‘Yellowjackets’: Simone Kessell Unmasks Lottie’s Therapy, PTSD and Her Relationship With Nat
SPOILER ALERT: This interview contains spoilers from “It Chooses,” Episode 8 of “Yellowjackets” Season 2, now streaming on Showtime.
In the last moments of the Season 1 finale of “Yellowjackets,” viewers were tipped to the fact that Lottie was alive and well, and out there somewhere in the world. In the show’s second season, the adult version of Lottie, played by Simone Kessell, is revealed to be running a wellness center in Upstate New York — and there’s been an air of doubt around her. Can she be trusted or not?
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As it turns out, not.
Lottie’s sessions with her therapist have been purely a figment of her imagination, and she’s still haunted by the Antler Queen, as well as her past in the wilderness.
Episode 8 sees Lottie’s mask really come off, as she reveals to her fellow Yellowjackets that they have to make a blood sacrifice, and their past has caught up with them.
In a climactic scene, surrounded by Shauna (Melanie Lynskey), Misty (Christina Ricci), Natalie (Juliette Lewis), Taissa (Tawny Cypress) and Van (Lauren Ambrose), Lottie offers them a Russian roulette round of tea. One cup is poisoned, and not even she knows which one.
Kessell spoke with Variety about her own confusion surrounding Lottie’s therapy sessions. “I didn’t know,” admits the actor, whose also plays Princess Leia’s mother Breha Organa in Disney+s “Obi-Wan Kenobi” and Blackbeard’s (Taika Waititi) mother on HBO Max’s “Our Flag Means Death.”
“My confusion as Simone was very real.”
The therapy revelation heralds a turning point for the character, says Kessell: “She is unhinged, and has fully unraveled — and something needs to change. We move into another realm of Lottie.”
Kessell also shares her take on whether the women are indeed suffering from PTSD, or if there’s a supernatural force at play.
Let’s go back to the therapy sessions for a moment, and Lottie’s therapy being a figment of her imagination. There was something off with the framing which hinted at that, but how much did you know?
I did not know until later. I want to preface it with, we decided the therapist would wear the same color palette as Lottie in her civilian clothes. She would be in a cream, and Lottie would be in cream. We purposely matched them, so it was subliminal, and it doesn’t click until it does.
Someone said, “Well, you know she’s not real.” And I asked, “Who’s not real?” I spoke with the director about it, and it was great because as an actress, I had the illusion that she was real in that first session. With the second, I was a bit confused, and by the third therapy session, she was the Antler Queen. So my confusion as Simone is very real.
It gives me chills, because Jennifer Lines [who played the therapist] was great. She went out, and came back as the Antler Queen, and I thought, “Oh wow” — because it was the full costume, and she sits in the armchair, and we do the scene again. It’s quite harrowing and haunting, because it’s such a vision of what these girls went through.
So, when we see the Antler Queen in her full regalia, it means that the past has caught up to the present day, and the wilderness is there with them. And something has to change, because she’s really seeing it.
We get a hint of it when Natalie is in her lap, and she looks over and she sees a shadow. But for the first time as an audience, we’re seeing this as the symbol of the past. I think it’s Lottie’s big turning point in the season that there is no therapist, that she is unhinged and has fully unraveled and something needs to change. We move into another realm of Lottie.
But aren’t they all unhinged?
They are all unhinged. The others are really grappling with it in their own ways, and they’re all in a little bit of denial, but for the most part, Lottie realizes before the others that something drastic needs to happen. It’s more than just a sacrifice, it’s a blood sacrifice. She’s so tormented by the past that Lottie says, “I will take my own life if it means we can all be free of this pain.”
When you think of what the girls went through, the trauma and PTSD, how did you dive into Lottie, and unpack her when you don’t know what was going to happen?
I don’t know. It’s so honest and real. When I can, I take a moment from Courtney Eaton’s Lottie, and I put it in my pocket and I cherry-pick: I wonder if that would vibrate in her now as a woman in her mid-’40s.
