Everything You Need to Know About New 'Ghostbusters' Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones

by John Boone 3:03 PM PST, January 28, 2015
Photo: Getty Images

Director Paul Feig — he of Bridesmaids and The Heat fame — ain’t afraid of 1) No ghosts, and 2) Casting lesser-known actresses to front his divisive Ghostbusters reboot, as proven by his choice of Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones to star alongside Feig regulars Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig.

Anyone see that coming? (We didn’t.)

Which isn’t to say we aren’t excited about this cast. Quite the opposite: If you’re a Saturday Night Live fan, you already know Kate McKinnon is one of the funniest, smartest actresses working these days. And Leslie Jones steals just about every scene she’s in. If you’re not an SNL fan, here’s a quick cheat sheet to get you up to speed.

WATCH: Return to the red carpet for 'Ghostbusters' 1984 premiere!

Kate McKinnon got her start with the Upright Citizens Brigarde (the improv troupe founded by Amy Poehler, among others). Her movie work is limited, with appearances opposite Leighton Meester in Life Partners and as the voice of PEZ Cat in Toy Story of Terror. This year, she’ll pop up in Poehler and Tina Fey's Sisters.

Photo: Magnolia Pictures

The 31-year-old joined the SNL cast in 2012, and has become a sort of “new Kristen Wiig” over the years; that is, the cast member used in as many skits as possible because she is never not funny. In 2014, she was nominated for an Emmy because of it. Fun fact: Kate is SNL’s first openly lesbian cast member.

Here are three of McKinnon’s best sketches so far:

1. You’ve certainly already seen her as Saturday Night Live’s Justin Bieber in this (“well played,” according to the Biebs himself) parody of his Calvin Klein ads. She also has a freakishly perfect Ellen Degeneres impression.

2. Here’s one of her most famous characters, Olya Povlatsky, a Russian woman who regularly pops up on Weekend Update to talk about life in her village:

3. And "(Do It On My) Twin Bed,” for which she and the three other writers were Emmy-nominated for Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics:

NEWS: Were Lena Dunham and Ellen almost cast in ‘Ghostbusters’?

Leslie Jones has had even fewer recognizable movie roles, her most recent being a part in Chris RocksTop Five. Her background is actually in standup: She got her start when she won a “Funniest Person on Campus” contest at Colorado State in 1987, then toured with the likes of Jamie Foxx and Kat Williams, before getting her own Showtime special, Problem Child.

Photo: Paramount Pictures

Here is a sample of Leslie’s (very explicit and very NSFW) standup:

Leslie first joined SNL as a writer, and was eventually promoted to a featured player. Fun fact: At 47, she’s the oldest person to ever join the cast, and is part of the first cast that’s featured more than one black woman at the same time.

Here are some of Leslie’s best Saturday Night Live sketches:

1. Her first appearance on Weekend Update, where she stirred up controversy after declaring she would be the “No. 1 slave draft pick”:

2. As Black Annie opposite the new Miss Hannigan, Cameron Diaz:

3. And doing a flawless Missy in “Back Home Ballers” (which, it’s worth pointing out, also stars Kate McKinnon):

Yeah, we have a feeling these two are going to bust ghosts just fine.

Get more info about Paul Feig’s reboot and the newly cast ladies: