(Warning spoilers ahead) Yellowjackets has found plenty of ways to shock viewers throughout its first two seasons. From the unexpectedly dark, deceptive actions of Misty Quigley (played by Christina Ricci/Sami Henratty), to the sudden passing of central characters when you least expect it, the show keeps viewers glued to the screen and on the edge of their seats through every episode. After an agonizing close to season one, season two certainly had no shortage of shocks, mystery, or complex character developments.
One episode and performance stands out among all the memorable moments it could throw at us, because it taps deeper into the humanity of the character with hearth wrenching results. Sophie Nélisse‘s work as Shauna across the season is remarkable, specifically in episode six where she delivers one of the most raw and devastating performances of the year. It is an episode I have returned to several times and each time I do it breaks me all over again, because of the authentic and powerful work the young actress leaves on screen. As a parent the work cuts deep inside like a scalpel, slicing into core emotions and instincts as we sit helplessly while Shauna suffers inexplicably.
But Nélisse’s impressive work does not end there. Across season two she explores much more of who Teen Shauna is as we witness her planting the seeds of who the character transforms to in Adult Shauna (played with equal precision by Melanie Lynskey.) Nélisse delivers a performance that ranges from touching, to soul-crushing to strong, fierce, distraught and even a bit gross. If you’ve watched, you know about her unique choice in meals.
Sophie spoke with Awards Radar again in a conversation where we dig into much of season two. The actress is humble and insightful, plus a joy to listen as she describes some of the more moving and stomach churning scenes of Yellowjackets. Below are some prime excerpts from my time with Nélisse. For the full scope of our conversation lend me your ear and watch it in its entirety below.
On working with Ella Purnell again even after her character’s death:
“The writers don’t give us much spoilers. We ended the finale and didn’t have any idea what was to come in the second season. I think it was about two weeks before shooting the second season that we got the script for the first episode. And I mean, I thought it was such a strong way to open this new season. It’s just falling right into Yellowjackets. It’s twisted, but also, you understand where she comes from, to me. It’s kind of the same as the way someone would hold or keep or smell their friend’s or their lovers sweater if they were dead. It’s trying to keep that spirit and and the little bits you have to cling on to alive. So it made sense, but they dug a little deeper and went into this sort of crazy world where she starts doing her makeup and talking to her and fighting with her. I think her unconscious brain is telling her that she needs to let Jackie go once and for all. There’s all these crazy moments where Jackie starts peeling her skin away. I think that’s Shauna’s subconscious brain that’s slowly seeping in and creating nightmare scenarios.”
On her reaction to learning about the events of episode six:
“I felt very overwhelmed. I mean, first of all, I felt very honored to have the opportunity to play such a beautiful, well written, well constructed roller coaster of emotion episode. I felt very honored, but also I felt like I had so much pressure on my shoulders and that I was never going to be able to live up to the task. I remember in the team read Liz Garbus, who directed the episode – everyone kind of walked away. And she’s like, ‘I’d just like to speak with you for like a second, one on one to discuss some scenes. Everyone walked out and I looked up for my script, and I just started sobbing. I had never even said like hello to Liz and I just was sobbing in her face. She came in she comforted me and she was like, ‘it’s gonna be okay.’
On Sophie’s (as a fan) favorite part to watch in season two:
“I think older Shauna and Jeff’s (Jeff Sadecki) relationship. I’m not saying this because it’s Shauna, but because I think they just bring so much levity to the show and so much humor, which I think we need at times. They have this quirky back and forth, feisty but funny relationship. I think that’s where I laugh the most when I watch watch the show. Also the fact that I think the show does a great job of walking this fine line into – in our own timeline, at least – well no, even in the adult timeline this season, about what’s reality? What’s the higher power? All of those kind of more existential questions – I think what’s amazing.”
Watch Sophie Nélisse’s work on season one and two of Yellowjackets now streaming in Paramount+.