It started with a small plane crash in the woods and became a national obsession. "Yellowjackets," which concludes its first season on Sunday, has become a north star for weekly TV viewers since it premiered on Showtime in November. Part survival drama, part witchy mystery, it follows the members of a girls high school soccer team — and, 25 years later, the grown-up survivors — who get stranded in the remote wilderness for 18 months after their aircraft goes down on the way to a tournament.
Merging "Mean Girls" social dynamics with animalistic ritual, cannibalism and a killer '90s soundtrack, the series moves between 1996 and present day, with Christina Ricci, Melanie Lynskey, Juliette Lewis and Tawny Cypress leading the adult cast. As outcast Misty Quigley, Ricci portrays a conniving sociopath in nerd's clothing. She's a uniquely terrifying creature, thanks largely to Ricci's talent for playing characters with dark, twisted cores: Wednesday Addams of "The Addams Family"; Katrina Van Tassel of "Sleepy Hollow"; Selby Wall, lover of female serial killer Aileen Wuornos, in "Monster." But complex female roles weren't always easy to find.
Ricci spoke to the Los Angeles Times about the Hollywood stereotypes she's tried to avoid, the reasons she relishes "Yellowjackets" and why we should all stop making fun of Misty's bad hair.
Q: Let's start with the finale. I won't talk spoilers, because fans might kill me just like Shauna killed — well, I won't say in case they're not caught up with Episode 9. But thank the spooky forest gods that there's a second season. Do you know anything about what happens next?
A: I don't know anything beyond Episode 10. Melanie always seems to know more than me. I feel like they trust her more. [Laughs.] They play the information very close to the heart, or the chest. What's that expression? Sorry, I haven't slept more than two hours at a time in weeks, so you'll have to forgive me if I'm completely incoherent. [My baby is] 4 weeks today. So my brain, I put it in a cabinet somewhere. I'll take it out when this is all done.
Q: Historically in film and TV, women — particularly teenage girls — climbed to the top of the pack by being catty or cruel to one another. But in "Yellowjackets," they're strong survivalists. They're resourceful. And they can be brutal. It's been compared to "Lord of the Flies," but with girls.
A: They're not stereotypes. These are real individual characters, people that remind me of girls I went to school with. Fully formed, whole characters instead of caricatures ... These could be male characters, in a lot of ways. And it feels very real to me, like something that we don't really see that often with film and television. If a woman is brutal, the entire show is about how brutal she is and not just another aspect of her character. I also loved the character I was playing. As an actress, I'm always looking for something that I haven't seen a lot of in Hollywood.
Q: Misty is fantastic and terrifying and tragic and ultracompetent.
A: And what I love about her is the way she expresses her rage. I love the idea of a person who, the only viable way for them to express their rage is passive aggression. She's a small woman. She looks completely innocuous and has no social currency. She's not "hot." She's not charming. She's not cool. So imagine someone like that having gone through their whole life and is still in a place where she's eking out entertainment and enjoyment and glee from everyday life. She's squeezed like a stress doll. Ultimately, what happens is the eyes pop out and the ears pop out in this comical and yet horrifying way, and that's very much Misty. She is so passive-aggressive, so full of edge, because she's got so much rage by having been thwarted her whole life. But she can't express it in the way a 6-foot-tall man would. So it's all smiles and masking everything. That really awkward laugh when she feels uncomfortable or nervous.
Q: In what ways, if any, did you relate to her?