Interview with actresses Melanie Lynskey, Sophie Nélisse, Juliette Lewis, and Sophie Thatcher, and producers Ashley Lyle, Bart Nickerson, Jonathan Lisco and Karyn Kusama of “Yellowjackets” on Showtime by Suzanne 8/25/21
This was part of Showtime’s TCA Virtual Press Tour for this show. There were two panels, and this is the first. It’s a really good show that jumps back and forth between the past (when the girls were teenagers) and the present (when they’re all older). They’re part of a soccer team that is flying to the finals when their plane goes down in the Canadian wilderness. They have to do terrible things to survive.
I also enjoyed these panels because the person who ran them was a really nice guy, and he ran them very efficiently. The show premieres Sunday, November 14. Don’t miss it!
SHOWTIME SUMMER 2021 TCA VIRTUAL PRESS TOUR
Virtual via Zoom August 25, 2021
© 2021 Showtime Networks Inc. All rights reserved.
Melanie Lynskey (she/her), “Shauna Sadecki”
Sophie Nélisse (she/her), “Teen Shauna Sadecki”
Juliette Lewis (she/her), “Natalie Scatorccio”
Sophie Thatcher (she/her), “Teen Natalie Scatorccio”
Ashley Lyle (she/her), Creator/Executive Producer/Showrunner
Bart Nickerson (he/him), Creator/Executive Producer/Showrunner
Jonathan Lisco (he/him), Executive Producer/Showrunner
Karyn Kusama (she/her), Executive Producer/Director
The Upcoming drama “Yellowjackets” premieres on Sunday, November 14th.
Here was my question: “Good morning everyone. My question is for EP Bart Nickerson. There have been quite a few “Lord of the Flies” type shows with teens, like “100” and “Society,” etc. Can you tell us what you think makes your show different – besides the fact that it’s a female soccer team and that we see them later, in their 40s?”
Nickerson replied that he hadn’t really seen those other shows, so he couldn’t speak to the comparison. He feels that the two elements I brought up (being a female soccer team and seeing them later on) were important parts of the premise that give them “a lot of different places to go.” He felt that other shows probably wouldn’t be that similar without those elements. These elements are able to give us insights into the characters’ psyches in ways we wouldn’t be able to do otherwise.
I thanked him and then told him how much I enjoyed the episodes I saw (there were two, I believe).
The rest of the questions were from other journalists in the panel. Melanie Lynskey was asked what she thought when she first read the script, whether she wanted to do it – what her first impression was (particularly since she has to do a lot of really strange things, particularly “where small animals are concerned.” She replied that she was “so excited to read something that was so different” and with a real edge to it. She said the writing was “tense” and also centered on women, each of which was interesting and well written. “By the end of the pilot, I felt like I knew everybody, and they were all unique individuals.” She jumped at the chance to sign up, even though she normally doesn’t like to sign long-term contracts for shows. She didn’t have her usual doubts about the show.
That journalist then asked Sophie Nélisse and Sophie Thatcher (“The Sophies”) what they thought of the “pretty harrowing plane crash sequence” and compared it to various movie plane crashes. Nélisse said that the plane set was “very claustrophobic” and somewhat “tilted to the side” which helped with the realism of their situation. When they saw it in person the first day, it helped them feel scared and get into their characters more. Thatcher added that she felt, “it was a really immersive experience.” They didn’t have to act very much. Also, it was their first day since they’d shot the pilot (two years before, because of the pandemic), so they went right into shooting and all felt “this adrenalin rush” that they all had. It added to the intensity of the situation.
Lynskey was asked to compare her role in “Heavenly Creatures” to her role here (since it was a similar role in the 90’s). She also asked if Nélisse was aware of Lynskey’s past roles in the 90’s and whether she used any of her earlier performances for playing her as a younger person.
Lynskey noted that “probably wasn’t alive” when she started in the business. She didn’t think of that role specifically, but she did think about her own life and relationships with women. She said that her feelings for the women she made friends with on this show made her want to cry. She said, they “are the most precious thing to me.” She really loved how the story “got to the heart of female relationships,” since her own female friends were so important to her growing up. It was a more complex writing of girl friends than most scripts have.
Nélisse agreed that she was born in 2000 and added that she hadn’t watched Lynskey’s work before she got the part. Once she did get cast, she watched some of her work online. She knew she wouldn’t be able to match the high pitch of her voice, and she didn’t think they looked that similar. However, she’s “very honored to be able to play her younger self.” She added that this character of Lynskey’s is so different from any others that she just focused on having chats with her over coffee and discussing the character, so they would make sure they were in the same place about her and what happens to her in the show.
The next question was for the executive producers. The reporter asked about the casting of the actresses, since they had to match up so well (even taking hair, makeup and costuming into account).
