The Stunning Transformation Of Kenan Thompson

For nearly 30 years, Kenan Thompson has been making audiences laugh (via IMDb), and on August 11, 2022, the comedic actor was honored in a ceremony alongside family, friends, and colleagues as he received his well-deserved star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. "Kenan Thompson is the voice of a generation," said Ana Martinez, a Hollywood Walk of Fame producer, according to the Hollywood Walk of Fame website. "In celebration of his upcoming 20th anniversary on SNL, we thought it would be fitting to place Kenan's star next to the star of the man who gave him his job, Lorne Michaels."

During his speech at the ceremony, Thompson said, "You know, I never thought any of this would be possible. I just wanted to act and entertain and have a good time and put smiles on my family members' faces" (via Popsugar). "...It's just an honor and a privilege going in next to the GOAT Lorne Michaels."

From commercials to television shows and movies, the award-winning actor has gone from Nickelodeon royalty to an "SNL" legend. Here's a look at Kenan Thompson's stunning transformation over the years. 

Kenan Thompson developed a love for acting at a young age, but success didn't come easy

One could say Kenan Thompson was destined for stardom, but it would be years before he became a star. As a toddler, he would play with his toys and use his imagination to make up people and storylines. His mother, Ann Thompson, enrolled him in acting classes when he was 5 years old, and his first performance was in a church production of "The Wiz," where he played Toto (via The Washington Post). 

While talking to the outlet about Kenan, Ann recalled that "he absolutely stole the show" in the non-speaking role. She said it was hard to see her son get turned down when he went on auditions, but that he never complained. "It's really a challenge to console a child who didn't get the part, but he wasn't whining about it," she said. 

While chatting with Parade, Kenan said he appreciates his success so much because it wasn't handed to him. He would go on 100 commercial auditions before he booked his first one (via Newsone), but his diligence over the years paid off. In 1993, he was hired to review movies on the CNN series "Real News for Kids," which led to roles in "D2: The Mighty Ducks" and Nickelodeon's "All That." 

His breakout role was in D2: The Mighty Ducks

Kenan Thompson got his big break in 1994 when he was cast in the movie "D2: The Mighty Ducks" as Russ Tyler, a trash-talking street hockey player who ends up being recruited for Gordon Bombay's (Emilio Estevez) USA Hockey team (via IMDb). Thompson would portray Tyler again in 1996 in "D3: The Mighty Ducks." 

While chatting with host Adam Sansiveri on the podcast "The Big Stage," Thompson reflected on the movies. He revealed that before playing Russ, he didn't even know how to ice skate. His first day of hockey camp was on his 15th birthday, which he stated "was a nightmare." Thompson also said he appreciated that so many hockey players have a love for "The Mighty Duck" movies. During an interview on Hockey Central at Noon, he shared that he and his former castmates can now relate to players when it comes to how difficult it is to play hockey.

The iconic trilogy was turned into a television series called "The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers," which premiered on Disney+ in March of 2021 (via Variety). Unfortunately, due to a scheduling conflict, Thompson couldn't reprise his role (via Popculture). Hopefully, he will return and show the kids his infamous knuckle-puck move in Season 2, which is set to air on September 28, 2022 (according to TVLine). 

Kenan became a household name when he starred in All That

Kenan Thompson got his big television break in 1994 when he became one of the original members of Nickelodeon's sketch comedy series "All That" (via IMDb). Throughout the show's run, Thompson became a fan favorite with memorable characters like French student Pierre Escargot. He and his castmate Kel Mitchell appeared in multiple skits together portraying crazy characters, such as the cranky older men Mavis and Clavis. During an interview with Cinemablend, Mitchell explained that the duo was always together. "We were just hanging out, joking around, and doing pranks, all kinds of stuff, on set," he said. Their off-camera chemistry translated into comedy gold on-screen.

Brian Robbins, who executive-produced the show and serves as Nickelodeon's president, reminisced about Thompson's audition while speaking with The Washington Post. He shared that the then-15-year-old came in and performed a "spot-on" impression of Bill Cosby with ease. "I had never met someone that young so gifted and smooth comedically," he said. The head honcho also noted that even when Thompson became "one of the biggest kid stars on the planet," he still had the same great work ethic and the same essence as when he first started out.

He earned his own comedy show

Kenan Thompson and Kel Mitchell's amazing on-screen chemistry would lead to the duo having their own show, "Kenan & Kel," from 1996 to 2001 (via IMDb). The series followed the teens' crazy adventures and silly mishaps. During an interview with Vibe in 2016, the former costars reminisced about the beloved series. Thompson said that when Dan Schneider and Brian Robbins — who had a hand in the creation of "All That" — proposed the idea of a new show, he and Mitchell were thrilled. "We looked at each other like, 'Man, stop playing. Of course, it would be the best thing ever,'" he recalled. The comedic duo began shooting the pilot once the second season of "All That" had wrapped. 