There’s a moment where Melanie Lynskey’s character Shauna has the goat, and she bursts into tears. My instinct was to touch her and embrace her, because Lottie is very tactile, but I chose not to. Knowing that Shauna beat the shit out of young Lottie, and Lottie took it as a way to feel alive — if you look at Lottie’s take, and this was my take on this, it was, “Give me something to feel. Bring me back to life, because I am numb.” These women are so messed up. That’s the sacrifice that Lottie gives as a young woman.
That was just my internal performance, because there’s still a little someone who has abused you so badly. As much as Melanie is one of my dearest, I chose not to touch her in that moment — and that was a choice. So you’re right, the past does catch up to them in some ways, and as actors, it’s our job to find where that plays and where that beat is.
When you have the shit beaten out of you, that’s going to screw you up no matter what. How does that affect Lottie, and is she carrying any of that with her?
Early in the season, Nicole [Maines, who plays Lisa] maims Juliette [Natalie] with the fork. We see Lottie standing there, watching her.
All those beats play into where we get to. Lottie has this way of watching everybody. Even when Misty shows up, is it a celebration? She knows what Misty has done. She doesn’t know about the fentanyl or the journalist, but she knows crazy stuff has gone down in the past: Crystal falling off the edge, the black box flight recorder, she knows all of that. So, she presents that. And I try to pepper it into the performance of Lottie, that every moment does kind of tap into her as a layer. It’s how she decides to speak that layer, how she decides to play that. We can say PTSD or traumatic past, but the truth is, all of that would still be very alive within you. So it’s just choosing where to play that.
I’d go back to the past, and the girls in the wilderness, and try and see what I can find. Because those layers are so vital to make those performances land so that it’s not a caricature, and they’re real women.
OK, I asked Liz Garbus this after I spoke with her about directing Episode 6, but do you know what the stick figure means?
I think we’re all meant to be confused by it. It’s the writers again, Ashley Lyle and Bart Nickerson, they’re too cool for school. They’ll say, “It means what it means.” I don’t think there’s a right and wrong.
I’m on the fence with this, but I don’t think it’s supernatural: I think the monsters are the girls, with everything they’ve gone through. What’s your stance on that?
I agree with you, because I don’t think it’s a supernatural thing either. I don’t think Lottie’s working in another realm — maybe young Lottie is. I think these are all mechanisms they’ve put in place to survive.
I think it’s their karma catching up. I think they’re so warped from what has happened. There’s no therapy that is going to fix that. Lottie says that — and that’s a turning point for Nat. She’s like, “You had me living in this community and you can heal and fix me and I got to see and get over Travis, and now you’re saying there’s no therapy that can fix what’s inside of us all?”
On the subject of Nat, almost every Friday, Lottie is always trending on Twitter. Are you aware of that?
Courtney texts me and lets me know, “Babe, we’re trending.” Since Elon Musk took over, I’ve been very reluctant, but occasionally I’ll go on.
I keep going back to this fanbase of Lottie and Nat, and they love them. They’re such thinking fans, and I’m grateful and intrigued by that. Star Wars was different, because that’s like religion — and it’s canon. With “Yellowjackets,” the fanbase is pretty spectacular, and the theories are wild.
They’re going to be sad after Episode 8, aren’t they?
When Nat and Lottie turn against each other? Everyone thinks we’re gonna be the greatest love in the world, and we’re gonna go off and get married.
Are you enjoying that reaction?
I am. Juliette hasn’t been watching the episodes. She’s always asking, “What’s the vibe with Lottie and Nat? Are they into it?”
When we were doing the scenes, we’d be ever so slightly in each other’s space. Again, the writers are so open to everything. No one ever said, “You’re going too far with this tactile intimacy thing.” If anything, it’s created this buzz and the fans are right. It was fun and titillating to play. I think there was one scene where we kind of launched on each other, so maybe that’s what they’re reading into it. But yes, I think the fans will be devastated when they see this episode.
Lottie’s mask comes off and Natalie wants to kill her. That’s gonna be upsetting for so many.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
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