“Maybe in March or April, I went to his office and was like, ‘I gotta talk to you,’” the 35-year-old told Variety on Tuesday, June 21. “I was scared because I feel close to him and so grateful to him. I didn’t want it to come off like I was leaving angrily. I am leaving with so much love. He was like, ‘I understand, and it makes sense for you.’”
The Horace and Pete actress joined the cast in 2012 for season 38 and decided season 47 would be her last. Although her final stint on the show “wasn’t the normal year that I hoped for” due to COVID, she still didn’t regret her decision, saying, “10 [years] felt like a nice, solid round number.”
The Arizona native continued: “When COVID hit, it was so jarring that we were all like, ‘I’m definitely going to come back next year.’ And then I had to shoot [Hulu’s] Shrill for half of last season, and so I missed a lot.”
The comedian announced her exit from the long-running sketch show in May along with fellow cast members Pete Davidson, Kate McKinnon and Kyle Mooney. Bryant garnered three Emmy nominations for her work on the NBC hit series, ultimately landing her roles in popular shows like HBO’s Girls and Netflix’s Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.
Her final appearance on the comedy series came that same month in a Weekend Update segment on the May 21 episode of the season 47 finale. In her final sketch, Bryant joked with Bowen Yang and Michael Che as she and Yang, 31, played their “trend forecasters” with style ideas for the summer. Although the mood was obviously light-hearted, Bryant confessed she was concerned she wouldn’t make it through the sketch without getting emotional.
“I was worried I was going to really crack it wide open and fully be crying,” the Big Sick actress revealed to Variety on Tuesday. “It felt very joyful, and I felt incredibly fortified by having Bowen and Che next to me because they know me and know how considered this was for me to go.”
Although she didn’t end up “fully crying” during her final bow, Bryant’s longtime costar, McKinnon, did shed some tears on their last night in studio 8H.
In the episode’s opening number, McKinnon reprised her beloved eccentric character Colleen Rafferty (alongside episode host Natasha Lyonne and Cecily Strong) in the show’s “Close Encounter” sketch, answering questions from two government agents — played by Bryant and Mikey Day — about their extraterrestrial encounters. After Bryant and Day revealed that one of the abductees must return to the alien spaceship “permanently” in exchange for information about their technologies. McKinnon’s Rafferty volunteered as tribute for the gig.
McKinnon, walking toward the “spaceship,” turned around to take in her final moment with the SNL audience and broke down in tears as she spoke her last line on stage: “Well, Earth, I love you, thanks for letting me stay awhile. Live from New York, it’s Saturday night!”