Darrell Hammond is rejoining Saturday Night Live as the show’s new announcer, after longtime voice Don Pardo passed away in August at 96.
Hammond will introduce the show, its cast and Weekend Update when the 40th season of SNL kicks off on Sept. 27, The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed.
Hammond, who left SNL in 2009 after 14 seasons, making him the show’s longest tenured star, filled in for Pardo before, impersonating his famous voice, USA Today and The Times report.
“I sat in for Don when he had laryngitis several times over the years,” Hammond tells USA Today. “He was a lovely person. When he passed, they wanted me; it felt right for me to be the one to replace him. It’s been a very improbable life; I didn’t expect something like this, but it feels real good.” The Times notes that once Hammond even pretended to be Pardo in a 1999 opening monologue with James Van Der Beek.
Going forward, Hammond won’t try to impersonate Pardo but will try to honor his legacy, creator and executive producer Lorne Michaels explains. “I just knew it wouldn’t be anybody who sounded like Don or replicated him,” Michaels tells USA Today of selecting the show’s new announcer. “It can’t be what it was, but it could sort of be in the same tradition. And it will be nice to have Darrell around. He understands the show and will probably be helpful in ways we haven’t yet figured out.”
Michaels adds to The Times that he hoped to never have to replace Pardo’s voice. “There were a lot of sweet ideas about carrying on with Don somehow,” Michaels says. “Because everyone has a Pardo impression. But he had the greatest run and he’s a completely beloved figure. So I thought: Don’t turn this into something else. That period ended.”
NBC made the announcement official on Thursday morning. Hammond’s return is just one of several changes taking place at SNL. The show has replaced Weekend Update anchor Cecily Strong with The Daily Show‘s Michael Che, opted not to renew contracts for featured players Noel Wells and John Milhiser and cut Brooks Wheelan. Castmember Nasim Pedrad also left the show to join Fox’s Mulaney. New featured player Pete Davidson was hired earlier this week.
Chris Pratt is set to host and Ariana Grande is lined up as the musical guest for SNL‘s season premiere.