Nearly three decades after her breakout role in the film “Heavenly Creatures,” and a whole breadth of TV jobs from “Two and a Half Men” to “Mrs. America,” Melanie Lynskey has finally nabbed her first Emmy nomination. And all it took was a traumatic plane crash, an unplanned pregnancy, over a year in the wilderness, and years later, a sprinkle of murder and mystery.
The star of Showtime’s freshman hit “Yellowjackets,” nominated for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series, hopped on the phone with IndieWire to talk about what set the role of Shauna apart from other works she’s done, what she’s excited to explore in Season 2, and all the love she has for co-stars Tawny Cypress, Juliette Lewis, and Christina Ricci (who’s also a nominee this year for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series).
This interview has been condensed and edited for length and clarity.
IndieWire: Congratulations on your nomination? How does it all feel?
Melanie Lynskey: Oh my gosh, thank you! It feels very overwhelming and very exciting. I genuinely, in my heart did not expect this, so it’s pretty crazy.
Did anything feel different about Shauna? Is this something that you may have anticipated early on in doing the show, like “I’ve done TV already, but this role is something special.”
It’s hard to say because I feel like I’ve been lucky to be a part of shows that I really loved. Like “Togetherness” I just loved so much, and I loved playing that character. But there was something about the way the writers of this show managed to sustain all the different threads of the narrative. As the scripts were coming out, I was just like, “Oh, wow, they’re doing a really good job of sustaining this mystery, this mystery, this mystery, and letting us know who all these people are, and keeping us invested. And I just thought the writing was so, so, so good. And you never know how things are gonna be received, or if people are gonna even watch it, so I felt good about it, that when people started watching and really responding, it was just really exciting.
So even early on, reading the scripts, you were having the same audience reaction of like, “Wait, what’s next? I’m hooked.”
Exactly. I could not wait to read the scripts. You know, sometimes it’s kind of like, “Oh God, I’ve got to read that script before I go to sleep,” but this was like a “Drop everything and read it” kind of thing.
Another interesting aspect of the show, and a unique thing about the ensemble for the present day portion, is that you all have been acting most of your lives. Audiences really met you all as teens. Does the show and this nomination maybe bring you all a burst of enthusiasm? Like “There’s still so much to do as an actor.”
Yeah, and that’s already happened for us, in terms of being part of something that became a conversation topic that people were excited about. You know, at 45 years old, having done this for 30 years, it’s nice to feel relevant, I guess, without sounding too tragic. It was nice for all of us to be like, “Oh, wow. We’re part of something that people like, and people are talking about, and people want to talk to us about.” And certainly, I’m so thrilled for Christina for the Supporting nomination. I really cried when I saw she got nominated.
Where are you all at it with Season 2?
I think we’re going back in mid-August to start filming, but I haven’t read anything. The other day, I heard they’re on Episode 7 or something in the writers room, and I was like, “Can I read one? Can I?” You know, I also want to let them do whatever they want to do. They have my full trust.
Does it feel like you’re now in one of those situations where you have to really keep everything under lock and key? We hear about other shows known for twists and turns going to extreme measures like time-sensitive, password-protected scripts.
Oh my God, I hope not because I’m terrible with that kind of thing. I was on a show where they were doing that with encrypted scripts, and I just was like, “You’ve got to get them to me some other way, I can’t figure this out.” So I hope that it’s about as relaxed as it was last season.
Yeah, you got to practice very broad answers. Like, “Well, emotionally…”
Oh, I’m bad at that. Because you want to be specific, and I want to help people write a good article, and I want to give answers. So I think they now know just, “Don’t tell her anything.”
Shauna ended the first season with a lot of her big secrets finally out in the open, and maybe feeling a little bit of relief in that. Where do you want to see Shauna in Season 2? What are you excited to explore?
Honestly, I feel so lucky to be working with this group of writers who surprise me all the time. I cannot wait to see what they’ve decided her story arc should be. For me, I’m excited about exploring her marriage a little bit more now that she knows her husband really does know her. That’s such an interesting thing to be like, “I’m hiding myself. I can’t really be my full self in this relationship.” And then he’s like, “I’ve actually known everything this whole time.” It’s kind of like they’re meeting each other for the first time, and falling in love again, so I’m excited for all that stuff.
I’m excited to see more of what Shauna’s relationship has been with the other women in the years between the crash and what they’re all doing now.
Yeah, I love working with them all so much. Tawny and I had some of my favorite scenes last season. She’s just such a dream to work with. And Juliette is just one of our greatest actors. She’s one of the greatest actors of all time. And sometimes I’ll be like “God I’m in a scene with Juliette Lewis,” and she just is magnetic, and she’s electric, and I love working with her too. And Christina is obviously like a genius, so anything where I can get in the room with the three of them, that’s gonna make me happy. It was so fun last season. So anything that involves— although Juliette got kidnapped at the end of last season, so I hope she’s not away from us all season. So much is up in the air, I just don’t know.
Are you emotionally ready for another moment like you all had at the Critics Choice Awards? Your winner’s speech, and the “Yellowjackets” table’s reactions were so sweet.
Aw, I don’t think I’m in any danger of having that. I think there are other frontrunners besides me. This is like the “nomination as my reward” kind of thing. But I’m just happy to get to be in the room with everybody. I’m so happy that the show was nominated so we can all celebrate together.
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