Interview: Christina Ricci (‘Yellowjackets’) on season two Misty, working with Elijah Wood, and zombie babies
Certain films were annual traditions in my family when I was growing up back in Poland. We used to watch Home Alone over the holidays, and Stuart Little on Easter. The Addams Family and The Addams Family Values were other titles for the books. Since I can remember, I would watch Christina Ricci as Wednesday Addams — a girl with a penchant for everything dark. The actor was a constant in my film and television education as the years passed, even when my parents wouldn’t allow me to watch some of them (like The Gathering, which I couldn’t get over).
We can all agree that Christina Ricci, the former child actress who rose to fame and is still shining bright in Hollywood, never stops. Her filmography is more than impressive, with memorable roles in Casper, Sleepy Hollow, or Monster. When I was diving into Ashley Lyle and Bart Nickerson’s Yellowjackets, I never expected Christina Ricci to still be able to both scare and thrill me with something fresh, but I was wrong. As Misty Quigley, she’s insane, hysterical, and purely hilarious.
Season two gives Misty something season one didn’t — an equally smart individual named Walter, portrayed by Elijah Wood, who’s not only a love interest, but a big part of the second installment’s narrative. On her desperate journey to find Natalie (Juliette Lewis) and reunite the rest of the titular Yellowjackets, Misty finds something she didn’t seek, but perhaps she truly needs — a partner. As others in season 2, Misty also struggles with the lies told in the wild that now suddenly beg to be revealed. However, it’s not remorse that keeps her from metaphorically sleeping, but rather logistical aspects, such as the correct concealment of Adam’s murder.
Ricci’s character awakens a plethora of contradictory emotions. How could we cheer for a character who abuses the elderly, kills people by inserting poison into their cigarettes, and is an exceedingly intelligent crime sleuth? Perhaps the following interview will answer this question, as well as any others that readers may have. I got the opportunity to speak with Christina Ricci before the premiere of episode 6 in season two. We talked about her work on Misty this time around, the development of her character, work with Elijah Wood, and zombie babies.
Zofia Wijaszka: My name is Zofia, I’m talking to you on behalf of AwardsWatch. It’s really nice to talk to you. How are you doing today?
Christina Ricci: I’m good. I’m good. How are you?
ZW: I’m good. Just working from home.
ZW: What was your first reaction after experiencing Misty and getting to know her?
CR: The first bit of Misty that I saw, or experienced, was the scene in the pilot episode. That scene is just her going in [to where] she works at a nursing home, her getting her feelings hurt by one of her elderly patients, and then her basically abusing this old woman and turning quite frightening. I love the idea that she was just sort of an innocuous-seeming person who was actually really twisted and a bit terrifying. I also really loved the idea of playing somebody who does things like abuse of the elderly, because I’ve always been fascinated by the pettiness of that sort of behavior. And to me as an actress to get to explore that character, you know, you extrapolate from that scene, and ask, who is this person? What is it like at her home? You know, what does she do with her downtime? All of those kinds of things. I find it really fascinating. I was really excited to play the character.
ZW: One of the things that in Misty, her characteristics, I would say, are her hair, her blonde curls — we see it in teenage Misty and adult Misty. Do you think that they, in a way, represent her character?
CR: In a way, I think they really do. They represent, sort of, her treatment, socially. Freud said that physiology is fate. Meaning that the way people react to the way you look really shapes who you are as a person and ultimately your life. I do believe this and for her to be a young woman who already is socially awkward, but has these crazy, frizzy, uncontrollable hair, I think would dictate a lot of how she sees herself later because she’s going to be mocked. It’s only going to make it harder for her to be socially accepted.
ZW: I like what you just said. I also have curly hair, so I kinda see that, you. I was also at that age when I was straightening my hair, because I thought I was different. So, I definitely see that. And from season 1, all your character wants are friends. She follows and tries to be friends with the rest of Yellowjackets and helps them cover the crime. And we have Walter who suddenly appears. And what do you think that means to Misty?
CR: Well, I think Misty has the compulsive need to try to be a part of things, to try to have friends and especially with the women that she was stranded with in the woods. I think she just feels so inextricably bound to them. And to this sort of cycle of them bringing her close, and her being rejected, her pushing her way in and then being rejected — it’s sort of like a family dynamic, almost. While she has this compulsive behavior, still, I think she very much doesn’t expect anybody to ever want to be around her or with her. I think she very much mistrusts Walter at first. And she almost treats him the way that people treat her when she tries to get close to people, which was super fun to play. I really enjoyed showing that side of her. She’s really internalized that treatment and knows how to give it right back to somebody. But I think also, as we get further with season 2, we really see that she’s genuinely afraid of real friendships, because of her experiences in the past, namely, the Crystal (aka Kristen) character that she becomes friends with. And I think that seeing that in the past in the storyline helps to understand how treacherous that someone genuinely wanting to be her friend could feel for her.
ZW: True, and how was it? How was it working with Elijah Wood? You guys work closely during season 2, and you have this very interesting dynamic.
CR: Working with Elijah is so great. He’s so fun and funny, and professional, and, so sharp, like just razor sharp, smart, and invested, and passionate. [He’s] just such an incredible scene partner. I’ve got so lucky that they decided to cast him, I’m so happy really. He’s so great as Walter, it’s such an interesting performance. It’s really wonderful.
ZW: I love it. And especially that scene in the car, when your characters are talking about musicals, I love all those little conversations that they have. It’s really something,
CR: Yeah. You know, the writers are incredible on the show. I think they write to our strengths as actors, and they just come up with some incredible stuff. Really, it’s like, I don’t want to sound pretentious, but it’s like lightning in a bottle sometimes, it feels like.
ZW: No, you’re right. It’s absolutely amazing. I had a chance last year to talk to Karyn Kusama. She directed one of the episodes from season 1 [editor’s note: Kusama is also a director of season 2 finale episode] and it’s amazing how people put their love and passion in something that they believe in.
CR: It’s really interesting about this show. I’ve never been on a project where every single person involved is so passionate, cares so much, and is so invested in the project. I mean, you really have a group of people that are giving everything they have: all their focus, all their intelligence, all their skill. It’s really incredible.
ZW: And it translates, you know, for us, viewers — we definitely see that. I wanted to talk also more about you and Samantha who plays the teenage version of Misty. You guys created a memorable character and no matter if we’re seeing a teenage or adult version, it’s constant, it’s standing out and it’s intriguing. How was your collaboration with Samantha this season?
CR: You know, this season we didn’t [that much]. The first season, we had lunch, and we did some other social things together. I didn’t move up to Vancouver, I commuted back and forth because of my children. And so, I never saw her socially, we had a few conversations when we’d happen to run into each other at the studio. But really, I just think that the casting is so good. And she and I just kind of naturally play the character in very similar ways, if not the same way, you know. And it’s, again, just one of the things that we’re so lucky that it works out and she’s so incredibly talented. She really is such a talent and puts herself totally out there and is so committed. The portrayal is super wise. It kind of shows a wisdom that I certainly didn’t have at 26 [laugh].
ZW: Yeah, she’s definitely amazing. And I agree, the casting is just one of the many best things about the show. This season, one of the highlights, really, for me, at least of season 2, we have a musical number that’s all in Misty’s head. I was very impressed by the scene, it’s very Twin Peaks-y, and comedic. What was your experience shooting that scene?
CR: It was so fun. Elijah and I, we had dance rehearsals and all that stuff. It was pretty funny. I gave them a hard time because I don’t really like musicals. So, this was sort of this running joke the whole time [laughs]. And what was super fun about it was getting to work with John Cameron Mitchell. That was incredible and fun, and a surprise.
ZW: I was also thinking about what my favorite “Misty” moment from this season could be, but I feel like I cannot pick because they’re all so good. And I especially loved the “I want my lawyer” cake scene. What was your favorite “Misty” scene of season 2?
