Awards Daily chats with Yellowjackets‘ Samantha Hanratty about filling in the gaps between her naive 1996 Misty and bad-ass, don’t-f***-with-me, 2021 Misty.
Misty Quigley doesn’t have a huge presence in the pilot of Yellowjackets—for a reason. In fact, one of the few times we see her is when she’s watching a rat “swimming” in a pool.
“I believe in the script, it says, ‘watching a drowning rat,'” says Samantha Hanratty, aka 1996 Misty. “I’m pretty sure the rat was dying. But it wasn’t a real rat!”
The other time we see her is when she’s taking off her tribal mask toward the end of the episode, after having possibly just “eaten” her friend (yikes!). She’s the only Yellowjacket who reveals her identity under the mask—but it was just coincidental.
“I was the only cast member out in Mammoth when we filmed the pilot, so all the other people that you see are stunt actors under there. So we as a cast don’t even know who the specific people are. It was something that they wanted for the pilot, for it to end with this girl that you barely see in the pilot, to show that this peppy girl is somebody not to be messed with. That last look in the pilot is Misty’s way of saying ‘I know something you don’t know, but keep watching and you’ll find out.'”
Paired with Christina Ricci as 2021 Misty, Hanratty says it’s crazy how well she and her “adult” counterpart understood their misunderstood character.
“We knew we were playing almost two different characters in the sense, that she’s such a different person in her teen years versus her as an adult. However, at the same time, Misty is and forever will be Misty.”
Hanratty admits that she and Ricci had a specific diagnosis they even worked out for her (on the spectrum of anti-social combative disorder), but that a lot of their understanding of Misty was intuitive.
“We have very similar mannerisms when we play her that weren’t rehearsed or talked about, that just naturally happened. Misty comes across as this little optimistic bundle of happiness that has this underlying darker side to her that we both understood really well.”
So how does naive teenage Misty become a crazed woman who locks someone in a basement? Hanratty believes that the wilderness offers those answers.
“She’s learning how to manipulate out there. She’s learning how to get what she wants. This is all her trial and error out in the wilderness. And by the time we see her as an adult, she’s mastered that. It’s really exciting because I’m getting to paint in these question marks as to why she is the way she is as an adult. She’s constantly full of contradiction and confusion, and I get to navigate what she’s going to do next.”
After all, 1996 Misty, like any teenager, doesn’t really think very far ahead, like when she smashes the plane’s tracking device that could save them all.
“In that moment, she’s thinking, ‘I really like this feeling and I don’t want it to go away.’ I don’t think she had a long-term thought process. Her smashing it is such a snappy decision. She just went for it. At the very end, the emotion on her face is ‘What the hell did I just do?’ and also ‘I just friggin’ did that!'”
She also doesn’t seem to have any gaydar or is able to read when a guy isn’t into her, like her infatuation and Munchausen-by-proxy situation with Coach Ben. But Hanratty thinks that there’s a possibility that Misty knew Ben was gay.
“Maybe somewhere deep inside she did know and used Ben as a safety blanket. She knew things were never going to get too far. Because I’ve also dabbled with the idea of Misty possibly being asexual. I’m trying to figure out her just like everyone else is. If that was the route we’d go down, it would totally make sense for her to have a crush on a guy who was gay because things could never get to a certain point. She doesn’t handle things as a normal person would handle them, and I do think Ben is going to be in major trouble this upcoming season, if I’m being totally honest.”
Hanratty wonders if Misty’s relationship with Ben affects all of her future relationships, even ones we see in the “present.”
“There are a lot of theories about Misty that I’m dabbling in. I have so many ideas. When Misty as an adult is trying to get Stu into her house, is it so she can capture him? Or is the whole game just to have control and get what she wants? Knowing that this guy is so not interested and still getting her way. I’m just as enthralled and fascinated as everyone else.”
Which is why Hanratty is the perfect face to land on in the pilot, when she removes the mask with that look of bewilderment.
“I feel like I was talking to the audience by being like, ‘Welcome to the hell that is Yellowjackets.'”
Yellowjackets Season 1 is streaming on Showtime.