When asked by the publication why they thought "Kenan & Kel" lasted so long, Thompson stated it was because of how natural he and Mitchell were on screen together. "It was the genuine friendship that we had," he said. "It didn't seem like we were trying or making an effort to be there and do it. I think that's what really comes across the screen ... how much fun we had together ... I don't think people really know how much we enjoyed doing it as much as people enjoyed watching it."

Kenan Thompson's first SNL audition was a disaster

When Kenan Thompson auditioned for "SNL," it didn't go as smoothly as one would think. After "Kenan & Kel," it would be a few years before he could audition, as the Nickelodeon star was told he wasn't old enough. During an interview with Vanity Fair, Thompson revealed, "I kept sending tapes when I first left Nickelodeon and was like, 'I would like to graduate now!' And they'd say, 'You look a little young. Check back with us.' It was a couple years' worth of that." 

When he finally landed an audition, Thompson didn't exactly nail it. "I didn't know how to engage the audience," he recalled. While talking to journalist Jemele Hill on her podcast "Unbothered," Thompson said the audition was stressful because he knew it would either make or break his career. He didn't have stand-up experience, and during the audition, he started doing characters instead of talking to his audience and said it quickly got weird and awkward. Thompson had three auditions before he finally got the job. 

While it took Kenan a while to get his footing on "SNL," it wasn't long before he was in peak form. During an interview with The Washington Post, "SNL" executive producer Lorne Michaels sang Thompson's praises, stating, "He's a master in that studio. He knows the best way to do just about everything."

Family is everything to him

When Kenan Thompson isn't gracing the "SNL" set, he's spending time with his kids. In June 2014, he and Christina Evangeline welcomed their daughter Georgia Marie (via Us Weekly). He first revealed to the public that Evangeline was pregnant during an appearance on "Late Night with Seth Meyers" a few months before she gave birth, admitting to Meyers that he was scared of being a new father. Thompson told his former "SNL" castmate, "I don't know what to do with babies," and then joked that he would be gambling in a casino while Evangeline was giving birth (according to the New York Daily News).

A few years later, the actor and model expanded their family with the birth of their second child, Gianna Michelle, in 2018 (via TMZ). While chatting on "So Mini Ways," a Yahoo Life series about the joys of parenting, Thompson shared that his girls were "both very entertaining." Later in the interview, he stated that while discipline is important, he isn't very strict with Georgia and Gianna, since his parents were pretty tough on him when he was a kid. While talking with People about being a father, Thompson shared that watching his kids grow up is his greatest pleasure in life. "It's like Christmas all the time," he said.

Kenan Thompson is an Emmy award-winning actor

Kenan Thompson is a six-time Emmy award nominee. His first nomination came in 2017, and he would win one the following year (via IMDb). In 2018, he was nominated for two awards: one for acting on "SNL" and another for composing lyrics for a skit on the series. During an interview with Vanity Fair that summer, Thompson briefly spoke about his Emmy nods, saying it was something he had always dreamed of while watching the awards show each year. "But you never really think it's gonna happen, and then all of a sudden, it's like, 'maybe it can happen,'" he said. 

On September 17, 2018, Thompson's dream finally came true. Interestingly, his win of the golden statuette wasn't for being an outstanding supporting actor in a comedy series for his performance on "SNL," but for a song he co-wrote. Thompson won for outstanding music and lyrics for the song "Come Back, Barack." The parody video — which features him, Chris Redd, and Chance the Rapper — was a smash hit on social media and has racked up over 10 million views on YouTube. During an interview with Atlanta Magazine, Thompson stated that he was happy to collaborate with both men. "To do those things with good people and then get rewarded at the highest scale in your career is just incredible," he said.

He reached a significant milestone on Season 19 of SNL

Since its 1975 debut, "Saturday Night Live" has turned many up-and-coming comedic actors into stars. Over the years, Kenan Thompson has emerged as an icon in "SNL" history — and it's not all because of his sidesplitting sketches and meme-worthy expressions. 

