LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The season finale of TV sketch comedy "Saturday Night Live" marked the last episode for cast member Kristen Wiig, and as she grew emotional on stage during her musical send-off, co-star Andy Samberg had a feeling it would be his last show, too.
Yet even as the "Bridesmaids" star said goodbye to her cast mates on May 19, Samberg remained mum about his exit, preferring to let his popular digital short films do the talking for him.
"I consider the last two digital shorts my goodbye," he told Reuters in a recent interview, referring to "Lazy Sunday 2" and the "100th Digital Short." "I kind of built them in that way because I sensed this was the end for me."
He said at as of the season finale he hadn't yet told the show's producer, Lorne Michaels, of his plan to move on and didn't want to distract from the show and Wiig's big send-off. He called Michaels, "a mentor and a father figure."
Less than two weeks later, this past Friday, Samberg announced his exit to cap a seven-season run that saw him rise to stardom behind his digital short films including one with Justin Timberlake that won an Emmy, U.S. TV's highest honor.
"The shorts were a big part of my identity there," said Samberg, who created them with Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer. Collectively, they formed the hip-hop trio, the Lonely Island.
Many of the shorts on "SNL," as the show is commonly called, were videos of songs from Lonely Island's albums. However, this past season Taccone and Schaffer departed "SNL," leaving Samberg to work with other directors.
"I'm really proud of the work I did this season, but it felt like it was going to be tough to keep it up," Samberg said. "That's part of what influenced my decision (to leave)."
"Lazy Sunday 2" aired on May 19 as a follow-up to the 2005 short "Lazy Sunday," which became a viral sensation and put him, Taccone and Schaffer on the "SNL" map. The shorts became their signature contribution to the program and included such popular videos as "Motherlover" with Timberlake, "I'm On A Boat" with T-Pain, and "Jack Sparrow" with Michael Bolton.
The "100th Digital Short," which aired May 12, featured an all-star cast including Justin Bieber, Natalie Portman, Jon Hamm, Will Ferrell, Usher, Timberlake, Bolton and others.
"In terms of capping my time there, it was nice to do the 100th short and have Akiva and Jorma come back and so many of my friends who have done the shorts return to take part in it," Samberg said.
He admitted he's already shed a lot of tears about his decision to leave "SNL," although he's quick to hint that "it might not be the full end of the shorts."
With two films coming out this summer, including the Adam Sandler comedy "That's My Boy" and indie film "Celeste and Jessie Forever," Samberg has a lot to look forward too.
"'SNL' was my dream job," he said. "I did it, but now it's reached the moment where I feel like it's time to go."
(This version of the story has been corrected to fix typo in headline)
(Reporting by Zorianna Kit; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte)