Melissa Villaseñor has been on familiar terms with NBC since 2011 when she placed 16th on the network’s reality competition show America’s Got Talent, wowing the audience with a speedy series of spot-on impressions ranging from Barbara Walters to Miley Cyrus in a breathless two-minute performance. Impressions are Villaseñor’s not-so-secret super power, which will play well on Saturday Night Live’s character-driven comedy concepts.
The comedian also starred in the web series ‘Daily Itineraries’ on Más Mejor, a platform co-created by Horatio Sanz, Fred Armisen, and Lorne Michaels that highlights Latinos in comedy. She’s nailed a silly Jennifer Lopez, a crasser-than-ever Sarah Silverman, SNL queen Kristen Wiig, and Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor – this one will sure come in handy for the political lampooning sure to come on SNL as the culmination of a particularly bizarre election season approaches.
Villaseñor, an LA County native hailing from Whittier, is SNL’s first Latina cast member – the third of Latin descent counting Sanz and Armisen. Along with the show’s new Salvadorean writer Julio Torres (also from Más Mejor), this season marks the beginning of an initiative to further diversify the show’s comedic voices, making good on a promise Michaels announced earlier this year. Latinos bristled when Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump hosted the show last November and criticized SNL for giving a platform to the candidate who had recently called Mexican immigrants criminals and rapists. According to LA Weekly, a cohort of Latino leaders met with producer Lindsay Shookus and co-head writer Rob Klein to lobby the show for better representation, and they were receptive.
Though changes this season make steps to rectify an almost 40-year brownout, if history is any indication, we can expect this change to be slow. However incremental, Más Mejor is already proving to be an effective SNL pipeline for Latino talent.