Melanie Lynskey is an actress whose incredible work so many people have loved over her near-thirty year career (including Joey, as you can see here in a chat with her last year). Yet, it is possible that you have recognize her face and performance, but still may not know her name. It is something that the highly-respected actress admits that has probably contributed to the longevity of her career. “I think part of it is that I’ve never been very famous. People have never seen a lot of me. I’ve just kind of worked steadily. I think that helps. I think when you’re everywhere people can kind of get sick of you. So maybe that’s it,” said a modest Lynskey.
If that is the case, we have a feeling it certainly is changing after another outstanding performance, this time in the series Showtime Yellowjackets – a show that is full of secrets, twists, intrigue and has an ever-growing fanbase. Lynskey received rave reviews and a Critics Choice Award (Best Actress in a Drama) for her mesmerizing work on the series. Yellowjackets follows the lives of a New Jersey high school girls soccer team (the Yellowjackets) whose lives change forever (or end) after, on the way to a game, their plane crashes in the wilderness. The accident leaves them fending for their lives, fighting for survival. What that entails is a mystery that is slowly revealed with each turn.
Shauna appears to be one of the more timid players on the team. Played by Sophie Nélisse at high school age and Lynskey when the series flashes forward to modern day, we learn there is a stronger, wilder, more confident Shauna under the surface.
“I think she’s just repressed so much at this point. She hasn’t allowed herself to feel anything her whole life. She’s pushed it down, pushed it down, pushed to the side,” said Lynskey about her character. “There’s just all this repressed trauma and rage that just comes to the surface where she’s having kind of an out of body experience. And then compartmentalizing completely afterwards, and just going okay, now how do I deal with this? Instead of even allowing herself to feel what that felt like or losing someone she truly did love? I am just interested to see how long she can keep repressing things before. It doubles over. That’s that’s the thing I’m fascinated by.”
Lynskey’s career started with a high school audition for Peter Jackson’s 1994 thriller, Heavenly Creatures, and has led to everything from The Informant! and Two and a Half Men to Candy, the recent Hulu miniseries in which she plays Betty, the victim of a heinous suburban household crime. (A role which we also discuss in the conversation below). She is an actress who always brings something special to the screen.
During this first season, Lynskey was able to bring something to Shauna directly through some improvising. “The director of episode eight Ariel Kleiman, I loved him. I hope he comes back and does more episodes. He was very into improvising. There’s a scene where Tawny (Cypress) and I are in my daughter’s bedroom. And we’re talking about what we thought our lives would be like, when we were growing up,” explained Lynskey. “I had done the same speech a couple of times. And Ariel was just like, say something different change it. So, I improvised a thing about like a poet and literary magazine, which is based on an actual experience I had at university. We were rival poets. And it’s in the show, which is fun. It was just fun to do something to change it up a little bit and see Tawny be really listening genuinely like, ‘what the rest of the story what’s going to happen now?'”
What Lynskey brings to a project is completely evident in her powerhouse performance in season one of Yellowjackets. Shauna is a nuanced character with many different layers – and Lynskey explores them all. Something tells me we will be hearing her name a lot this awards season… and we won’t get sick of her.
I had a wonderful conversation with Melanie where, little to my surprise, she was as nice and thoughtful as you would expect – while also very serious and insightful about her craft. Watch the full video of my conversation with the incredibly talented, versatile and actress (below). We cover a lot that Yellowjackets fans and fans of Lynskey herself, will really enjoy:
Yellowjackets season one is now playing in its entirety on Showtime. The first two episodes are also airing free on Paramount+. You can also catch her on Candy streaming in its entirety on Hulu.