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NEW YORK (AP) — A familiar face — former cast member Darrell Hammond — is taking over for a familiar voice at "Saturday Night Live."
Hammond, who acted on the long-running comedy show from 1995 to 2009, is replacing announcer Don Pardo. He spent three hours in the announcing booth practicing on Thursday for the Sept. 27 season opener.
For all but one year of the NBC show's 40-year history, it was Pardo's voice that would announce the host, musical guest and cast members every week, and the veteran broadcaster continued the job even after he retired to Arizona. Pardo died at age 96 on Aug. 18.
Pardo's role, and his link to the show's storied history, is so important at Rockefeller Plaza that Hammond is walking a delicate line in replacing him. He wants to replicate the sound of that iconic opening without doing an outright impersonation.
"It's an homage to what a presence he was, because you're not just going to do away with that sound," he said.
In his three hours of rehearsal Thursday, Hammond felt he'd nailed six words: the names of three cast members. "It's Don, but it's not Don," he said. "It's Pardoesque but it's not Don Pardo."
While he was on the show, Hammond filled in for Pardo six times. NBC never announced the change, and although a few bloggers may have noticed something different, the sound was so similar that his role wasn't widely known.
"I felt a little weird about it," Hammond said. "I didn't feel good about it. I didn't want Don to feel that he could be replaced, because he can't be."
Hammond will even do his announcer's job from a remote location on occasion, since he'll be in the San Diego area this winter performing in a play based upon his 2011 book about his career.
The longest-running cast member of "Saturday Night Live" said it's uncertain if his role on the show will be broader. He's well known for his impersonation of Bill Clinton, and if Hillary Clinton runs for president in 2016, her husband is likely to be in the news again.
"I'm not ruling anything out, but we haven't discussed it," Hammond said.
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