Ashley Lyle revealed that, “It was a long and tortured process.” However, they were lucky to be able to cast some of their actresses, such as Lynskey, fairyl early on. She added, “Which was an absolute dream come true.” They mostly focused on getting the most talented people for the roles instead of making sure they all looked alike. Then they matched up photos of the people they wanted to try to see if it would work. She credits the actors with being talented, understanding the story and filling the shoes of their characters. She finished with, “it’s really about the spirit of the character more than anything else, in my mind.” She answered that question so well that no one else had to say a thing.
Lynskey was asked what it was about the character that really made her want to do the show. Lynskey hesitated, thinking of what to say, so Juliette Lewis jumped in. I guess she felt left out because no one had asked her a question yet! That was kind of funny. She said that the script was one of the best she’d read in over 10 years. She praised it a lot, saying it was “riveting,” just reading it, which is very unusual. She also said, “I’m always interested in dichotomies or contrasts and all these multi—layered problems within a human being. And I just loved the way my character is bourgeois on the surface, or, you know, faking her way through life. And then with this, like single—purposed mission to go home and find out a few things.” She admitted that when you say yes to a role, you’re always hoping that it will turn out as well as you think it will. She liked hearing the way the whole season will play out. Also, she’s a big fan of Lynskey’s, mostly because of her earlier work in “Heavenly Creatures.” She said the role was a dream because of the story being so exciting and how much potential it has for future stories.
Nélisse agreed with Lewis. She stated, “The arc of the characters is so interesting. I think what I really loved about it is that for our storyline, we’re just — the younger kids are kind of put in a situation where you get to know yourself on, like, a deeper level. And I think we’ve all imagined what it would be like to be facing a life and death situation. And it brings out the worst in us, but also the best in us.” She found that conflict to be the most interesting. You think you know how you might act in that type of situation, but you don’t really know until you’re faced with it. We get to see “how far these women will go, and how they have to rely on each other but are also kind of against each other.” She loves her character and how introverted she is. She watches the action that’s going on, but as the show progresses, “inside of her a slow burn, that will develop as the show goes on, and you can see how she’ll start to, like, speak for herself and have a voice and find her voice.” The character’s arc is what interests her.
Thatcher spoke up to say that she admires her character’s “grit and her resilience, and how from the very beginning she just remains true to herself, and her lack of filter.” She admitted that in real life, she’s been trying to “incorporate a lot of those qualities into who I am. And it’s cool, because I get to live — like half of my time is living that on camera, and just to, like — it’s empowering. And I think that says a lot about the script and how rich and complex Natalie is. Yeah, there’s a very — she’s incredibly layered. She has this sensitivity that’s not really brought out until a couple episodes in. And I don’t think anybody was expecting that side. She has this — so much lightness in her that she’s really hiding and masking. Because — I don’t know. She’s a teenager. But she’s really, really complex. And she’s made a profound impact on me, which is rare.”
The next press person asked Juliette, who started acting in some pretty tough roles when she was very young, what did she think of it then, and did she have any advice for these younger actresses now who are doing this “really serious series.”
Lewis answered that she really took a shine to her “Sophie,” Sophie Thatcher, whom she admired for being an incredible young actor. She loves that their speaking voices are similar (deep). She pointed out that, “I’ve always been attracted to what I call the “primal energies” and “high stakes” genre or dramas, which is what I cut my teeth on early on. That’s so fun…I always had this empathy as a kid for hardship in others. And when I would look at people and imagine their worlds, I just had a sensitivity, oddly, to pain. And emotionality. I don’t know why, but I had it in myself.” She spoke more about this ability to transfer others’ pain to herself for her character, using her imagination. She thinks children already have the ability to play “make believe” when they’re young, and they can develop that into “theatrics” as they get older, for acting.
The next man wanted to know about what the actors who each play the adult and teen versions of the character talk about, when they get together to discuss the characters, and whether they include “the cadence of their voice” or other things.
Lynskey let us know that the characters had certain secrets that they didn’t know at first, so they had to find them out from the producers, which is usually the case with TV series. They had to piece the parts of her together, based on what they were told. They also had a long discussion about “Shauna’s kind of innate self—confidence and belief in herself, and the fact that she’s like quite a sexual being who is quite secure in her sexuality.” She enjoyed the fact that they were “subverting the expectation of” Jackie being “the beautiful, popular one, while Shauna held her own and knew who she was. The two actresses came at it from the same place and built the character together.
Nélisse agreed that Lynskey had it dead on. She did admit that it was difficult because the adults and teens don’t shoot at the same time, so they didn’t always have time to speak about it. She didn’t always know what Lynskey was doing. However, they kept Shauna’s “personality and her spirit and her journey in mind” while adding in some personal details from her own life because she relates to the character very well.
Lewis credited the “magic of casting” because she and Thatcher “felt a kinship.” Their character, Natalie, is “expressed in her exterior, in her clothes and her music.” Lewis spoke to EP Ashley Lyle quite a bit about Natalie’s attributes. She’s an artist who didn’t really express herself. She is “a natural athlete.” Most importantly to her is that she and Thatcher shared music from that era that the younger version of her character would like.
