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‘Yellowjackets’ Stars Dish on Filming Fleshy Feast in Oral History

[This story contains major spoilers from the second episode in Yellowjackets‘ season two, “Edible Complex.”]

The Yellowjackets stars who play the teen cast on the hit Showtime series have had to do some dark things out in the wilderness. But many of them weren’t quite prepared for the reactions they would have when filming the shocking feast scenes in the second episode of season two.

“I have a pretty tough stomach, and we’ve done some weird things on the show, but I will say this season got me,” says Courtney Eaton, who plays young Lottie. “I almost threw up on set one of the days we were eating Jackie.”

And, she’s not the only one.

The second episode, titled “Edible Complex,” brought the show’s cannibalism storyline to fruition when the Yellowjackets survivors, who have been stranded since their plane crash in the show’s 1996 timeline, ate the body of their dead teammate Jackie (played by Ella Purnell). Purnell reprised her one-season role in the first two episodes, where she appeared in hallucination form to wrap up her storyline with best friend Shauna (Sophie Nélisse).

Purnell, however, was not on set when the team feasted on her body. The stand-in for the actress was an edible dummy, made out of Jackfruit, maple syrup and rice paper — a combination that did not sit well with some of the actresses. The feast played out both in reality — as the starving teammates literally ripped apart the body — and then in a dream-like sequence where they imagined themselves feasting on real food in a decadent and divine supper. The scene was brought back to reality when Coach Ben (Steven Kreuger) abstained in horror and sought shelter in the cabin.

Showrunners Ashley Lyle, Bart Nickerson and Jonathan Lisco explained their vision to The Hollywood Reporter, sharing that they referred to the two scenes as the bacchanal and the feast on set. “We wanted it to have a sort of perversely celebratory feeling,” said Lyle of the team honoring Jackie’s sacrifice after the hedonistic meal. Lisco, meanwhile, shared that the cast used humor to get through filming, which is apparent from the actors’ takes below.

“Our young cast, who knew they were about to do something intense, was, in some ways, mimicking art because they were using humor to sort of process it. There was a lot of joking around,” said Lisco, who wrote the episode directed by Ben Semanoff. “They called it Jackie-fruit. The whole thing was very bizarre. So there was this weird duality of reverence for what we were about to portray but also the sort of human need to make it funny in order to engage it.”

In separately grouped conversations, the castmembers who were present at the feast go behind the scenes of filming the most shocking scene yet, in an oral history with The Hollywood Reporter.

COURTNEY EATON (LOTTIE) It was a bit of a trip. It was such a dark scene. Usually when we’re shooting something heavy we all go a little loopy and joke around, become a bit like 12-year-olds joking around to lighten the mood. But once we started doing the takes, the fake body we were eating was made out of Jackfruit and rice papers soaked in a barbecue sauce-y stuff. The texture of the rice paper was to make it like you’re ripping it like skin, and looking at that crispy body…

SOPHIE NÉLISSE (SHAUNA) I was expecting more of eating Jackie because when we shot it, it was so much. We were literally digging in her face; like in her cheek.

SAMANTHA HANRATTY (MISTY) I barfed, actually.

EATON I think three of us gagged. I gagged halfway through the take and was like, “Oh God, I have to duck my head down and pretend to keep eating.” Even though it was edible what we were eating —

HANRATTY It was gross.

LIV HEWSON (VAN) Oh my God, Jackfruit. Rice paper skin.

JASMINE SAVOY BROWN (TAISSA) Can never have Jackfruit again. It just smelt burnt. It did smell what I imagine burnt human skin smells like. People threw up, cried.

EATON The texture and the smell of the smoke coming around, and then just looking down at what you were doing, it kind of messed with your brain. On set we were messing around with each other and joking. And then as you went into the scene, there are a few takes of me and [Samantha] gagging.

HEWSON It was very effective, shall we say.

SPOILER Yellowjackets Edible Complex

Shauna (Sophie Nélisse) leading the group in cremating Jackie’s corpse. Kailey Schwerman/SHOWTIME

SOPHIE THATCHER (NATALIE) I was close to panic. I remember just kind of looking around and feeling like I was out of my body.

HEWSON I remember looking at everybody and saying out loud, “I feel strange. I don’t feel well.”

SAVOY BROWN I disassociated, much like Taissa. I think maybe Taissa might have been dreaming. I think for her it might literally just be her dreaming, if she is sleepwalking, and her mind making sense of what is happening with the other sequence being a dream.

HEWSON Right, like that literally might have been her experience of it.

SAVOY BROWN Imagine waking up and then being like, “It wasn’t a dream.”

HANRATTY Have you ever been really hungry? And you finally go to eat and you are just zoned out because you are like, “This is what I’ve been waiting for all day.” That is times a million for them. They’ve been waiting so long for good food — a good meal that Jackie provided, and we loved her for that!

EATON Medium rare!

HANRATTY It was rotisserie.

NÉLISSE Some protein. Grassfed…

HANRATTY Grassfed Jackie!

EATON We nicknamed the fake body Jackie-fruit. There were a lot of jokes to get us through it. There was also the doll of Jackie’s corpse. I think Sophie Nélisse took a photo and sent it to Ella, and I remember being like, I don’t know if we should send that to her. I don’t know how I’d feel seeing a dead version of me just laying under the grip truck in between takes. (Laughs.)

