Early on during filming of Yellowjackets’ first season, as cameras rolled and after action had been called, Juliette Lewis turned around and—while in character as the volatile Natalie—hit Christina Ricci. This wasn’t in the script, but hell if it wasn’t in character. “I just pushed her right back,” Ricci recalls of improvising her way through the suddenly physical scene. “And we ended up with this weird, juvenile pushing thing.”
On this week’s Little Gold Men (listen to the full episode here), Ricci brings this up as one of many examples that explain Yellowjackets’ distinctive magic. These are rich, spiky characters being figured out by their portrayers on the fly, in scenes where pain, joy, shame, and humor are located between the lines. Indeed, Ricci reveals that the series’ producers began writing that relatively pushy dynamic between Natalie and Ricci’s Misty Quigley after Lewis’s spontaneous thwack. “It was so great because it immediately showed the dynamic between us that you could really lean into and play with,” she says. “Later, they wrote scenes where we physically, like, hit each other and stuff.”
These choices also carried an inherent risk, and Ricci made big acting choices on Yellowjackets from moment one. With Ricci now having been Emmy-nominated for her alternately hilarious, tragic, and terrifying turn as a plane-crash survivor with plenty of unfinished business, such gut checks clearly paid off. “There were times when I was like, This could really work, or this could be terrible—meaning my performance, meaning me,” she says with a laugh. “Especially when you do go out on a limb, or do something a little risky, it’s nice for that effort to be validated. It encourages you to do more.”
More is exactly what Ricci hopes to bring to Yellowjackets’ second season, which goes into production at the end of this month. “I want to make improvements,” she says. “I now feel like I have a deeper understanding of so many different things and the ability to evolve in a great way.” She credits that increased confidence to the unique experience of making serial television: Not knowing what was happening to Misty week to week meant leaning into certain qualities, like her passive-aggression or her sense of alienation. She found her performance gradually matching up to episodic scripts, with writers responding to her interpretations.
Ricci has been in the business for more than 30 years, since she was nine years old. She’s experienced ups and downs, like anyone in Hollywood, but is doing some of the best and most transformative work of her career here—while, it seems, having a lot of fun. In our interview, we also discuss Ricci returning to her perhaps best-known project, The Addams Family, in Netflix’s upcoming Wednesday Addams–focused series (she’ll play a different character). Ricci says she felt “sentimental” about being part of the reboot, where her role remains shrouded in secrecy. She also confirms she’s attached to direct her first project—without divulging too many details, so as not to jinx it or herself.
For now, between September’s looming Emmy ceremony and the show’s impending return, it’s all Yellowjackets all the time. Ricci is surrounded by actors who, like herself, have been appearing onscreen for decades and are currently breaking through in a new way. “Working with all these other actresses is incredible,” Ricci says. “We all just get down to business and do our jobs. There’s a lot less ego.”
Source: Vanity Fair