CR: Let’s see, what was my favorite moment of hers? Really, I like all the scenes of her at the cult, because for me, it was fun to play how funny she thinks that all of it is and how emotionally disconnected she is from all of it. Her ability to, sort of, watch everything as an outsider, but also take part, but have fun in a moment when she’s really not supposed to be having fun — that I enjoyed. But I also really like the boat scene where Elijah and I are separated. He’s in the living room interrogating Randy and I’m in the bathroom. I liked yelling at him: “hit him! hit him!”. Like yelling in whispers at the same time, you know? That was super fun.
ZW: Yeah, that was amazing. And yeah, the camp Misty was absolutely hilarious. One of my favorite things about her are the puns and comments she makes, for example, at Lottie’s wellness resort. What is the thing that stands out for you the most in your character?
CR: Well, there are two things that are my favorite traits about her. I love how emotionally stunted she is because it’s fun to lean into that immaturity. The other thing I love is the thing I like most about survivors. People who have really been through a lot of crap in their life, and pain. Most of them have this ability to, no matter what, they’re going to have fun. You put them in any situation, and they create their own fun, even if it’s just being slightly bemused by a situation they shouldn’t be. And that, I think, Misty has in spades. You know, she can’t rely on friends to make her happy. There’s nobody else to make her happy. She has had to learn to sort of eke the fun out of every circumstance, and she seems almost vigilant, she is always going to have a good time. And even if that’s a defense mechanism, because she feels so awful inside, it’s still so fun to play.
ZW: And where would you like to see Misty venture out in season 3?
CR: You know, I have no idea. Our season finale is really devastating, and totally will turn everything on its head. It feels like to me, but I have no idea what they’re going to do with any of the characters in season 3. I have no idea what they’re going to do for Misty. It’s really incredible, it’s not quite the same as me being an audience member. But in a very similar way, like, I have no idea until I read the first script for season 3. I won’t know. And to be a part of this grand scheme is really fun. It’s like playing one of those games, those open ending games where you get to choose one path or the other. [Editor’s note: Ricci means games in the style of “The Walking Dead” games, or “Beyond Two Souls” where the character you play has different life paths and they change depending on the sole decision of the player.]
ZW: Yes, yes, I actually love those games!
CR: It’s super amazing. It feels like that’s what I’m doing right now in my career and artistic life. And while it could be frustrating or difficult, you kind of stick to it. It’s really so much fun. So, I don’t have any expectations or wants or desires, because I want to just be open to whatever they put in front of me. You know what I mean?
ZW: Yes. That’s definitely a great way to look at it. I’m definitely excited for the season finale. I’ve watched up to 8 episodes of this season, but I didn’t see the finale. I’m super excited.
CR: When do you get to see that? Or do you have to watch it with everybody else?
ZW: I might have to watch with everybody else. I’m not sure but I’m super excited.
CR: After you’ve seen 8 episodes, what do you think is going to happen in the season finale? I’m so curious.
ZW: I’m not sure. I still feel like something is going to happen with the baby. Still, I’m not sure. We’ll see.
CR: You mean, like, a zombie baby? Like, this baby is going to come to life?
ZW: I don’t know what it is that they’re going to do. Maybe dig the baby out and just eat it. You know?
CR: Yeah, I don’t think they’re going to do that. Spoiler alert!
ZW: Well, nevertheless, I’m super excited. I guess I don’t have any expectations because I feel like every episode shocks me and takes me in a different direction than I thought before.
CR: Yes, so you’re like me, I don’t like to commit to any expectations because you just know you’re never going to be right. That’s how I feel too.
ZW: Oh, yeah. Thank you so much for your time today, and I hope you’re going to have a lovely week ahead.
CR: Okay, thank you. You, too. Have a good one.
Christina Ricci is Emmy eligible in the category of Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series for Yellowjackets.
Photo: Colin Bentley/SHOWTIME