Married writing duo Ashley Lyle and Bart Nickerson created one of the buzziest series of the 2021–22 season with “Yellowjackets,” in which we have yet to see exactly how “Lord of the Flies” a girls’ soccer team goes after their plane crashes in the wilderness.
The argument for the stunning savagery of girls — and their traumatized adult counterparts — has been made frighteningly well on the series, which is nominated for seven Emmys, including Best Drama, Best Writing and acting nods for Melanie Lynskey and Christina Ricci.
The series creators, who share showrunning duties with Jonathan Lisco, are currently prepping the Season 2 but took time to discuss their nominations and some of their biggest influences with TheWrap.
TheWrap: Congrats on all your nominations. Which ones are you most proud of?
Bart Nickerson: Best Drama, right? Does that make me a dork? And acting because they’re all phenomenal. But Best Drama…. It just seemed so far removed from all my experience that I couldn’t imagine getting nominated. There are so many contributions that, for a variety of reasons, don’t get called out individually, so to be nominated for something that [includes the] theme song, props, cast, writing, producing, all of it – I can be a fan of all of their work without feeling like I’m turning into a narcissist.
Ashley Lyle: Looking at the other shows that were nominated, it still feels very surreal to be considered in the same category as them. That’s been a real thrill.
It seems like the perfect time for “Yellowjackets.” If it had come out a few years ago, do you think it would have been considered too dark and weird?
Lyle: We’re fortunate that other shows have paved the way because, traditionally, I feel like shows that include genre elements are less likely to be nominated. It certainly helped that “Stranger Things” has been nominated before. There’s more acknowledgement now that shows don’t have to just be a straightforward drama to be nominated. Shows like “Succession” that have a dark comedic instinct [are being recognized] as well. I think voters are more open now to different types of shows, and we have certainly benefited from that.
Nickerson: Did “Twin Peaks” get anything the first time around? It always makes me happy that it was so popular when it came out because it was so different from everything [else]. They should have gotten an Emmy. [In its two-season run, the ’90s David Lynch series was nominated for Best Drama, and Best Writing, Best Directing, with two acting nods each going to Kyle MacLachlan and Piper Laurie, and one to Sherilyn Fenn.]
Did “Twin Peaks” influence “Yellowjackets” in any way?
Lyle: Oh, absolutely. I mean, not consciously, necessarily, although we do occasionally talk about it in the writers’ room. But, generally speaking, Lynch has had such an incredible influence on our personal aesthetic and our storytelling because he paved the way for absolute weirdness to reign supreme. I don’t think that we necessarily are at a Lynchian stature in terms of the pure control he has over the absolute weirdness of his world, but [he’s] certainly an influence.
Nickerson: I feel like there are a million things that he’s inspired, but maybe one of the most important ones, at least for “Yellowjackets,” is Lynch does very serious work and he clearly cares about his craft a tremendous amount. But the thing that’s onscreen can also be fun and kind of whimsical, and those things can coexist very easily. And not just coexist, but reinforce each other. Sometimes, yes, it’s deep and it’s layered, and it’s leveled. And it’s meaningful, but it’s also just very fun.
You’re both nominated as writers for the first two episodes. Can you talk about your writing process?
Lyle: We are, I think, first and foremost writers, and so we just could not be more thrilled about [being nominated]. We’re very deliberate with our scripts. We write incredibly detailed outlines, and we just work really hard on them and we work hard on them as a group. We have a fantastic writers’ room.
Nickerson: It’s amazing to be nominated for two episodes. The pilot and the second episodes are something that we’re incredibly proud of. And it was really great to write [the second episode] with Jonathan Lisco, our showrunning partner. We have been blessed that he’s not only such a great writer but that we get along with and approach things the same way. And we have these incredibly brilliant, fabulous writers. It starts in the room, and we talk about the entire season, and then you portion out the individual episodes. It is very much a team sport. I just want to knock on all the wood, all the time, because it’s just gone so incredibly well out with our collaborators that I hope we haven’t used up all our good luck.
How do you feel about being compared to “Lost”?
Lyle: It’s funny, because I don’t necessarily think of our show as that similar to “Lost.” The mystery element and the mythology of that show was such a central part of it. We certainly have an element of that, and there’s certainly mystery involved in our show, but I think it’s not as central, in a certain way. I really enjoyed that show. I know that it can be very divisive, and it does feel like maybe not every thread was followed to its conclusion, but at the same time…what a ride. I think that people sometimes lose sight of how much fun that show was to watch when you were first watching it.
Nickerson: I also don’t always want everything to be answered. Like, I do and I don’t, because so much of what made “Lost” so engrossing was the mystery, not just the mystery of what happened, but the sort of reclamation of the spookiness of being alive. You can’t give all the answers and maintain that spookiness. We are surrounded by this unknown of being alive, and to have something that distills that so viscerally, I think that’s such a win and that you can’t resolve it all. Because that’s where that magical part lives.
Are you saying you’re not going to answer every question you raise on the show?
Lyle: When we deliberately ask a question, like, “Who is blackmailing the Yellowjackets?,” we will always have an answer for it. But when we’re dealing with something that is more metaphysical or existential, how could we have the answer because we as humans don’t have the answer necessarily? We certainly don’t ever intend to leave the audience hanging with very direct questions that we pose. But at the same time, there are things for which there are no answers.
Nickerson: I think our highest goal is for everything to be satisfying. I don’t think that we want to leave anybody hanging. But I think there are some things that are beyond our ability to answer.
Right, like does Lottie have supernatural powers? Did she summon that bear?
Lyle: We feel very strongly that it should be open to interpretation. Was it a coincidence? Or was there something greater at play? I think that’s a question that, were we to try to answer it very specifically and concretely, would actually undermine some of the questions that we’re asking on the show.
You’ve said that Season 2 is going to be darker and weirder. Can you elaborate on that?
Lyle: It’s all pretty top secret at this point. We had dinner the other night with Jamie Travis, who is the director of the show, and he’s going to be directing one of the early episodes of Season 2. And we were pitching him not just his episode, but the story at large, and he gasped a lot.
Production on “Yellowjackets” Season 2 will begin at the end of August with an expected wrap in February.