A version of this article originally appeared on EW.com.
It’s been eight months since Jay Pharoah’s surprise departure from Saturday Night Live, and the comedian is finally opening up about his exit.
In an interview with HOT 97, Pharoah shared his feelings about his role, or lack thereof, on the show where he starred for six seasons.
“You go where you’re appreciated,” he said. “They put people into boxes. Whatever they want you to do, they expect you to do. And I’m fiery too … I’m not a ‘yes n—–.’ That’s not me.”
The comedian acknowledged that he grew frustrated as his fellow cast members told him how they felt his talent wasn’t being used. Arriving at SNL thanks in great part to the viral success of his spot-on impressions of Jay Z and other stars, Pharoah says he felt he was put in an “impression box.”
After years of sitting behind Fred Armisen, the actor was finally able to showcase his most popular impression, when he was promoted to play President Obama in 2013. While the show has seen a surge in viewership and buzz amid Alec Baldwin’s portrayal of President Trump, Pharoah opines that SNL “gave up” on Obama.
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“If you really noticed, for the last year and a half, they didn’t do any Obama sketches,” he said. “I was like, ‘Just let me do my character and we’ll be fine.’ didn’t want to do that.”
Pharoah also discussed in the interview his involvement in adding more black performers and writers to the show. Saying he was almost fired in 2013 for his push to diversify, he took credit for the likes of Leslie Jones and Sasheer Zamata coming onboard. “I am the reason it happened,” he claimed.
Despite his criticism and dismissal, the comedian, who is set to star in Showtime’s White Famous, contends he doesn’t hold any ill will toward the show or boss Lorne Michaels. Impersonating fellow SNL alum Chris Rock, Pharaoh cracked, “I met Lorne Michaels and I ain’t been broke ever since.”
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