By Gina Serpe
Come next week, Studio 8H is going to be a little emptier than usual.
After nearly a month of speculation regarding the fates
of several Saturday Night Live castmembers, comes confirmation from NBC: Regulars Chris Parnell, Horatio Sanz and Finesse Mitchell will not be returning to the
late night staple.
The non-announcement was made by simply omitting the players' names from a press release touting the start of the show's 32nd season, though a rep for the network denied there was any bad blood between the M.I.A. cast and svengali producer Lorne Michaels, or that their departure was the result of a firing.
"I believe there were mutual choices made," NBC rep Marc Liepis told E! Online. "When you're on the show for eight years, I don't think you look at it as a firing."
Parnell, Sanz and Mitchell, who have been part of the show for eight years, eight years and three years, respectively, have yet to comment on their non-return, though if past remarks are any indication, the decision to part hardly seems mutual.
"I haven't been approached with anything that's led me to believe I won't be back," Sanz told the Chicago Sun-Times less than a month ago. "I definitely enjoy the job and would like to stick with it."
As for Mitchell, his alleged axing is the most surprising, as speculation up until now has pegged fellow cast member Kenan Thompson, who will return this fall, as the third man out. Darrell Hammond, whose 11 seasons on the show mark a series best, is also in the clear, returning to the show despite murmurs that he, too, may have performed his last impression.
The triple departure adds to something of a mass exodus from the show of longtime cast, though the others, at least from the outside, appear to be slightly more voluntary.
Over the summer, Tina Fey and Rachel Dratch confirmed that they were leaving the show to star in the NBC comedy 30 Rock, set behind the scenes at a SNL-like variety show produced by Michaels and costarring fellow alum Tracy Morgan.
Of course, some of the departees are bouncing back quicker than others.
According to NBC's Website, Parnell, whose "Lazy Sunday" rap with Andy Samberg was one of last season's highlights, is currently shooting the sitcom Thick & Thin for the Peacock net. As for Mitchell and Sanz, no new projects appear to be in the works.
While Rockefeller Center will be without five of its most familiar faces this fall, there are no current plans to fill the gap.
According to a statement from NBC, no new regular players have been added to the late night mix, though several of the remaining funnymen and women will see various changes to their onscreen roles.
Fey's departure paves the way for a new face to join Amy Poehler at the "Weekend Update" desk, and while no successors have been formally named, early reports peg Jason Sudeikis and Seth Meyers as the top candidates.
Meyers also returns as head writer for the show, a title he previously shared with Fey.
Saturday Night Live kicks off its new season Sept. 30 with host Dane Cook and musical guest The Killers.
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