Beck Bennett exits ‘Saturday Night Live,’ but Cecily Strong, Pete Davidson, Kate McKinnon will return

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NEW YORK — Despite last season’s tearful final episode, almost the entire cast of “Saturday Night Live” will be back at 30 Rock this year.

Beck Bennett, who spent eight years on the sketch comedy show and is best known for playing former Vice President Mike Pence and Russian president Vladimir Putin, and featured player Lauren Holt, who debuted last fall, have exited stage left, NBC announced Monday.

“Love you, SNL,” Bennett, 36, wrote on Instagram. “Gonna miss you so much. Thank you for 8 years of remarkable people and incredible experiences that completely changed my life. I had so much fun.”

Other than that, the Saturday night staple will look the same, with a returning ensemble including Aidy Bryant, Michael Che, Pete Davidson, Mikey Day, Chloe Fineman, Heidi Gardner, Colin Jost, Kate McKinnon, Alex Moffat, Kyle Mooney, Ego Nwodim, Chris Redd, Cecily Strong, Kenan Thompson, Melissa Villasenor and Bowen Yang.

Strong had fueled speculation about her departure over the summer, telling the New York Times that she was “still thinking” about her decision to come back for a 10th year. Davidson also talked about “hanging up the jersey” during the Hollywood Reporter’s Comedy Actor Roundtable, while Michael Che said on “The Ellen Show” last year that he was starting to “psychologically brace” to leave.

And the cold open of last season’s finale featured the cast reminiscing on the past year, with a teary introduction from veteran members McKinnon, Strong, Bryant and Thompson, fueling rumors they’d all be leaving.

“We realized we’re more than just a cast, we’re a family,” McKinnon said on stage.

Fineman and Yang have both been upgraded to regular cast members, while Andrew Dismukes and Punkie Johnson will return as featured players.

Three new comedians, Aristotle Athari, James Austin Johnson and Sarah Sherman, have also joined the cast as featured actors.

Season 47 of “Saturday Night Live” premieres Oct. 2 with host Owen Wilson and musical guest Kacey Musgraves.

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