[Editor’s note: Spoilers abound for the first and second episodes of Season 2 of “Yellowjackets.”]
“Yellowjackets” will never pass up the chance to let a death mess up the living. Still, Episode 2 of its second season, “Edible Complex,” sends off the recently deceased Jackie (Ella Purnell) in truly twisted style. To create the various iterations of Jackie’s corpse, the Showtime series utilized the Masters FX team, led by decorated gore veteran Todd Masters. Masters has plenty of experience creating cadavers, including building all the corpses used on “Six Feet Under.”
The process of creating iterations of Jackie’s frozen body the other girls could act against involved first digitally creating a model of Jackie’s head and body, then translating that model into a “hero” dummy made out of silicon with a fiberglass structure, plus human hair for that extra touch of realism. But the team also built a version that could handle multiple takes on fire.
“We called her Burn Log Jackie because we designed it like a burn log, you know, where it’s made out of cement, and this was plaster,” makeup special effects coordinator Lori Sandnes told IndieWire. “But we never actually torched her,” Masters added. “We actually [burned] the really expensive hero dummy.”
But the version of Jackie’s dead body that presented the team with the biggest challenge was the edible one. “We called her Luau Jackie because we wanted that texture of a fresh-out-of-the-fire-spit pig,” Masters said. “We didn’t want [the corpse] to look like the aftermath of a burn victim, to look overly human, because that’s gross. We wanted this to look succulent, juicy, and appealing. The conversations as we were developing the look of it came to luaus and suckling pigs. One of our lead artists is from Hawaii, so it was perfect because she knew the look.”
Luau Jackie was also created mainly from silicon but with built-in pockets into which the team could stuff “meat” for the actors to rip out. Actual raw meat, however, can be unsanitary, unpleasant, and hard to reset take after take. “The original ‘Dawn of the Dead,’ they use real meat and guts and it’s just horrendous to work with on set, especially if you have to do pickups, you know, days later or weeks later. And we have a lot of vegetarians on the crew, on our effects team. We’re 73 percent women at Masters FX, so it’s almost like we have our own, tribe in a way, our own soccer team,” Masters said.
Ethical cannibal meat feels very apropos for the moment when the girls collectively agree to cross that line. And the solution the Masters FX team found was wonderfully universal, great-looking on camera, and ripe for puns. “We used jackfruit, I remember, because we called her Jackfruit Jackie,” Sandnes said. “We needed to make something simple and without too much flavor. And we discovered jackfruit was one of the easiest things that looked like meat. With rice paper that we put in an air fryer to kind of crisp it up and give it a little bit of a golden hue. You pull it apart, and it looks just like pulled pork.”
The process also involved a particularly fun and macabre meeting, even for the “Yellowjackets” production team. “There was a point where Lori and I took a [Jackie dummy] to production and laid it out on the conference table. We got all the directors and everybody around because we were trying to figure out, well, where do they eat from? We need to know so we can make these little pockets of meat. So we [started to] rough out of the feast with everybody around,” Masters said.
But getting the body to the set on the ground on time was its own challenge, given the actors’ schedules and the tight turnaround the effects team had to create all various iterations of Jackie. “We scanned [Purnell] in the expression that she died in last season and kind of matched it by email,” Masters said. “So when she [came in] to shoot Season 2, it was this moment of weird reality. You know, we’ve been working with a dummy of her, and we’ve never met her, and then she shows up, and it was this kind of odd thing of, ‘Well, how close were we?'”
Masters and his team are still racking up chances to test their skills against the other “Yellowjackets” cast members. “We did a couple makeup tests of [Lauren Ambrose as the adult Van], of the progressive scarring from the bad version to what it looks like healed,” Masters said. “I worked with Lauren Ambrose on ‘Six Feet Under,’ and Christina Ricci on ‘Addams’ Family Values’ and ’50 States of Fright,’ so it’s a very familiar group. It’s kind of fun to figure out how we might eventually eat them.”