'SNL' adds Bowen Yang as show's first Asian cast member for 45th season

Chloe Fineman and Shane Gillis are also among the latest recruits as the show gets set to return for Season 45 on Sept. 28.
Bowen Yang will join SNL's 45th season as a featured player.
Bowen Yang will join SNL's 45th season as a featured player.Alex Schaefer

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By Janelle Griffith

"Saturday Night Live" has added its first Asian cast member.

The late-night sketch comedy series announced Thursday that Bowen Yang, who joined the show as a staff writer last year, was among three new hires for Season 45.

The promotion of Yang, who is of Chinese heritage, makes him the series' only Asian American full-time cast member. Former cast members Fred Armisen and Rob Schneider both are part Asian.

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Chloe Fineman and Shane Gillis are also among the latest recruits.

Yang, who is gay, co-hosts the podcast, Las Culturistas, entertains on comedy club stages and is known for his lip-sync videos. Yang was also one of the writers of the 2019 Golden Globes and has appeared on such shows as "High Maintenance" and "Broad City."

Yang has said he was a fan of "SNL" growing up. He recently said in an NBC News interview that joining the series was a career milestone.

Yang told NBC News he always loved "SNL," but he initially had trouble picturing himself on the staff, because he hadn’t previously seen many people who looked like him associated with the show. But he said that perception changed, once he got to work.

Although this isn't the first time he's been in front of the cameras on "SNL" — he appeared as Kim Jong Un in a March sketch with Sandra Oh.

The cast additions follow the announcement by Leslie Jones, who also started out as a staff writer on the NBC series, that she was leaving the show after five seasons to pursue other projects. Jones was hired after the show was criticized in 2013 for a lack of diversity.

The show returns Sept. 28 with host Woody Harrelson and musical guest Billie Eilish.

"Saturday Night Live" airs on NBC, a division of NBCUniversal, which is also the parent company of NBC News.