Showtime’s ‘Yellowjackets’ doubles down on characters

Rick's Reviews

The large cast of the Showtime series “Yellowjackets” created a difficult casting process. (Photo courtesy of Showtime)

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (OPINION) — Finding the right actors to fill out a cast can be a daunting task for casting agents, producers and directors. In the case of the new Showtime series, “Yellowjackets,” that meant finding a group of young actors who could handle the challenge of playing the teenage members of a soccer team who must deal with the aftermath of a plane crash in a remote northern wilderness.

That big casting challenge was doubled because the series also deals with many of those same soccer players 25 years later. They are all dealing with (or in some cases not dealing with) what happened during their fight for survival.

Two sets of actors had to be cast – one to play the teen version and the other for the adult version. For example, Melanie Lynskey and Sophie Nélisse play the younger and older Shauna Sadecki while Juliette Lewis and Sophie Thather handle the two versions of Natalie Scatorccio.

Series co-creator Ashley Lyle describes the casting process as being long and tortured.

“But we were very fortunate fairly early on to cast some of our incredibly talented actresses. Melanie was in very early, as our Shauna,” Lyle says. “I feel like it’s sort of a miracle that the matching, as it were, turned out as well as it did. Because to be honest, we were most interested in finding the best talent and the best people for the roles, as opposed to getting too focused on making sure everyone looked the same.

“We wanted to make sure that everyone really embodied that character. The extent of the process was really just about finding the right people and the right talent.”

Fighting for survival in an isolated world is a theme that has been used from “Lord of the Flies” to “100.” That meant the team behind “Yellowjackets” had to come up with a fresh approach to this epic tale of survival that turns into a psychological horror story while also being a coming-of-age drama.

One of the main approaches to making this project different is that it will not dwell on what happens while the girls are stranded but focus more on why such events took place and how that impacted those involved for the rest of their lives. The bottom line is “Yellowjackets” is about young women working together as a group and then seeing how that might really start to fall apart and shatter over the course of a season.

The cast members handling the same roles slowly realized that looking alike was really not that important because of all of the physical, emotional and psychological elements that they had to face.

Nélisse was not familiar with Lynskey’s work before finding out they would be playing the same character. She ended up watching a few of Lynskey’s past acting roles.

“I remember being struck by how high pitched her voice was, and then I was like, ‘There’s no way I can match that.’ We actually don’t look similar at all,” Nélisse says. “But, I knew first how talented she was, and I was very honored to be able to play her younger self.

“I haven’t drawn anything from her other characters because I think this character is so specific and unique. And I think I was just more focused on just having conversations with her. I just tried to match more of what she was playing older than other characters that she’s played before.”

Those conversation between Lynskey and Nélisse proved to be very productive. Each would share information they had learned about their character to help them play the role in a very similar way.

Christina Ricci and Samantha Hanratty spent a lot of time talking about how each of them would be playing the character of Misty. Ricci’s approach in playing the older version of Misty was to see her as being left socially inept after the ordeal her younger self faced. She saw the character as being extremely passive aggressive.

Hanratty saw those elements beginning to unfold with her younger version of the character.

“We get to see kind of this 13 year old, a little glimpse.  Because then it even shows more of an arc of who she was, who she is, and then who she is to become,” Hanratty says. “It’s definitely somebody who has been bullied.

“But she is almost like an optimist. I think we see glimpses of
it with me, and then you definitely get to see with Christina
kind of where those shattered pieces are.”

The 10-episode first season of “Yellowjackets” launches at 10 p.m. Nov. 14 on the premium cable service of Showtime. The series also stars Warren Kole, Ella Purnell, Sophie Thatcher, Steven Krueger  and Jasmin Savoy Brown.

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