Kenan Thompson will be racking up the air miles as he travels between his new NBC sitcom Kenan and Saturday Night Live.
The comedian and co-star Chris Redd will be going back and forth from Los Angeles and New York to film both shows.
During a virtual press conference, he told Deadline that he’s only down in once for the SNL Christmas show but will see how it feels moving forward.
“We’ll see how exhausting it gets when it has to become a repeat kind of a thing but we did it for the Christmas show and me and Chris went out there on Friday and showed up at rehearsal that night and ended up doing the show and then we had three weeks off before we had to be on another job. It wasn’t that stressful but we’ll see how that turns around when it’s only one day in between, but I’ll be rushing back to my new family so I won’t be overly exhaustive because we’ll hold each other up.”
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Thompson added that “we live in a different time” with regards to SNL, where it used to be that people would “leave the show and go into their careers” but that is no longer the case.
Chris Redd added that he loves doing both scripted and sketch shows, particularly with one of his best friends. “I don’t want to see it as an exit strategy I just kind of see it as it another way to create,” he said.
Lorne Michaels, who exec produces Kenan, previously said that one of the reasons that Kenan was able to do both this show and Saturday Night Live was that shows like this are now ten episodes. “He’ll go back and forth to Los Angeles. But Kenan can come in the day before and he’ll be fine; he just knows the drill so well,” he told New York magazine.
Thompson said that the show, launching February 16, is the third iteration of the show. It was originally piloted in 2019 with Jackie Clarke writing and Chris Rock directing but was re-developed with David Caspe joining as showrunner and Clarke co-writing. Don Johnson also replaced Andy Garcia in the series.
Thompson said that developing the show outside of the traditional pilot process helped. “It was going in one direction for the original pilot that we shot and Chris Rock was involved in that was great and then we had a moment and an opportunity to sit down with it and flesh it out even further as opposed to being in the pressure of pilot week,” he said. “We’ve stretched it out to where it is right now and I think we’re all pretty grateful that we had a chance to live with the material for a while. The universe just unfolded in a way to where we have the cast we’re currently dealing with now.”
The cast also talked about filming the show during the Covid-19 pandemic. The table reads were initially done over Zoom and Thompson said that made them “weird” and “choppy”.
Chris Redd’s internet was so bad that the production sent him a wi-fi booster. “It would only go out when he was about to hit a punch line,” said Kimrie Lewis.
Don Johnson added that the only times he saw his cast members faces was when they were in character.
“When we were able to get in person everything just clicked so we were beyond happy to just be in a room together finally doing things,” added Thompson.
Kenan follows a widowed dad, Kenan (Thompson), who’s juggling a high-profile job as the host of an Atlanta morning show and raising his two girls. As Kenan tries to move on, his father-in-law (Johnson), brother (Redd) and co-workers all have strong opinions on the best way to live his life.
The show centers on the familial relationships as Kenan tries to reclaim his life after his wife’s death. Kenan’s daughters are his world – the too smart Aubrey (Dani Lane) and the silly, unpredictable Birdie (Dannah Lane). He struggles to balance parenting them as a single dad and hosting his show, which leads him to reluctantly accepting help from his father-in-law. Rick was a gallivanting sax player when his daughter, Cori (Niccole Thurman), was young and missed out on a lot of her childhood, so he is aiming to make that up with his granddaughters, although his old-school parenting style doesn’t often match up to Kenan’s.
At work, Kenan excels at his job with the help of his driven executive producer Mika (Lewis). Mika can be tightly wound, especially when Gary, as Kenan’s not-so-managerial manager, tries to insert himself, but Mika remains a confidante and ally to Kenan. They are able to be vulnerable with one another and connect as friends … and maybe something more.
Lorne Michaels, David Caspe, Jackie Clarke, Kenan Thompson, Ken Whittingham and Andrew Singer serve as executive producers. Kenan is produced by Universal Television, a division of Universal Studio Group, in association with Broadway Video.