Melanie Lynskey might be reading this story. The ‘Yellowjackets’ star is a TV fan, and she’s also a fan of TV writing and critique. And that includes reading the press about her own shows — and herself. “I love [film and TV] so much criticism,” she tells Variety’s Awards Circuit Podcast. And it would make me sad if I couldn’t read it. You have to put your ego aside for a moment and just say, ‘It doesn’t matter what I read about myself. If it’s someone you really enjoy reading, and they’re writing about something you’ve been working on for six months, it’s hard for me not to.”
Lynskey says the reviews aren’t always great, but even in those cases, they’re usually accurate. “They’ve always been right,” she says. “I know when something hasn’t been so good. So I’m never like ‘that’s not fair’. I never really had that feeling.”
With one exception: when reviews have brought up the physical appearance “where it felt like I don’t know if that necessarily matters. But other than that I’ve always agreed!’
In this episode, Lynskey discusses the twists and turns that came with season 2 of the hit Showtime drama, as well as her turn as a complicated villain in HBO’s breakthrough “The Last of Us.” She also discusses how personal her younger self’s pregnancy storyline was to her own life, and how much she may or may not know about the trajectory of her character, Shauna. She also shares what it’s like for so many fans to ship her marriage to Jason Ritter (as evidenced by a recent viral video of the couple on “The Drew Barrymore Show”) — and she learns, live on the podcast, about the news that her former ‘Two and a Half Men’ co-star Charlie Sheen and boss Chuck Lorre made up.
In “Yellowjackets,” Lynskey’s character, Shauna, is a woman who, 25 years after surviving a plane crash, is still reeling from what happened and hasn’t been able to fully continue filming. The series flips back and forth between the aftermath of the crash, when members of a high school girls’ soccer team fend for themselves in the wilderness; and present, when they are still scarred as adults.
In the flashbacks, Sophie Nélisse plays teenager Shauna, who was confronted with an unexpected pregnancy. In the show’s most recent episode, young Shauna loses the baby. For Lynskey, the story was deeply personal, and when she first joined the show in Season 1, Lynskey said she wasn’t ready to ask series creators Ashley Lyle and Bart Nickerson what ultimately happens to the pregnancy.
“I’ve talked about it so many times in public, but in the first episode, I’d just had a pregnancy loss in my own life and couldn’t talk about it,” she says. ‘I couldn’t ask [the show’s creators] what happened. I had a weird wall about it. But so did the character in the first season. It was just something that wasn’t discussed in my timeline. And then I think I had enough distance this season that I thought, okay, I can get on it. At the same time, the elder Shawna lets herself remember and feel it too.
On Season 2’s sixth episode, “Qui,” Lynskey says, “When I read that script, I cried. It was so heartbreaking. I knew Sophie would do it beautifully, and when I saw it… Just her little face, there’s always so much going on on her face, and how free she feels emotions. I know Sophie sometimes doubts herself because she says, ‘Oh, I wasn’t tortured. I’m not curled up on the corner trying to get somewhere.” And I’m like, ‘you have a gift, where you can just be in front of a camera and the emotion comes out of you. And you don’t have to beat yourself up to get there. It’s just natural.’”
Lynskey says the producers are open to talking about things that might trigger someone personally. “And they also always make sure that there is a writer on set, something that those writers usually do without pay. That’s part of what the writers’ strike is about. But they are there to do the work with us and help us change things in the moment if we need to, or just answer questions. Having a writer there is invaluable.”
As “Yellowjackets” goes on, Lynskey says she’s coming along – and she has no idea where it’s going either. “I’m past the point of what they told me now,” she says. “Before I signed up, I had a lot of questions. And then they answered those questions. And now I try not to be annoying, so I don’t ask them too many questions. But I’m really curious. I don’t know what season 3 will look like. I am nervous. I’m excited. There are also so many people on our show and so many characters. So I really enjoy following all the different storylines.”
As for her guest starring role on HBO’s “The Last of Us,” as the diabolical revolutionary leader Kathleen, Lynskey says she enjoyed the brutal way her character dies. “She wasn’t a nice person. But I loved that they took their time in the writing and revealed things like they didn’t immediately show how she came to power. They didn’t immediately show her own backstory. She’s just this person who does horrible things, and you don’t know why she’s in charge or why she orders these things. And then it slowly unfolds. Craig (Mazin) is just so brilliant.”
Ritter appeared uncredited, under heavy makeup, as a “clicker” zombie in one of her episodes. The couple has become a favorite Hollywood duo, which Lynskey admits is unreal. “It’s very strange to put the spotlight on your relationship,” she says. “But we also really love and love each other.”
Meanwhile, Lynskey hadn’t heard about Sheen and Lorre burying the hatchet. (Sheen, of course, was fired from “Two and a Half Men” after ranting at Lorre, CBS, the show, and others.) “Last time I texted Charlie, he seemed in such good shape place, like a really good place,” says Lynskey. “I always hope for the best for both of them. Honestly. I think that’s great.
If a “Two and a Half Men” reunion was in the cards, would she do it? “I mean, I’d guest star if they wanted to,” she says. “There were moments on that show that were so much fun. And I really love live audience sitcoms. Nothing beats the energy of it, especially if people know and love the show.
Also in this episode, on the Awards Circuit Roundtable, we take a look at how the writers’ strike affects the Emmy FYC season, as well as the flurry of last-minute category changes as the Emmy submission deadline passed this week.
Variety’s “Awards Circuit” podcast, produced by Michael Schneider, is your one-stop listening point for lively conversations about the best in film and television. Each week, “Awards Circuit” features interviews with top film and TV talent and creatives; discussions and debates about price races and industry headlines; and much more. Subscribe through Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify or wherever you download podcasts. New episodes are posted every week.