The Season 1 finale of “Yellowjackets” left the group of teenage survivors reeling at the death of Jackie (Ella Purnell) and facing a long, hard winter ahead with limited resources and no hope of getting rescued.
And things are about to get much, much worse for everyone, particularly Shauna.
TheWrap spoke with French Canadian actress Sophie Nélisse, who plays Shauna in the 1996 timeline, ahead of the Season 2 premiere — which debuts on Showtime’s streaming service on Friday, March 24, and will be broadcast Sunday, March 26, on Showtime. She’s still grieving her best friend and wracked with feelings of guilt, not only for Jackie’s death, but for having slept with Jackie’s boyfriend, Jeff, whose baby she is now carrying.
Without getting into any specific spoilers, here’s what Nélisse told us we can expect this season as the girls begin to go off the rails, and get closer to the gruesome events teased at the very beginning of Season 1.
TheWrap: How would you describe Season 2 in a few words, for the survivors of the plane crash who are stranded in the wilderness?
Sophie Nélisse: As the season goes on, we’re going like … feral, like, primary survival instincts. And the stakes just get scarier and scarier. I think we’re gonna see a lot more conflict within the group. We’ve played it nice so far and we’ve been trying to keep it [together] as a team. And the team will slowly dissolve. We’re just going to see pure, raw … like, them losing their grasp on reality and what makes sense. They’re just losing it. They can’t think straight. They’re guided by hunger and this survival instinct. If someone were to ask you right now, could you eat your hand, you would probably say no, I mean, I don’t think I could ever cut my hand to eat it to survive. Or inflict pain on myself or someone else. But when you’re so out of it, I think our minds are capable of doing a lot more than we think we can.
Is Shauna the most messed-up character on the show this season?
It’s hard to say. It is a big season for Shauna. There’s such a big arc to the character, which I’m so grateful to be able to play. And without revealing any spoilers, it just doesn’t get easier for her as the season progresses. She … yeah … there are many heartbreaks for her. But I don’t want to be like, “Shauna has it the hardest.” There’s a lot to be explored with other characters like Lottie (Courtney Eaton). There’s definitely some psychosis going on with her character. She might be struggling as much, but more in the shadows. And Misty’s (Samantha Hanratty) crazy mood swings and temper are also hard to deal with. I think they all have s—t to deal with. But right now, [the most messed-up] is Shauna. She’s lost her best friend and having to deal with that, and also being pregnant, is a weird constant reminder of what she’s done. I think the guilt is an underlying feeling that she can’t really get rid of. And also the fear of having that baby, which means her potentially dying, is also a very terrifying feeling.
Did you really film in the snow for Season 2?
No actually, on the contrary, we were shooting in studio this year, which was super convenient. And we were actually sweating the whole time. Because we were in this built-in cabin on stage and there was this fire that was going on the whole time and our wardrobe is layers over layers of clothes. We were sweating bullets. I come from Montreal, Canada, where it gets really cold, but its actually hard to mimic coldness when you’re not feeling cold. I would try to do these fake shivers but yeah, we definitely did not feel cold, ever. The day that we wrapped the show and I flew back to Montreal, it was the coldest it’s ever been in 40 years. Literally it was minus 40 degrees. I walked outside for a second, and my teeth were like, they were just cracking on me. I don’t know the English word …
Yes! And my jaw was just so tight. My nose was running. And my mouth was numb from the cold. And there’s just something in your body language and in the way you speak and you’re kind of frantic because you’re trying to keep yourself warm. Part of me wishes that we actually did shoot in really cold locations, because it makes it look more realistic. And then part of me is like, I’m very happy that we were not shaking throughout these six months.” But Sophie Thatcher (who plays young Natalie) got to shoot some scenes up in Alberta. And it’s just a whole different experience shooting with actual snow.
In the first season you talked a lot with Melanie Lynskey, who plays adult Shauna, to get that throughline with the character. Are you still doing that?
No, we didn’t really do it as much. I think we got the essence of Shauna and there’s this chemistry. I don’t know how or why, but it’s there in the first season. And it works and it flows well. I tried looking at these tiny little mannerisms that she does, like, she’ll bite her lips in a specific way. And I was like, “Oh, maybe I should try to incorporate that to younger Shauna.” And then I tried practicing in the mirror, and I looked super stupid. It didn’t look natural. I don’t want to overdo it or try too hard. I think it’s harder for her, because she has to embody all of the trauma that Shauna has been through, without even knowing the full scope of what she’s actually been through.
We would get episodes as they came in, and she has to embody what I played beforehand. And she hasn’t even seen what I’ve played, because she’s not on set with me. So I think she has it way harder than me. And I don’t know how, how she does it, where she taps from. We always try to go out for dinner, and then we end up talking about personal stuff more than we [talk about Shauna].
Sometimes we do table reads and that’s the only glimpse I get of how Melanie’s gonna play the scene. Even in the table read, she’s just so good. I’m doing my lines in the most like, platonic way and she’s giving the most and it’s just so good. And she’s not even [in costume] or fully doing it. And that gave me really nice lenses of what to look more into in the season.
Do you have to mentally prepare for some of these darker scenes in the wilderness?
We get the scripts super last minute, so it’s not as if I can really prep for it. It’s not as if in episode one, I have an idea what’s going on in episode two. So that works for Shauna, because Shauna doesn’t know what’s going to happen. Every day is a new day and she can’t predict what she’ll have to undergo.
“Yellowjackets” Season 2 premieres Friday, March 24, on the Showtime streaming service and airs Sunday, March 26, on Showtime. Episodes will drop weekly Fridays at 12:01 a.m. PT/ET each week ahead of their linear airing Sundays at 9 p.m. ET/PT.