hosted twice before, once in 2008 and again in 2012. The 30-year-old comes fresh off the box office debut of The Wolf of Wall Street, which opened in theaters on Christmas Day and has been earning him some Oscar buzz.

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