‘Saturday Night Live’ Star Bowen Yang on the Art of the Emmys Submission

When it comes to picking a nomination that shows off an Emmy-caliber performance, actors in narrative scripted series might have an idea of their season-best performance long before campaigning begins. But for a Saturday Night Live castmember, that decision comes after the season ends, according to two-time Emmy nominee Bowen Yang.

“The cast is sent a rundown of each and every episode,” Yang explains to THR. “It’s a weird little scrapbooking exercise that makes you reassess and relive all that transpired over the season.”

The second Emmy nom is the latest cause for celebration in a busy year for Yang, who has brief turns in Paramount’s The Lost City and the upcoming Universal comedy Bros, plus a starring role in Searchlight’s Fire Island.

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For this year’s consideration, Yang picked the third episode of the season, which was hosted by No Time to Die star Rami Malek and featured Yang in two standout sketches. The first, “Bug Assembly,” sees Yang as an eager student who dresses as a daddy longlegs for a school assembly, stealing his classmates’ thunder when he vogues to a dancehall beat. (“Call me Daddy,” he tells a teacher played by Kenan Thompson, who barely suppresses his laughter.) The second is a “Weekend Update” bit in which Yang plays an Oompa Loompa who comes out as gay and calls for better working conditions in the Wonka chocolate factory. (“We’re up all night rehearsing the little song and dance we do when a child dies!” he tells “Weekend Update” anchor Colin Jost.)

“As a castmember on SNL, you want to demonstrate your utility, but you also want something unique about your point of view,” says Yang. He adds that neither character was on his mind when he began the season, as much of what makes it to air is either reactive to the news cycle or an idea that grows between castmembers and the show’s writers. “That’s the beauty of it,” says Yang, who has learned that planning too far ahead at the beginning of the season can set one up for disappointment. “If you leave yourself open to whatever comes your way without being super attached to a self-mandated thing going into the season, I think that’s the best place to operate from.”

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This story first appeared in an August stand-alone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

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