HANRATTY But once we get that OK from Shauna, they go into this world of thinking, “We need this and it’s good for us.” It sounds terrible. But for them, there is no social grace. It literally turns animalistic — you become like a coyote or a wolf and it’s just “mine and you can’t have this” type of thing.

EATON We did two or three takes. It was on the second one that they said, “I think we got everything, let’s go for little bits here and there.”

NÉLISSE By the end they were full feral and the camera was roaming on each character. I was sitting next to Courtney and I was picking up food that she’d chewed and spat out. And they were like, “Full feral, pick anything that’s on the table!” And I’d pick a mixture of all these different things that she had pre-chewed.

EATON I think we both shared food that day!

HANRATTY But the nice thing is that Ben [Semanoff], our director, would take moments with each of us. He’d be like, “Courtney and Sophie, now this one!” And everyone else could break, which was fun because then we were all covered in food and cold, and just looking at each other like, “What?!” Which made it fun.

SPOILER Edible Complex

Natalie (Sophie Thatcher), Misty (Samantha Hanratty) and Travis (Kevin Alves) in the imagined bacchanal. Kailey Schwerman/SHOWTIME

HEWSON I think we filmed the banquet first.

THATCHER I kind of interpreted it as their way of coping. They have to change their state of mind and they imagine it to be something grandiose. They have to disassociate. They have to remove themselves from it and I think that’s how they got through it, to some extent.

HEWSON It’s like they create a safe space in which to feel joy about it. This sort of visceral success of doing something that means they’re going to survive. To be starving and then to eat is satisfying and feels good. But, how can you express that when you’re actually eating your friend? You can’t. So you vanish into a fantasy in which you’re clean and somewhere else… and drinking a bunch of wine, you know?

HANRATTY The dream sequence turned out pretty similar to how I had imagined it. I’m very into a fairy-tale-esque world. I didn’t expect Ben at the end of it. Because we weren’t there when he closed the door, I didn’t know it was going to end that way. There’s so much going on in Ben’s head, and Steven is so great at conveying all of that, there’s like, “Could I be next? What’s going on now? Have we completely lost our sanity and who we are as humans?”

STEVEN KREUGER (COACH BEN) I’m the face of reason. I think he does still feel this kind of deep-seated, instinctual responsibility for these young people. If and when they do get rescued, all of the questions are going to Ben Scott: “You were the adult. You were their coach. What happened and why did you let that happen?” He always has this vision towards the future of, “What if we actually do make it out of here? I’m going to have a lot of explaining to do.” So I just think there’s this constant sobriety that Ben has about the situation — about what’s right and wrong — that the younger people kind of lose track of. Obviously, we see that he’s able to control his own impulses, but he completely loses control over everybody else and I think that’s the most haunting thing for him.

NÉLISSE It’s such a strong ending, more so than us over the table because Ben brings such a perspective. It grounds the humanity, it grounds the scene. Poor Steven. When it was on his close up, there was all of us in the background fake-eating and (making eating sounds).

KREUGER Sometimes the most important moments for your character have nothing to do with what you’re saying. It’s a few seconds at the end of an episode, just in reaction, and it kind of livens the entire scene. I’ve always seen Coach Ben as kind of a conduit to the audience. The audience is watching these people and saying, “Oh my gosh, are they insane? Why are they doing this?”

SPOILER Edible Complex

Van (Liv Hewson) with Taissa (Jasmin Savoy Brown). Kailey Schwerman/SHOWTIME

EATON I feel like it’s a group collective that we ended up at that point. There are so many different opinions and if someone wasn’t going to go that way, it wouldn’t have happened. I don’t think Lottie has that power or sway — yet! I don’t think she is the sole reason that Jackie got cooked. But I do think she unintentionally pushed that way — and sometimes intentionally.

HANRATTY Sometimes she’s like the prophet of the wilderness. So it’s like you [Courtney] may not be controlling the wilderness, but you’re like the prophet of it.

KEVIN ALVES (TRAVIS) It had that supernatural feel where you feel like you’re in everyone’s mind and this haze and we’re not fully present as human beings anymore. Ben had such a creative angle to the way he wanted us to approach the scene, which honestly I think just made it more gross when you really think about it. Because it was so beautiful and terrible at the same time.

HEWSON This show does this a lot and my understanding is it’s a deliberate walking of the line in terms of whether the supernatural is real in the show or whether it isn’t. The sort of nebulousness of that is deliberate. So I think that’s a great example of there being a certain amount of plausible deniability where it’s like, what is actually happening? Is this connected to this thing? Or did a bunch of snow fall on her and are we so lucky and is Travis just like in his own head?

SAVOY BROWN I wouldn’t think it would have to do with Lottie. I would think it would maybe just be the wilderness.

HEWSON Because Lottie’s just a teenage girl, same as the rest of them, dealing with circumstances beyond her control.

Yellowjackets releases new episodes weekly on Fridays for Showtime subscribers, and airs on cable Sundays at 9 p.m. Keep up with THR‘s Yellowjackets season two coverage and interviews.

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