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‘SNL’ Alums Jay Pharaoh and Taran Killam Land Leads in Showtime Series

Recent “Saturday Night Live” expats Jay Pharaoh and Taran Killam have found their next gigs: starring roles in separate Showtime pilots.

Pharaoh has nabbed the lead role in “White Famous,” a comedy from Jamie Foxx. Killam will star in “Mating,” a comedy anthology from Jason Katims.

The casting announcements were made Thursday at the Television Critics Association summer press tour at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, Calif.

“White Famous,” a half-hour comedy, will focus on a talented, young African-American comedian — played by Pharaoh — whose star is rising, forcing him to navigate the treacherous waters of maintaining his credibility as he begins to cross-over towards becoming “white famous.” The potential series is based on Foxx’s life, and he will appear on-screen in a recurring role.

“Mating,” also a half-hour comedy, will explore modern dating and relationships with each potential season exploring a different protagonist’s journey. The first season will center on a recently divorced guy — played by Killam — who married young and now finds himself completely unprepared for the brave new, frank and fluid world of dating and hooking up. The potential series, hailing from “Parenthood’s” Katims and writer Stu Zicherman, was ordered as a cast-contingent pilot, and now with Killam’s buzz-worthy casting, the project is certainly a hot package.

Both casting announcements come after this week’s sudden “Saturday Night Live” exits of Pharaoh and Killam, which prompted Killam to give an interview that revealed he was taken aback when his “SNL” contract was not renewed.

Today at TCA, Showtime execs told reporters that they had been courting Pharaoh and Killam for the separate roles, knowing that each actor had one more year on “Saturday Night Live” — and with the understanding that they would each finish up their final year on their “SNL” contracts.

“Our conversations had been with the actors. It’s been happening over the past several weeks, probably a month,” said Showtime Networks president and CEO, David Nevins, on Thursday. “We were prepared to work around their ‘SNL’ schedules, and so our scheduling got easier when they ended up getting released from the show.”

Earlier this week, Killam admitted he doesn’t completely understand why he was let go from “SNL,” saying in an interview: “I don’t know fully. I don’t know the other side of it. You sign for seven years, so I had one more year. I had sort of had it in my head I would make this upcoming year my last year, but then heard they weren’t going to pick up my contract. I was never given a reason why, really.”

As for Pharaoh, he has kept mum — other than posting a photo with Killam on social media — but today, the comedian expressed his sentiment with the tweet below (which was posted after his Showtime casting was announced).

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