In 2018, Thompson earned the honor of being the show's longest-running cast member (via Deadline). On March 5, 2022, the comedian and actor reached another huge milestone, when he took part in his momentous 1500th sketch on the late-night comedy show (according to Popculture). Long after it aired, "SNL" took to Twitter and shared a behind-the-scenes clip of the backstage celebration. "You guys. You're gonna make me cry," stated Thompson as the group applauded him after he took a few mock bows and blew air kisses to everyone. The "Kenan and Kel" star also posted on his own Instagram page, writing, "Beyond blessed!! 1500?! @nbc and @nbcsnl has been my home for 19 years and counting!!! Love everyone that's helped me get to this amazing milestone!!!" 

Kenan Thompson aims to increase diversity in the veterinary field

Kenan Thompson is an animal lover, and it showed when he played a veterinarian in the 2021 adventure comedy film "Clifford the Big Red Dog" (via IMDb). After the movie wrapped, the "Saturday Night Live" actor teamed up with Banfield Pet Hospital in an effort to add diversity to the veterinary field, as reported by Today

Banfield Pet Hospital teamed up with the Boys & Girls Club of America in Whittier, California to host an event in September 2021, where Thompson spoke about the organization's paid internship program, NextVet. Internships are available to high school students who are interested in the field, with the goal of diversifying and strengthening the pool of applicants. 

Thompson told Today, "I'm all about trying to spread the word to anybody that was not aware that there might be a lot of opportunities in the veterinary field for people of color." He wants today's youth to know what kind of opportunities exist in the veterinary field. Melissa Marshall, vice president of people and organization at Banfield Pet Hospital, shared that Thompson won over the kids with his relatable message. "The kids were so excited, and it really sparked a lot of interest," she said.

His family life had some shakeups in 2022

As reported by TMZ, in May 2022, Kenan Thompson filed for divorce from his wife of over a decade, Christina Evangeline. After dating for a couple of years, Thompson and Evangeline tied the knot in November 2011 in a ceremony at the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta (via People). According to a source via Us Weekly, the bride and groom met through the talent manager Danny Estrada. 

In 2020, while the "SNL" star was promoting his Apple TV+ documentary film "Dads," he spoke about his family life to People. "It just all happened at kind of the same time. We were married for three years before we had a baby, but it was always in our mind," he said. "So it was always that plan. The whole family man thing of it all just kicked right in, and it's just been an amazing ride." 

For the most part, Thompson and Evangeline have kept their love life out of the public eye, but they made headlines in April 2022 when TMZ broke the news that the couple had separated. Insiders have also told the outlet that the divorce was due to the duo growing apart over the years and that the exes will share custody of their two daughters.

Season 50 of SNL may be Kenan's last

When the 47th season of "Saturday Night Live" wrapped in May 2022, the long-running sketch show experienced a major departure of talent when four cast members exited. Aidy Bryant, Pete Davidson, Kate McKinnon, and Kyle Mooney all decided to bid farewell to the show (via Associated Press). After the season, fans wondered which comedic actor from the roster would leave next and what the future held for the series. 

When Kenan Thompson appeared on "Hell of a Week with Charlemagne Tha God" on Comedy Central, Charlemagne inquired about a rumor he had heard about the series ending after its 50th season (which would be in 2025) when sketch comedy aficionado Michael Lorne retires. Thompson jokingly stated, "Okay, well, I need to start planning," but then the conversation turned serious. Thompson disclosed, "There could be a lot of validity to that rumor, because 50 is a good number to stop at." Plus, Lorne did tell "CBS Mornings" co-host Gayle King in December 2021 that he planned on sticking around until the 50th season and felt that would be the perfect time to leave. 

When Thompson was asked if he thought "SNL" could go on without Michaels, he said yes, but that it wouldn't be the same without the legend. It will be interesting to see what happens when the series reaches its half-century mark and whether Kenan will remain a part of the show.

Kenan Thompson has been tapped to host the 74th Emmy Awards

Kenan Thompson is set to emcee the 74th Emmy Awards on Monday, Sept 12, 2022, at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. The awards show will air on NBC and stream live on Peacock, per a press release.

Jen Neal, executive vice president of live events for NBCUniversal Television and Streaming, stated, "Kenan is well-regarded as one of the funniest, likeable, and accomplished performers of the last two decades, and his tenure on Saturday Night Live speaks for itself. We know he'll bring an excitement and professionalism to the Emmy Awards that a show of this stature deserves." 

Thompson said he is thrilled to have landed the gig. He also noted that hosting is "even more special" for him because he gets to do it on NBC, his "longtime network family." On EW's The Awardist podcast, the actor disclosed that he was willing to reprise some of his sketch characters while hosting the awards show to liven up the room up and "not have everything seem so predictable or mundane." So there's a big possibility that one of his many characters will make an appearance on Thompson's big night.