Next Big Thing: ‘Yellowjackets’ Actress Courtney Eaton Reckons With Lottie’s Big Revelations and What the Show’s Success Means For Her Career

The actress, who plays young Lottie, has been upped to a series regular — after initial hesitation — as her character comes to the fore: “I knew pretty early on that I wasn’t ever going to get bored with this character.”

As the return of Yellowjackets looms, there’s one question on avid viewers’ minds (one that also was asked by Colleen Wheeler’s Suzie in the first-season finale): “Who the fuck is Lottie Matthews?”

For Courtney Eaton, it’s complicated. The actress has now spent more than a year filming the blockbuster Showtime drama about a group of teen girls stranded in the woods 19 months after a plane crash (and the struggles of their adult counterparts to reconcile, among other things, the cannibalism they committed before their rescue). In the cliffhanger episode of season one, the current-day Lottie was — to the sinister delight of viewers — revealed to be a cult leader seemingly responsible for the death of Travis, another survivor. “It doesn’t come from not knowing her well, but I have a hard time explaining her,” Eaton says.

Related Stories

Eaton, 27, who was born in Western Australia and moved to L.A. to pursue an acting career after scoring a role in 2015’s Mad Max: Fury Road, has been upped to series regular on Yellowjackets, an offer she actually turned down before the pilot. “This was my first TV show, and the idea of signing on to something for six years really scared me,” she says. “But then I knew pretty early on that I wasn’t ever going to get bored with this character.”

Yellowjackets, back on March 24, is an ensemble show in every sense of the word, but now Eaton’s character is squarely in the spotlight, much to her surprise. “I remember getting that script and seeing that I closed out the season and sort of shitting myself, for lack of a better term,” she says. Lottie will get even more fleshing out in the episodes to come, with the introduction of her current-day version (played by Simone Kessell) and a glimpse into her post-rescue trauma that, frankly, will do little to clear up the big questions around whether the character unlocked supernatural powers in the Canadian wilderness or simply suffered from an unmedicated mental illness.

Eaton as young Lottie (with Kevin Alves as teenage Travis) on season two of Yellowjackets. Kailey Schwerman/SHOWTIME.

Eaton says she talked to showrunners Bart Nickerson and Ashley Lyle about Lottie’s potential clairvoyance in season two, coming to an admittedly still-flimsy conclusion that at least helped with her onscreen portrayal. “I’ve decided that she doesn’t have a mental illness but that she’s never really trusted her own brain,” she says. “In dealing with the trauma of the crash, she’s just trying to latch onto whatever she can, which is often an energy that draws people to her even if she doesn’t know how to process it.”

Nominated for seven Emmys last year, Yellowjackets has already been renewed for a third season. But Eaton says the success never really sank in — and now the pressure of delivering for the fans is beginning to take hold.

It’s a lot for any young actor, but especially for someone experiencing their first big moment as an actor. “I only started feeling like I could actually do this as a job in the last year or two,” she says. “It came with learning what I want for my life.”

This story first appeared in the March 16 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.