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Former Memorial salutatorian makes 'Saturday Night Live' cast (video)

By Jessica Rodrigo
Sept. 16, 2013 at 4:16 a.m.
Updated Sept. 17, 2013 at 4:17 a.m.

Noel Wells was one of the top 10 Vipers who graduated from Memorial High School in 2005

That dedication earned her the title of salutatorian.

So when NBC announced Monday that Wells would be one of the newest cast members of "Saturday Night Live," it wasn't a surprise to her friends and relatives.

Wells, 25, is the only new woman to join the show as it begins its 39th season Sept. 28. The five other comedians are Beck Bennett, John Milhiser, Kyle Mooney, Mike O'Brien and Brooks Wheelan.

Wells' aunt, Melinda Wells Ranjel, was one of the first people to hear the good news. When Wells told her over the phone call, Ranjel said all she could do was try to hold back her tears of joy.

"When she was 12 years old, she said she was going to be on 'SNL,' and when she said something, you knew she was going to do it," said Ranjel, 39, who works in sales at Hall Electric.

Ranjel, who spent a lot of time with Wells as she grew up in San Antonio and Victoria, remembers her niece as an outgoing, ambitious young girl. People who knew her often described her as "quirky" and "different," she said.

"She didn't walk the same path as everyone else. She told you what she wanted, and everything she said she was going to do, she set out to accomplish," Ranjel said. "We're all just so excited for her - when she sets out to do something, she really goes and does it."

Wells spent a lot of time in the spotlight or on the stage as a budding performer. She was part of the community theater and in area bands, and as a student at Memorial High School, she was a part of the speech and debate team. Jonathan Williams, who was one of the debate coaches who worked with Wells, said she often competed in the acting and interpretive events.

"She had an amazing ability to do impressions and create characters," said Williams, 34, now an office worker. "She will thrive in sketch comedy."

Though he was one of her coaches, he said she had a natural way about her to perform in front of others. Looking back at what she did with the team, he said improv was something she always liked to do and did well.

When he found out she was cast for the well-known comedy show, he said she "has the perfect personality, and her abilities will shine on 'SNL.'"

For about a year, she spent time as the lead singer of a rock band with Danny Kuykendall, who is one of the musicians of Folly Collage.

Wells wrote song lyrics and even helped plan and organize gigs for the group, he said. They collaborated on songs that included metaphors about teenage angst and anti-trendy songs.

"She was really productive," he said. "She was always juggling a lot of things but always in a good mood."

Kuykendall, 27, was excited to hear the news that Wells made it to 'SNL.'

"She did exactly what she said she was going to do," he said.

Before making the lineup on 'SNL,' Wells attended college at the University of Texas at Austin, studying radio and television and liberal arts. She graduated with two bachelor's degrees in 2010 and moved to Los Angeles to pursue her dream of being a comedian.

On her YouTube channel, she plays different roles and performs skits with other up-and-coming comedians. Dressed in styled wigs and sometimes posed in front of a green screen, her parodies include spoofs of Michele Bachmann and Wells' celebrity look alike, Zooey Deschanel.

"She just went out there on her own," Ranjel said. "It scared everybody and made us so nervous."

Wells still lives in LA, her aunt said, and will be traveling back and forth to New York City to film the show.

"We knew from a very young age that she was going to be somebody," said Ranjel. "To know her is to love her. She just has this personality that you just really want to be around her, and you just love her," she said.

Wells will join the ranks of famous comedians who have been part of the "SNL" cast, including Dan Aykroyd, Chevy Chase and Rob Schneider, who recently visited the Golden Gecko in Victoria.



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