Melanie Lynskey on the Personal, Heartbreaking Loss Behind Her ‘Yellowjackets’ Character
Melanie Lynskey might be reading this story. The “Yellowjackets” star is a fan of TV, and she’s also a fan of writing and criticism about TV. And that includes reading press about her own shows — and herself. “I love [film and TV] criticism so much,” she tells Variety’s Awards Circuit Podcast. “And it would make me sad to not get to read it. You have to put your ego aside for a minute and just be like, ‘it doesn’t matter what I read about myself. When it’s someone you really love reading, and they’re writing about something that you spent six months working on, it’s hard for me to not do it.”
Lynskey says the reviews aren’t always great — but they’re usually accurate even in those cases. “They’ve always been right,” she says. “I know when something hasn’t been that good. So I’ve never been like, ‘that’s not fair.’ I’ve never really had that feeling.”
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With one exception: When reviews have brought up physical appearance “where it felt like I don’t know if that necessarily matters. But other than that, I’ve always agreed!’
On this episode, Lynskey discusses the twists and turns that came with Season 2 of the hit Showtime drama, as well as her turn as a complicated bad ass on HBO’s breakout “The Last of Us.” She also discusses how personal the storyline of her younger self’s pregnancy was to her own life, and how much she knows or doesn’t know about the trajectory of her character, Shauna. She also shares what its like for so many fans to ‘ship her marriage to Jason Ritter (as witnessed by a recent viral video of the couple on “The Drew Barrymore Show”) — and she learns, live on the podcast, about the news that her former “Two and a Half Men” co-star Charlie Sheen and boss Chuck Lorre have made up.
On “Yellowjackets,” Lynskey’s character, Shauna, is a woman who, 25 years after surviving a plane crash, is still reeling from what happened and hasn’t been able to fully movie on. The series flashes back and forth between the aftermath of the crash, when members of a high school girls soccer team fend for themselves in the wilderness; and present day, when they’re still scarred as adults.
In the flashbacks, Sophie Nélisse plays teen Shauna, who faced an unexpected pregnancy. In the show’s most recent episode, young Shauna loses the baby. For Lynskey, the story was deeply personal, and in first joining the show in Season 1, Lynskey said she wasn’t ready to ask series creators Ashley Lyle and Bart Nickerson what ultimately happens to the pregnancy.
“I’ve talked about it publicly so many times, but in the first episode, I had just had a pregnancy loss in my own life and I couldn’t talk about it,” she says. “I couldn’t ask [the show’s creators] what happened. I had a weird wall up about it. But so did the character in the first season. It was just something that wasn’t discussed in my timeline. And then this season, I think I had enough distance that I was like, okay, I can start to get into it. At the same time as older Shawna is also letting herself remember and feel it.”
Discussing Season 2’s sixth episode, “Qui,” Lynskey says, “When I read that script, I cried. It was so heartbreaking. I knew Sophie would do a beautiful job, and then seeing it… Just her little face, there’s so much happening on her face at all times, and just how freely she feels emotion. I know that Sophie sometimes doubts herself because she’s like, ‘Oh, ‘I’m not tortured. I’m not curled up in a ball on the corner, trying to get to a place.’ And I’m like, ‘you have a gift, where you can just be in front of a camera and the emotion comes out of you. And you don’t have to try to beat yourself up to get there. It’s just natural.'”
Lynskey says the producers are open to talking about things that might personally trigger somebody. “And they also always make sure to have a writer on set, which is something that those writers are usually doing an unpaid capacity. That’s part of what the writers strike is about. But they’re there to do the work with us and help us in the moment change things if we need to, or just for questions to be answered. It’s invaluable having a writer there.”
As “Yellowjackets” progresses, Lynskey says she’s along for the ride — and she has no idea where it’s going either. “I’m past the point of what they’ve told me now,” she says. “Before I signed on, I had a lot of questions. And then they answered those questions. And now, I’m trying not to be annoying, so I’m not asking them too many questions. But I am really curious. I don’t know what Season 3 is gonna look like. I I’m nervous. I’m excited. There’s also so many people on our show, and so many characters. So following all the different storylines is also really fun for me.”
As for her guest spot on HBO’s “The Last of Us,” as diabolical revolutionary leader Kathleen, Lynskey says she relished the brutal way in which her character dies. “She was not a nice person. But I did love that in the writing that they took their time and revealing things like they didn’t instantly show how she came to be in power. They didn’t instantly show her own backstory. She’s just this person who’s doing kind of awful things, and you don’t know why she’s in charge or why she’s ordering these things. And then it slowly unfolds. Craig (Mazin) is just so brilliant.”
Ritter made an uncredited appearance, under heavy makeup, as a “clicker” zombie in one of her episodes. The couple has become a fan favorite Hollywood duo, which Lynskey admits is surreal. “It’s very strange to have a spotlight on your relationship,” she says. “But we also do really like each other and love each other.”
Meanwhile, Lynskey hadn’t heard about Sheen and Lorre burying the hatchet. (Sheen, of course, was fired from “Two and a Half Men” after going on a tirade against Lorre, CBS, the show and others.) “The last time I was texting with Charlie, he seemed to be in such a good place, like an honestly good place,” Lynskey says. “I always hope the best for both of them. Honestly. I think that’s amazing.
If a “Two and a Half Men” reunion were in the cards, would she do it? “I mean, I’d do a guest star if they want,” she says. “There were moments on that show that were so fun. And I do genuinely love live audience sitcoms. There’s nothing like the energy of it, especially when people know the show and love the show.”
Also on this episode, on the Awards Circuit Roundtable, we check in on how the writers strike is impacting the Emmy FYC season, as well as the flurry of last minute category changes as the Emmy submissions deadline came to pass this week.
Variety’s “Awards Circuit” podcast, produced by Michael Schneider, is your one-stop listen for lively conversations about the best in film and television. Each week “Awards Circuit” features interviews with top film and TV talent and creatives; discussions and debates about awards races and industry headlines; and much more. Subscribe via Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify or anywhere you download podcasts. New episodes post weekly.
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