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[This story contains spoilers from the seventh episode of Yellowjackets season two, “Burial.”]
Ever since Yellowjackets co-showrunner Jonathan Lisco said that cannibalism wouldn’t be the most transgressive plot point of the second season of Showtime’s hit survival series, the audience has been wondering: What could be more morally confronting than watching that Jackie feast?
The seventh episode, titled “Burial,” answered that question when it ended with Shauna (Sophie Nélisse) beating Lottie (Courtney Eaton) nearly to death. The 1996 timeline picked up after the stillbirth of Shauna’s son, and with Lottie offering herself as a literal punching bag for Shauna’s grief, which has now turned into rage. Lottie lets Shauna swing punch after punch and doesn’t resist, as the rest of the cabin stands by watching and Lottie’s face is left nearly unrecognizable from the blows. But, the fight is intercut with scenes from the present-day timeline, where all of the adult survivors have finally reunited at Lottie’s Sunshine Honey Wellness Community — and Shauna and Lottie don’t seem to be holding any deeper of a grudge than anyone else in the group.
Eaton, who plays teenage Lottie, tells The Hollywood Reporter that she spoke about that with Simone Kessel, who plays adult Lottie, as well as with Nélisse and Melanie Lynskey, who plays adult Shauna. “We have so much time left [in the past storyline], so, I think a lot can happen between then and now,” she says. “I don’t think the shock factor of what happened out there is going to be as easy as cannibalism.”
Eaton and Nélisse were actually roommates when filming season two, which Eaton says helped the pair shake off the disturbing scene. In fact, speaking to THR just after the episode released, Eaton says the close friends were busy trading memes back and forth from Twitter reactions. “Sophie and I have this unspoken language that we know what each other is doing and how to look out for each other,” she says.
Below, in conversation, Eaton discusses filming the shocking fight, shares set anecdotes about the infamous “pit girl” flash-forwards from the pilot when discussing how the Yellowjackets survivors get from their current point to the kind of ritualistic cannibalism promised by the series, and she also weighs in on adult Lottie (and where that heliotrope purple likely stems from) and how the season two finale changes the game for the already renewed third season.
What has the reaction to this episode been for you so far?
The amount of memes I’ve been tagged in is actually hilarious. I trolled Twitter a little and saw the tweets. I’m surprised how many people have empathy for Lottie and are kind of on her side. And I’m like, “Yes, that’s right. She did it out of the goodness of her heart.”
I think she’s the most compassionate or empathetic character.
That’s what I’ve been saying! People are like, “She’s the villain.” And I’m like, mm-mm [no].
Have you and Sophie Nélisse spoken since the episode came out?
We were on the phone before it came out, excited for people to see the fight. We’ve been sending memes back and forth to each other since that are just hilarious. I think the episode is amazing. I think Sophie is incredible and I love the dynamic between Simone [Kessell] and Melanie [Lynskey, adult Lottie and adult Shauna] and the use of the baby goat, which is called a kid. I think that’s quite a little mindfuck.
Take me inside filming this fight between Shauna and Lottie. When you read the script, what were some of the questions you had for the episode writers [Rich Monahan and Liz Phang] and showrunners [Ashley Lyle, Bart Nickerson and Jonathan Lisco]?
When I read the script, it was so exciting because earlier on in the season, we touched a little bit on this violence and physicality. They’re a soccer team. So, there’s going to be that bro-y ness and physicality. When we first did that scene where Taissa is yelling at Shauna [earlier in the season], there’s a different version where it gets a lot more physical that kind of just happened on the day. So it was nice to see the writers tap into it later on. And, that I get to do it with Sophie. Sophie and I are best friends; we lived together while filming the second season. So it’s hilarious that our characters are at where they’re at right now. It was exciting to read and then rehearse through it, and see how far they were going to take it, especially with the special effects and prosthetics. I didn’t know we would go that hardcore with it.
So that was you in the scene at the end, wearing prosthetics?
Right. We shot it in three stages. The start of it where there’s nothing and then the first little blood, then a bit more blood and then just full prosthetics. My face is pretty much covered. I only had I would say a quarter of an eye open when we did the whole scene through by the end, and when I’m fully covered in blood. Which was a new experience. I thought it would be OK, but it’s quite claustrophobic. And then going into the cabin, which is already claustrophobic and we have 100 people in there and it’s dark and you can’t see anything. But, it was really cool having that on and I think it brought the realness to it for everyone watching. It was also a workout. I threw my neck out and I was supposed to fly to Australia the next day. I gave myself severe whiplash!
Was it one day of filming?
It was just one day. It might have been half of the day or a little bit over. It was a long one.
When you were rehearsing it with Sophie and your director [Anya Adams], what was trickiest to get right?
It’s such a dance of us timing it right and the camera being at the right angle to sell it. But it was honestly one of the most seamless stunt fight scenes I’ve ever done. Rhys [Williams], our stunt coordinator, was amazing, and camera and everyone was amazing in audibly telling me what do to, because I couldn’t see. And Sophie and I just have this unspoken language that we know what each other is doing and how to look out for each other. It was pretty chill, it was kinda fun.
