“Yellowjackets” Season 2 wasted no time in getting to the darker themes the show has been teasing since the pilot: In the second episode, winkingly titled “Edible Complex,” the stranded soccer team, who we know eventually resorted to cannibalism, finally goes there. [MAJOR SPOILERS follow.]
In the Season 2 opener, we learned that Shauna, unable to get past Jackie’s (Ella Purnell) death, is still having conversations with her dead friend two months later. The ground has been too cold to bury Jackie, but Shauna agrees to a farewell via funeral pyre. As the girls sleep, the fire melts snow from the tree branches above, which douses the fire and ends up being the perfect environment for a posthumous barbecue. The survivors awake to the smell of cooked flesh. As they stand over Jackie’s body, Shauna tells them, “She wants us to,” and they begin to eat her — except for Ben (Steven Krueger), who is horrified by this gruesome turn of events.
The scene intercuts with an imagined Roman banquet in which the survivors, now dressed in their fantasy finest, are instead enjoying wine, bread and cheese.
TheWrap chatted with Sphie Nélisse, who plays Teen Shauna, and Jasmin Savoy Brown, who plays Teen Taissa, who said that filming both scenes was “really gross” and “disgusting.”
Said Nélisse: “I love how they bring in the element of disassociation, our weird way of coping with everything, where we picture ourselves being at this beautiful Roman table with grapes and fancy food. And that’s kind of how we cope with what we’re doing. They did it so beautifully.”
TheWrap: Sophie, were you surprised that Shauna is the first to go cannibal?
Sophie Nélisse: I was, but it makes sense. It’s weird, but at the same time, if anyone’s gonna give the okay, it should be her [since Jackie was], her best friend. I kind of loved that she’s the one leading that scene. I think wanting her baby to survive is a reason for Shauna to cope with the fact that they’re going to eat Jackie and actually take the first step.
What was it like actually eating the fake body?
Jasmin Savoy Brown: It smelled like burnt flesh. It was charred and burnt and just kind of stinky. It was jackfruit and then the skin was something like rice paper that they crisped to look like chicken skin, but it was on her face. Oh my God, it was so weird.
Nélisse: It was such a crazy scene to film because the way they made the Ella corpse, her burned body looked so real. Even though we knew what we were actually eating, and it didn’t taste that bad, when we were doing the actual scene, our brains couldn’t really make the difference, it just looked too real. The food tasted gross because we were biting out of what looks like a very realistic body. And I think every time we’d finish a take and they called, “Cut,” we were all gagging and throwing out the food.
Brown: It was really gross. I think a couple people threw up.
What was the mood like on set?
Brown: It was difficult. I mean, for me. Shooting Episode 2 was some of the hardest weeks of my life because one or two days into shooting, one of my siblings went into a coma and a couple days later passed away. So I was flying back and forth from Oakland, seeing my other siblings, my nieces and nephews. I was shooting this episode about how to cope in the wake of death while figuring it out for myself. It was really hard. I was in my trailer and almost threw up and cried every day. It really was not good. But it was a challenge for me as an actor and an opportunity to put my emotions and what I was processing into my work in a way that I never would never ask for. I would never want that. But I guess in a weird way, the timing was awful, but also good.
I’m so sorry for your loss. I hope a counselor was there for you when that happened. (Brown had earlier told TheWrap that the cast came to depend on the show’s intimacy coordinator for emotional support to get through their scenes.)
Brown: Luckily, my partner came to town and I really had good support. And the good thing that comes from loss is connection, so I connected more with my siblings and with the rest of my family. But you know, the cast is really supportive. Everyone was really supportive, but it was tough.
The banquet scene must have been much easier.
Nélisse: By the end of the scene at the table, [they told us] to just be ravenous and grab everything. I was doing a mixture of cheese, veggies, fruit and wine, and I was just shoving everything I could in my mouth. And it almost, to be honest, tasted worse. What we would do to preserve the food, or because it was just so chaotic shooting that scene, we would chew a lot and then spit it back out. And then, because I wasn’t really paying attention, I was picking off other people’s plates where they’d spit out their food. So honestly, I was kind of picking up vomit. Maybe not actual vomit, but literally picking up food that Courtney [Eaton] put in her mouth. Like leftover chewed-up grapes. It was disgusting.
Has this scene stayed with you since you filmed it?
Brown: It’s haunting. It’s just bizarre. Like, I was with my girlfriend at a cottage out of town, like a week and a half after filming. And we ordered something fancy, like part of a deer and bone marrow and, I was like, “Oh my God, all I can think about is Jackie’s dead body.” And then [we were] walking on a frozen lake and there’s just snow everywhere. And I was walking back being like, “Oh my god, this looks just like the show.”
Like you never left.
Brown: Like I never left. What I learned from shooting this season — and other things happened behind the scenes, and also my personal life — much like my character, I am a survivor. And I will get through anything and make the most out of it and really show up for the people in my life.
Sophie, did this also put you off eating meat?
Nélisse: It did for like a second. But no, I’m sorry, I do love meat. I wish I would have said, “No, it’s made me want to stop eating steak.” But I love my piece of steak.
This is just the beginning of the cannibal scenes, I assume.
Nélisse: Yes. I don’t know how they’re going to turn out on screen because I haven’t seen any of it, but from what we shot they’re quite graphic. It’s kind of the same as with the Jackie scene: It is hard because I think our brains don’t really make the difference, even though everything is edible and actually made out of good food.
It’s so hard not to give spoiler, but there’s a specific thing that we end up eating. I remember watching someone else eat and I was so grossed out. I was disturbed. I was gagging and it just made me feel so queasy and uncomfortable. I think it was literally made out of gummy bears. And the fake blood is a syrup that’s made out of cornstarch and something sweet. So really it is not that bad. But the idea of where it came from, just the idea itself, is so disturbing that I have a hard time doing the scene without gagging.
Sophie, are you able to leave this behind when you leave this set? What’s your headspace like after filming scenes like that?
Nélisse: I’m honestly not the most method actor. We were talking about this on set one day, because the girls were all saying, “The trauma this show brings us because our bodies undergo such high emotions that we don’t really make the difference between real trauma or fake trauma.” And I was like, “I kinda feel fine.”
I have to put myself in a darker headspace and get in the zone and go through the process that I go to, in order to deliver the emotion on screen. But honestly, once the scene is over, the second they call “Cut,” I’m like, “Alright, I’m gonna go home and watch ‘The White Lotus’ and feel good about myself.” I get exhausted physically, from just working a lot. But it doesn’t really stick with me and I won’t really get depressed or fall into a dark hole. I really have an easy time separating work from my personal life.
New episodes of “Yellowjackets” Season 2 are streaming Fridays at midnight and air on Showtime on Sundays.