(Photo: Getty Images, Jim Bennett)

Save for the really big stars who actually go on to do better things, most cast members who leave Saturday Night Live might as well fade away into a black hole of nothingness. The general public doesn’t especially care where they go or what they do after Saturday Night Live, simply because they’re going from one of the most high-profile comedy institutions in the world to something that is not that, so the average TV viewer doesn’t know where to look for them. For former cast member Nöel Wells, though, being free from that high-profile comedy institution was actually a blessing.

Wells left SNL when the show decided not to renew her contract in 2014, and she’s since gone on to appear in Netflix’s Master Of None and to write, direct, and star in the new film Mr. Roosevelt. Speaking with Vanity Fair about the project, Wells says that SNL is “the comedy establishment,” so everyone would naturally want its “stamp of approval,” but she says she and other people who didn’t spend much time on the show are “much stronger” doing their own thing without having to try and impress “comedy dinosaurs.” Perhaps most damning, Wells says that SNL has become “what it was always trying to make fun of” by transforming into nothing but a “big machine.”

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She acknowledges that some former cast members “would have liked to keep trying” on Saturday Night Live, but she says, “the quicker you find out that you’re not going to go through the establishment, the quicker you can decide to make your own version of how you want your craft to be.”