After you broke, did you and Sophie hug?
Yes. We hugged. There are some hilarious photos of us behind the scenes that I was thinking about posting of us just messing around. There’s a photo of just my face and I couldn’t see where the camera was, so I’m just smiling off in wrong directions.
Sophie told me in a previous interview that she feels grateful she can disassociate from work and not bring it home. Are you similar or different in that respect?
On Yellowjackets, I’ve found the place where it’s pretty easy to walk away from the job. Earlier on in my career, I would often take things home with me or work myself up so much beforehand. With this season, and especially with us living together, it’s really easy to leave it at work. We kind of just get in the car and blast some music, and go home and make some good food and watch crap TV (laughs).
So, you two were living together when you shot this scene?
Let’s get into Lottie’s head a little bit. Why do you think Lottie stood up and said to Shauna: “Go for it… hit me”?
I think it stems from two places. I think Lottie does put people before her, even though sometimes it doesn’t seem like it. She’s a person who doesn’t trust her own brain, and I think that’s what puts walls up between her and other people. And, maybe self-harm is too intense of a word, but I think it comes also from a side of guilt that Lottie has put all this pressure on the group and the family and the baby, that she almost feels like she needs a slight punishment. I think it dances between those two things. Lottie has a very interesting brain and is hard to describe.
So you think she is punishing herself for Shauna’s baby not surviving?
I think that’s a tinge of it. But I do think it mostly stems from her putting other people before her and seeing the pain everyone is in, and that she would rather take it for the group. That’s something that happened throughout the season, even with her cutting her hand and sacrificing the blood to the tree, I think she’s someone who doesn’t know how to regulate her emotions and she takes a lot of things out on herself. Not that all of it is stemming from that place of hurting herself, but I think that’s the way she copes sometimes. That’s my dark, dark version of it.
Shauna is grieving and just experienced the immense trauma of losing her baby. Aside from that, cannibalism can bring about serious impacts to the brain. What do you think Shauna was going through in that attack on Lottie?
The added guilt of friends and the mistrust in each other, we haven’t especially talked about it with each other on set, but I think you can tell the slight shifts in relationships within the groups when we’re doing some of the bigger scenes after we’ve eaten Jackie.
Do you think Lottie thought it would go that far?
I think Lottie did know it was at that level and that’s why she needed to take it out with her. With Shauna, there are so many things. Probably the guilt of eating Jackie, the anger and resentment that comes from Jackie and being in her shadow, the pressures of the baby, the hate that she has towards Lottie and the idea of faith that she represents. Shauna has so much anger going on. And she also, since the first season, has been the person who bites her tongue and is the quiet watcher, and she probably has the most to say out of the group. So it came out in the fists instead of words.
Lottie said before the fight that the wilderness listened, because Shauna survived. The chances of a mother surviving a birth like that, she’s right, were low. At this point, where do you think Lottie stands in her own belief in this higher power in the wilderness and her connection to it?
I think Lottie has always been back and forth, depending where she is emotionally and mentally and where she lays within the group and how the group is reacting. With how strong her faith is, I think after the birth, it wavers a lot. In this episode, she’s trying to get a grasp on it a bit more. But it gets really messy for her by the end of the season. Her idea of faith starts changing because she sees other people manipulating her words. And then, she’ll do [something about it] by the end of the season.
Looking back at the pilot and the opening “pit girl” scene, the ritual violence there seems pretty far away from the relatively peaceful leadership from Lottie (blood offerings, aside). How do you imagine they get from this point to that point, where it’s much darker?
It’s hard out there, because I also feel like Lottie is the type of person who is kind of born to be a leader. She has this energy that draws people towards her, but I don’t think she has the strength to actually be a leader. She has too much distrust in herself. So I think even if she’s put in a position of power, she will still let someone else make the decisions. She’s a roller-coaster. She’s also kind of the only one in the show who represents an idea, of this faith. And she’s kind of the driving force of being the one who walks the line of the show: Is it something out there, or is it the trauma? Does she have a gift, or is it mental illness? So, it’s a lot to juggle! And I try to not lean one way or the other.
Do you know the details of the flash-forward scenes in the pilot, like who is under which mask?
No. I think some people have tried to ask. We tried to [guess] off costumes. There’s the pink converse [sneakers worn in the scene], and they ended up in my trailer one day and I was like, “Guys, I have them!” And I went to costume and I was like, “I just want to double check that I’m the one who is supposed to have them?” And they were like, “No, it doesn’t apply; all clothes are getting mixed about.” So, we can’t even connect that now. We also thought about height because I’m the tallest and the Antler Queen is the tallest, but I don’t know if that even applies anymore.
I was struck by how, in the present-day timeline, Shauna and Lottie seemed relatively OK when reuniting. Why do you think this fight wouldn’t bring obvious tension… is there that much more that will happen, that this isn’t so top-of-mind 25 years later?
