UPDATED with full list of panel participants. Deadline regrets the initial omissions. When Melanie Lynskey read the pilot script for Yellowjackets, she knew she needed to be part of the series, despite the fact that she’s typically “nervous” about signing on to long-term TV contracts.
“You read a lot of things that are different for the sake of being different or edgy, [but] there was a genuine edge to this. It was so female-centered and everyone was so well drawn,” she said during one of the Showtime series’ panels today at TCA. “I loved how the show really got to the heart of female relationships. It was really complicated and grounded in something I believed in, in my heart.”
Juliette Lewis was similarly compelled, noting that the script she received was one of the best she’d read in the last 10-plus years. “It was absolutely riveting…and I’m always interested in dichotomies or contrasts in all these multilayered problems within a human being,” she said. “I’ve always been attracted to what I call the ‘primal energies’ and high stakes dramas, which is what I cut my teeth on early on.”
The 10-episode, one-hour series series created by Ashley Lyle and Bart Nickerson follows the saga of a team of wildly talented high school girls soccer players who become the (un)lucky survivors of a plane crash, deep in the remote northern wilderness. Yellowjackets chronicles their descent from a complicated but thriving team to savage clans, while also tracking the lives they’ve attempted to piece back together nearly 25 years later, proving that the past is never really past and what began out in the wilderness is far from over.
Others in attendance, over the course of Yellowjackets’ two-part presentation at TCA, included actors Christina Ricci, Sophie Nélisse, Sophie Thatcher, Samantha Hanratty, Tawny Cypress, Jasmin Savoy Brown and Ella Purnell, along with creator-EP-showrunners Ashley Lyle and Bart Nickerson, and EP-director Karyn Kusama.
Lyle noted up front that while Yellowjackets follows a championship soccer team, it is “not really a soccer show,” but rather about “extreme circumstances” that bring out the best and worst in the teammates, and how the teenagers involved become the women we see in the later timeline.
“It’s a really big premise that has a lot of different places to go,” added Nickerson. “It’s a giant Petri dish of a way to approach getting underneath the hood of human beings.”
Lyle was later asked about the prospect of supernatural elements within the series, and how it toes the line between realism and genre stylings. “We had a lot of discussions early on, in terms of points of inspiration and references, and there was a lot of talk about films like Rosemary’s Baby,” she shared. “We were most interested in that line between a genuine supernatural phenomena or some sort of madness that takes hold, so that’s a line we’re going to be playing throughout the show.”
From Kusama’s perspective, any genre elements featured speak to a larger question the series is asking, which is, “What are humans capable of?”
“What we’re doing is, we’re exploring what supernatural means,” she said. “In this case, it’s about the mysteries of human behavior.”
While the characters played by Lynskey, Lewis, Ricci and Cypress all are portrayed in the series in teenage form—by Sophie Nélisse, Sophie Thatcher, Samantha Hanratty, and Jasmin Savoy Brown, respectively—one journalist noted that in early episodes, we see no older version of Jackie Taylor, the character played as a teen by Ella Purnell.
This led her to question what the series’ creators are hinting at. But for now, this is a question Lyle and Nickerson want to leave unanswered. “My ambition is that you read into everything and go in a million different directions with it,” said Nickerson, “and just have a great time.”
Yellowjackets is currently in production in Vancouver, and will premiere on November 14.
Entertainment One is producing the show for Showtime. Kusama directed the pilot, and Drew Comins of Creative Engine also serves as executive producer. The show’s cast also includes Steven Kreuger, Warren Kole and others.