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10 things you should know about the making of 'Yellowjackets'

Here are some behind-the-scenes secrets of the Showtime series everyone is talking about.  

By Tara Bennett
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If you’re one of the many who heard about this crazy plane crash/cannibalism/horror-thriller series on Showtime called Yellowjackets, welcome to the insanity! SYFY WIRE selected it as one of our favorite genre TV shows of 2021 and we're happy to see more of our readers are getting on #TeamYellowjackets.

Yellowjackets is an original series about a fictional ‘90s championship high school female soccer team. Heading to nationals, their chartered plane goes down in the remote wilderness and the survivors are left on their own to negotiate the very creepy terrain around them.  The series features an almost all-female cast, including Juliette Lewis, Christina Ricci, and Tawny Cypress playing adult versions of their teenage survivors. And in flashbacks, an equally fantastic younger cast play their high school selves before, and after, the crash — giving context for their lives and all of the gory brutalities therein. 

With as only two more episodes are left in Season 1, so many are devouring everything they can about Yellowjackets. To feed your new obsession, SYFY WIRE has collected some fascinating details about the show from the cast and creators that provide some insight into the mindset of the series and perhaps some clues for the big finale.

1. After the show briefly shutdown, they shot the plane crash 

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As with many shows that aired in 2021, Yellowjackets was also deeply impacted by COVID shutdowns and delays. In fact, by the time the actors were called back to start shooting the actual series, it had been two years since they had first gathered to shoot the pilot episode. For the actors playing the teen versions of the characters, their first day back on the job was shooting the harrowing plane crash.

“It was a really immersive experience,” remembered actress Sophie Thatcher, who plays Natalie. “It always felt like we weren't acting. And it was also interesting because it was the first day back since we had shot the pilot.  It had been two years and we go straight into it. There was just like this adrenaline rush that all of us had, because a lot of us hadn't worked since COVID. We started with that, and to start with something so intense, I think it was interesting planning, and I think it actually worked out really well.”

2. The actors had to wait two years to find out if they got the gig

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Once the cast shot the pilot, they then had to sit tight and wait to find out if Yellowjackets would get picked up as a series. Actress Samantha Hanratty, who plays young Misty, said it was a tough wait.

"I'm not a patient person, so I'm pretty sure I was sitting there being like, 'Oh, my gosh, is it going to happen? Is it going to happen?' But there's that feeling that you believe it is going to happen, with such a great pilot and just such an amazing script. So, I moved home with my parents, and it was just a time where I wasn't so focused on when am I getting to work right away. Everybody's in this same period right now. But don't get me wrong, towards the end when we had to know by a certain date whether or not it was going to get picked up, and I'm pretty sure I called Jasmin a couple of times, being like, 'Have you heard anything? Do you know anything!?'"

3. The producers didn't match actors based on their looks

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One of the deep strengths of the series is how perfectly the actors look and match one another in playing the teen and adult versions of their characters. Interestingly enough, executive producer Ashley Lyle says finding similar-looking actors was not the priority in the casting search.

“I feel like it's sort of a miracle that the matching, as it were, turned out as well as it did,” Lyle admitted with candor. “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.”

Once they found the right actors, Lyle said then it came down to eyeballing the candidates next to one another. “Then came a lot of printing out pictures and putting them side-by-side in the casting office and going, ‘I think it works.’  And then of course, there's a lot of hair and makeup and color contact lenses going on, just to help us out a little bit more.”

4. The survivors rarely saw each other during the shoot

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Because of the timelines being shot separately, the young and older actors playing the same character rarely interacted during production because their shooting locales were nowhere near one another. "It was hard, because we were not shooting at the same time, and we barely get to be on the set when the adults were there," actress Sophie Nélisse, who plays teen Shauna, shared. But she and actress Melanie Lynskey made time to get together beforehand to flesh out Shauna's overall journey, and also add some personal details about their own lives into their character's for more connection.

5. The two Natalies exchanged music to connect 

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Actresses Juliette Lewis and Sophie Thatcher share the role of Natalie, who is introduced as the punk/rebel of the team. Often seen wearing band t-shirts as a teen and an adult, Thatcher said music became a huge part of their shared prep. "Music was a really big thing for me, because I think it's really important to her," Thatcher said of Natalie.

Lewis added, "I think what's wild about Natalie is so much of herself is expressed in her exterior, in her clothes and her music. So, Sophie and I, we would just share music. We had old music swapping that was fun. We even got to see it in table reads, which was helpful, in our Zoom world."

6. Christina Ricci is a survivalist stan

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Actress Christina Ricci fessed up that she's always been a fan of survivalist reality TV shows, like Naked and Afraid. And she's incorporated those life lessons into her own personal skill set, making her a perfect cast member of Yellowjackets.

"I know how to do pull-ups, because I know that if you fall off a cliff, you need to be able to pull your body weight onto things," Ricci shared. "I can build a fire. I would actually do very well [in a crash scenario]."

7. The show isn't about what happened, but about why it happened


In developing the concept of the series, executive producer Ashley Lyle said that they figured out early on that the mystery of these girls unraveling would drive the series.

"When we were first ruminating on the concept and coming up with the pilot story, we knew we didn't want to be a show about what happened, but about why it happened," Lyle said. "And, so, we figured the best way to do that was to just play it all in the beginning. We wanted to strongly imply what happened, so that the question is more "How did they get from point A to point B?" And what was interesting to us about having it be a championship soccer team is that it's all about collaboration. Seeing girls who were able to really work together as a group, and then to see how that might really start to fall apart and shatter over the course of a season."

8. Misty sees the crash as the best time of her life


The only character seemingly content with the whole crash scenario is oddball Misty (Sammi Hanratty). Actress Christina Ricci said she played adult Misty knowing the crash aftermath was her character’s big moment to shine. 

“When they crash, she does finally become important,” Ricci mused. “She creates a situation in which she will stay important. I certainly don't see her as somebody who has any remorse about that. And, in fact, when things start to heat up in the present, I think Misty is thrilled that her life might become exciting again. If you take in the facts of her life as an adult, it doesn't really look that great. And I think maybe the thing that makes her character a little different than all the other women on the show is that this was probably the greatest time in her life."

9. The cannibal scenes were done with the magic of catering

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In the Yellowjackets pilot, there's a ceremony with the characters swathed in furs, with their faces obscured, participating in a gruesome cannibalistic ritual. Yes, the actors in the scene had to eat what looked like human flesh but, no, it was not. In fact, the meat-eaters of the cast were provided venison and the vegetarians were given Beyond Meat to gnaw on to their heart's content.

10. The show explores what "supernatural" means

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The narrative has alluded to a lot of weird supernatural circumstances, from Lottie's (Courtney Eaton) visions to the runes littered throughout their crash site and cabin, and then Tai's own history with being haunted by an eyeless figure in a black suit coat. Is the show embracing supernatural answers like Lost, or are they meant to confuse the audience?

Director/executive producer Karyn Kusama said the show is purposefully exploring what "supernatural" means. "In this case, it's about the mysteries of human behavior," the director said. "And in many respects, Jasmine's Taissa is one of the most competent in the wilderness, but also suffers terrible trauma very deeply. When we see Tawny (Cypress) as adult Taissa, she in many respects is the most together and competent, and yet there's still so much mystery underneath all of that. [The actresses] approached the character with that question of 'What's possible in human behavior' in mind."

Yellowjackets airs Sundays on Showtime.