Thatcher agreed that the music was important to Natalie, so it was important to her as well. She recalls speaking with Lewis on the phone about how Natalie dresses is important to her. She brought up specific things that she hadn’t thought of. It really opened up her mind to the possibilities. She and Lewis both can really relate to the character, so she agreed that they did have a “kinship.” They discussed people Natalie would admire, such as (German singer) Nina Hagen. They both had a very clear image of what she would be like, and what she strived for. They were very lucky to be on the same path about the character.
The penultimate journalist asked how Lynskey and Lewis felt about the two younger actresses acting like them (whether they were successful or not). Lynskey answered that she felt like she really “won the lottery” after watching Nélisse play the character in the pilot. She praised her for having “so much emotional intelligence and depth.” She said that the younger actress was just natural at playing the character and that it really wasn’t like an imitation of her. There were a few things she noticed that they did in a similar way, such as “looking out from under their eyebrows.” Also, they both gave her a certain type of “physicality.” Mostly, she was just very grateful.
Lewis said that she felt the same way that Lynskey did, that she really lucked out. She wants to claim her, but says that Thatcher is really her own person. She said, “The casting was phenomenal. And Sophie’s phenomenal, because she’s Natalie. She’s our Natalie who’s all in the teenage land.” She talked about how teenage girls are before they evolve into womenhood and put on certain faces for life. She really praised her voice placement once again. Thatcher told her that she watched her to find that low pitch. Some of her expressions were also similar.
Lynskey was asked what the best and worst parts of her job are, since she’s been acting since she was really young.
Lynskey put it very well when she replied, “I think any of us would probably say the best part of the job is the moments between action and cut.” She went on to explain how she feels when acting, “something transcendent happens where you leave your body a little bit and you don’t know what’s going on, and something magical happens between you and another actor.” She also added that it’s “beautiful” seeing the talented young actors on a project like this one, who have so much enthusiasm and are so good at what they do, and they have strong voices. The worst part, she admitted, is “having to get up early. Even though I have a two year old now and I have to get up early every single day, it’s just still — just not how I’m made.”
ABOUT THE SHOW
Created and executive produced by Ashley Lyle and Bart Nickerson (Narcos), the one-hour drama series, YELLOWJACKETS stars Melanie Lynskey (Castle Rock), Oscar® and Emmy® nominee Juliette Lewis (Camping), Emmy® nominee Christina Ricci (Z: The Beginning of Everything) and Tawny Cypress (Unforgettable).
Equal parts survival epic, psychological horror story and coming-of-age drama, YELLOWJACKETS is the saga of a team of wildly talented high school girls soccer players who become the (un)lucky survivors of a plane crash deep in the remote northern wilderness. The series chronicles their descent from a complicated but thriving team to savage clans, while also tracking the lives they’ve attempted to piece back together nearly 25 years later, proving that the past is never really past and what began out in the wilderness is far from over.
The series also stars Warren Kole (Shades of Blue), Ella Purnell (Sweetbitter), Samantha Hanratty (SHAMELESS), Sophie Thatcher (Prospect), Sophie Nélisse (The Book Thief), Steven Krueger (The Originals) and Jasmin Savoy Brown (The Leftovers). Jonathan Lisco (Animal Kingdom, Halt and Catch Fire) joins Lyle and Nickerson to serve as executive producer and showrunning partner.
Produced for SHOWTIME by studio Entertainment One (eOne), Karyn Kusama (Destroyer, Girlfight) executive produces and directed the pilot. Drew Comins of Creative Engine also serves as executive producer.
Melanie Jayne Lynskey (born 16 May 1977) is a New Zealand actress. She is known for playing quirky, soft-spoken but headstrong characters, and works predominantly in independent films. Her accolades include a New Zealand Film Award, a Hollywood Film Award and a Sundance Special Jury Award, as well as Critics’ Choice Award, Gotham Award, and Golden Nymph Award nominations.
Sophie Nélisse (born March 27, 2000) is a Canadian actress. She is known for her Genie Award–winning performance in Monsieur Lazhar, as Liesel Meminger in the film adaptation of the best-selling novel The Book Thief, written by Markus Zusak, and as Caroline in The Kid Detective.
Juliette Lake Lewis (born June 21, 1973) is an American actress and singer. She is known for her portrayals of offbeat characters, often in films with dark themes. Lewis became an “it girl” of American cinema in the early 1990s, appearing in various independent and arthouse films. Her accolades include a Pasinetti Award, one Academy Award nomination, one Golden Globe nomination, and a Primetime Emmy Award nomination.
The daughter of character actor Geoffrey Lewis, Lewis began her career in television at age 14 before being cast in her first major film role as Audrey Griswold in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989). She went on to garner international notice for her role in Martin Scorsese’s remake of Cape Fear (1991), which saw Lewis nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, as well as the Golden Globe in the same category.
Sophie Bathsheba Thatcher (born 2000) is an American actress who made her feature-film debut in the 2018 American science fiction feature length film Prospect. Thatcher’s work on stage includes productions of Oliver, Seussical, The Diary of Anne Frank, and The Secret Garden.
Proofread and Edited by Brenda