Melissa Villaseñor left ‘SNL’ for mental health reasons after having panic attacks

A woman with dark brown hair in an updo smiling against a blue background
Melissa Villaseñor attends a 2019 event for the American Museum of Natural History in New York.
(Evan Agostini / Invision / AP)

Melissa Villaseñor recently revealed she exited the cast of “Saturday Night Live” for mental health reasons, citing panic attacks and creative pressures.

On Monday’s episode of the Daily Beast podcast “The Last Laugh,” Villaseñor offered insight into her decision to leave the long-running sketch comedy series after six years on the program. The comedian and musician was known during her time on the show for delivering uncanny impressions of Dolly Parton, Lady Gaga, Gwen Stefani, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and more.

“At the end of the day it was about my mental health,” Villaseñor told the Daily Beast. “Last season, I had a couple of panic attacks. ... I was struggling. I always felt like I was on the edge of a cliff every week. And I was like, ‘I don’t want to be doing that to myself anymore.’

“It’s not like the show was mean towards me or anyone,” she added. “It was just how I handle things. I’m an introvert. When I’m in a big group of a lot of amazing people, and everyone’s speaking over everyone else, I think I tend to get small. I get nervous, like, ‘Where do I fit? What am I supposed to do?’”


‘SNL’ cast members Melissa Villaseñor, Aristotle Athari and Alex Moffat reportedly will not return for NBC sketch comedy program’s 48th season.

Sept. 1, 2022

Villaseñor was one of several veteran cast members to depart “SNL” ahead of the show’s 48th season. Fan-favorites such as Pete Davidson, Kate McKinnon and Aidy Bryant also said their goodbyes at the end of Season 47.

“I was like, ‘I think I’m OK. There’s nothing else that I feel like ... I need to be sharing this. I want to do this on the show. I think I’m ready,’” Villaseñor continued. “There was just something telling me ... I could part ways.”

The 35-year-old entertainer from Whittier, Calif., also admitted that the “SNL” work schedule proved particularly demanding, and she constantly wrestled with feelings of self-doubt.

Here are the four new cast members joining ‘Saturday Night Live’ for Season 48. They join the cast following the exits of Pete Davidson, Kate McKinnon and more.

Sept. 15, 2022

“That pressure of every week coming up with something and trying to share it with a writer and be like, ‘Hey, what do you think of this?’ And that feeling of, ‘I don’t have time to help you ...’ or ‘Someone’s already writing that so you can’t write it.’ That feeling of, ‘OK, what else? What could I do?’ That feeling I’m not going to miss,” she said.


Since departing the series, Villaseñor said she feels “reborn or something” and has been keeping herself busy by taking guitar and Spanish lessons, as well as enrolling in a pottery class — things she found “impossible” to do while working on “SNL.” However, she admitted it’s been “a little tough” for her to watch clips from the new season.

“But I do love watching my friends on there,” she said. “And then just seeing the new folks shine and do well, that’s nice to see.”

Kate McKinnon, the longest-running female cast member in ‘Saturday Night Live’ history, left NBC’s sketch comedy show in May.

July 21, 2022

Despite the mental health struggles she faced during her “SNL” tenure, Villaseñor said deciding to quit the show was “super hard” because joining the cast was her biggest childhood dream. She made history when she was cast as the series’ first Latina player in 2016.

“I probably will miss that magical feeling of, ‘I’m going live with something that I love, and I’m proud of and excited to play,’” Villaseñor told the Daily Beast. “That magical feeling of, ‘I can’t believe I’m on this show’ that would come every single time I would go out there and do a ‘Weekend Update’ piece. Just knowing it was going to get on air, it’s exciting and thrilling.

“I love Lorne [Michaels]. And I am so grateful for all of them for having me,” she added. “This is all I wanted as a kid, so I’m going to carry that forever in my heart — that I got to experience that in my life.”