I talked about this with Sophie, Simone and Melanie, because they brought up the same thing of being like, “Is there no tension there?” There’s the obvious tension in the adult group, but no one has that hard of a grudge with anyone yet. But, we have so much time left. And not even just the timeline of being in the wilderness, but also the timeline of us returning back to school and our families and things [after being rescued], if that ends up happening. So, I think a lot can happen.
Jonathan [Lisco] has said that eating Jackie was not going to be the most transgressive thing on the show. (“That idea that we had, that the eating of a person is only the beginning, does hold true for this season,” he elaborated to THR.) Was this Shauna-Lottie fight what he was talking about?
Yes. When I was in ADR, I was told that my fight scene with Shauna is Bart [Nickerson]’s favorite part of the show, in that he feels like that’s what they’ve been trying to encapsulate the whole time with where this show is going to go. I don’t think the shock factor of what happened out there is going to be as easy as cannibalism. It might be more mental.
Lottie will need some time to recover from this, so the others will have to make decisions without her. Is this the moment where she loses some footing in her leadership role, as others will be forced to step up?
I was intrigued to see how the next episode would play out. It’s interesting, the power she still has, even when she’s [recovering]. Sure, people do speak on her behalf, but nobody is putting words in her mouth yet. They’re interpreting. I would say she’s still a big voice in the group, even though she’s literally on a death bed.
You weighed in on Lottie’s clairvoyance at the beginning of the season, after there were flashbacks to her childhood that spoke to her having visions, which her family dismissed as mental illness, and her season one finale parting words in French (“Spill blood, my friends”). In season two, she’s predicted much more. Where do you land on her clairvoyance now?
It’s such a hard question. I don’t want to give one specific answer, because then I think she loses her magic either way I go with it. Even trying to explain the process I have on set for those scenes is difficult. I have my own opinions about it when I’m doing each scene. They’re different each time. It’s more of an intuitive thing where I will then check with the writers and they’re like, “Yeah, you’re in the right direction.” But I have to be careful to not lean too far one way, because then she just won’t make sense.
What’s your interpretation of the Antler Queen: Is the Antler Queen a person, or a symbol? Simone Kessell said it’s whatever they need it to be, and a part of all of them.
I agree with Simone. Sure, there might end up being a specific Antler Queen. But I also think there’s an ever-shifting energy within the hierarchy of our group that it might be something that changes or might be fought over. And I do think it’s representative of an idea and what those characters need in that moment.
Lottie is the only entryway into the third timeline of the show, of when they get rescued [after 19 months in the wilderness]. Have you and Simone created a back story about how she got from Switzerland to reinventing herself as “Charlotte” with her wellness community?
It’s almost impossible to do that. I tried to talk to the writers, especially starting that new timeline [when they are rescued] where Lottie has gone mute and is at this desperate point in her life where she goes to an institution; what happened there? But, obviously, the writers aren’t going to tell me, and you kind of have to come up with stuff on your own. The writers always shock us with every episode we get. But I did actually guess the [season two] ending; I was quite proud of that! I haven’t seen anyone on Reddit guess that it will go this way. But I think it’s kind of impossible to come up with a backstory. We do what we need to in the moment. But the specifics, no. I wish I knew what happened!
As you’ve been watching Simone play adult Lottie, what do you think Lottie’s true intentions are?
I think Simone approaches it the same way I do with Lottie. That the majority of the time, Lottie comes in well-intentioned and looking out for everyone. And it’s not always her fault that things might go a little askew. I think she is well-intentioned. I’ll fight for Lottie, always, that she’s doing things from her heart. It just might not work for everyone else.
How did you react when you saw that Lottie had the symbol etched into the compound grounds?
I didn’t notice that until I got tagged on it. It’s interesting. I mean, Tai has a sacrifice table. So Lottie might have tried to reinterpret the symbol and give it a different meaning. I’m not sure. Especially after where season two ends up, I don’t know what transpires for Lottie to want to keep it around when she’s healed.
Is there anything Easter egg-wise you can share from watching the current timeline — the color purple, the name Charlotte, the bees — where you’ve realized where something might come from?
I thought that maybe the purple [color worn at the compound] came from the Laura Lee [played by Jane Widdop] dress that I wear. It’s that specific purple. And after she passed away, Lottie is often dressed in Laura Lee’s dresses and they are usually around that color. So it’s probably something to do with that, and Laura Lee instilling that Lottie can trust herself and lean into it. That’s my only guess.
How do you think fans are going to feel after the finale?
Unsafe. And, unwell! It leaves it open for pretty much anything and everything to happen. It’s almost like the starting line, I think. The finale feels like the starting line.
What questions do you still have that are looming for season three?
There’s nothing specific. In season three, I’m intrigued to see the group dynamics and if people end up pairing with each other or if we stay a unit. I think season three will divide everyone. I have so many questions. We have no idea what’s happening. The writers won’t tell us anything or give us outlines. So, our brains are going a little haywire.
Interview edited for length and clarity.
Yellowjackets streams new episodes weekly on Fridays and airs on Showtime Sundays at 9 p.m. Keep up with THR‘s Yellowjackets season two coverage and interviews.
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