Molly Kearney – who recently appeared as Fern Dannely in Abbi Jacobson’s A League of Their Own remake – is joining the Saturday Night Live cast as its first-ever nonbinary member.
The Cleveland-born actor and comedian uses gender-neutral pronouns, making them the first out nonbinary cast member in the show’s nearly 50-year-long history.
“Head exploding!! Thanks for all the love everyone,” Kearney shared on Instagram, according to The Washington Post.
Kearney is one of four new additions to the show. They’re set to join the cast alongside fellow newcomers Marcello Hernandez, Michael Longfellow and Devon Walker, according to NBC News. Premiering October 1, the sketch comedy show’s 48th season marks a big moment of transition for SNL, as seven members of the ensemble will not be returning.
Kearney has previously appeared in Disney+’s The Mighty Ducks. They also made waves at Comedy Central’s “Up Next,” which is an annual showcase of comedians selected from a nationwide search.
Saturday Night Live’s history with LGBTQ2S+ cast members
Saturday Night Live has had a rocky history with LGBTQ2S+ cast members. Terry Sweeney and Danitra Vance made history in 1985, with Sweeney becoming the first out gay cast member on SNL and Vance becoming the show’s first lesbian cast member. Vance, however, was not out at the time, according to Advocate. Both of them left after just one season and another LGBTQ2S+ person did not join the cast for another 27 years.
When Kate McKinnon joined in 2012, she became the show’s first out queer female cast member, but her last episode aired in May during the 47th season’s finale. McKinnon has made her exit alongside Pete Davidson, Aidy Bryant, Kyle Mooney, Melissa Villaseñor, Alex Moffat and Aristotle Athari.
More recently, SNL faced backlash from LGBTQ2S+ viewers for some alleged homophobic and transphobic jokes that aired in an episode hosted by John Krasinski. In the episode, Krasinski and Davidson shared a kiss as a punchline and viewers questioned why two cis men kissing should be funny. The criticism also escalated when Michael Che made transgender and gender non-conforming individuals the brunt of a joke about President Biden repealing Trump’s trans military ban during the “Weekend Update” segment.
Executive producer Lorne Michaels spoke with reporters backstage at the 74th annual Emmy Awards, according to People. In the interview, Michaels said that the upcoming season will be an “exciting” time for the show as they welcome a “different generation.”
“There are new people, and things are changing, and a different generation comes to the show,” Lorne said.