Awards Daily talks to Melanie Lynskey about playing the ill-fated Betty Gore on Hulu’s limited series Candy and plane-crash survivor Shauna on Showtime’s Yellowjackets.
One of the things that drew Melanie Lynskey to the role of Betty Gore in Hulu’s Candy was that she was written as unlikeable—which was something she liked about her.
“I really relate to someone who doesn’t know what to say to a group of people,” says Lynskey. “My nightmare! If I get invited to a thing and don’t get a plus one, I stay home. It’s so difficult. I really related to that part of her.”
Lynskey related so much to Betty that it’s hard for her to talk about her character without having any kind of Betty bias. Despite Candy Montgomery’s real-life claim that she killed Betty in self-defense, Lynskey doesn’t believe Betty could be responsible. “It’s very hard for me to believe that she pushed Candy in the laundry room and started to attack her with an axe.” While filming, she had to distance herself from the scene by imagining herself as “playing a character in [Candy’s] story.”
Lynskey doesn’t believe that someone who was willing to express her feelings so freely could have snapped.
“I think the thing with Betty is that she, according to the script and the character created, she’s at least talking about how she felt and was feeling the anger that she had. She made her husband go to Marriage Encounter. If she was sad, she’d say she couldn’t do it anymore. She’d say, ‘I’m having a hard time.’ I think it’s healthier to get the feelings out. Unfortunately, she didn’t get the help she needed and didn’t have anybody who was truly there for her, which breaks my heart.”
While Lynskey believes Betty truly loved her children, she played Betty as living with postpartum depression based on research about the real-life Gore.
“Jessica [Biel] and I had a long Zoom with Jim Atkinson [investigative journalist who co-wrote the book about the case], and he interviewed everyone you could ever want to interview. A lot of people after the fact said they thought Betty had had postpartum depression. She was always going to doctors for anxiety, for different physical ailments. She was really, really struggling.”
Betty Gore is one of two memorable characters Lynskey plays on television right now, with the other being Shauna on Showtime’s Yellowjackets, a character who also struggles with domestic life. When we meet Shauna, she’s pleasuring herself in her daughter’s bedroom, surrounded by photos of her daughter’s boyfriend and prom photos.
“That was the hardest scene for me. Because I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, wow.’ I was very vulnerable filming it, and I felt really lucky to have [director] Karyn Kusama there, who was really cool about it and instructive in a way that helped me.”
But Lynskey believes it’s a great introductory scene for presenting Adult Shauna to the world.
“It shows she doesn’t have boundaries and also that she’s kind of stuck at this particular point in her past. She’s not necessarily hot for her daughter’s boyfriend, but she’s remembering what it felt like to be that age and to have all that freedom. She feels like that time was taken from her. It was the last time in her life where it felt like there was possibility. There’s also something matter-of-fact about it that’s just not sexy at all.”
Shauna’s domestic ennui could be a result of trying to stay out of the limelight following being stranded in the Canadian wilderness for 19 months in 1996. It’s a promise her surviving soccer teammates made to each other, even if Lynskey imagines Shauna as someone who could have been a writer or a local reporter like Jessica Roberts. Maybe that’s why Shauna’s extra annoyed during that kitchen showdown when Jessica catches her with a copy of an US Weekly featuring a cover story on the Yellowjackets.
“She feels like it’s in her best interest to keep tabs about what’s being said about it. It’s better if I know what people are saying.”
One thing that hasn’t changed about Shauna in the 25 years since the crash is her ability to accept the blame, whether it be for carrying her best friend’s boyfriend’s baby or cheating on her husband. In one scene when her daughter Callie threatens to expose her affair with Adam, Shauna outlines all the ways that would ruin Callie’s life without ever incriminating her husband’s would-be affair.
“I think Shauna is not a great parent or mother of the year, but I think she’s trying to be a good person and doesn’t want her daughter to think shitty things about her dad. It’s like, that’s between me and your dad. I will accept the blame for it, but also there are consequences—here they are.”
That’s just one of Lynskey’s favorite scenes from Yellowjackets, as she claims she has a favorite scene with every cast member.
“The scene I had a lot of fun doing was the scene where Jeff finds out about the murder and says, ‘There’s no book club!’ The scene was so funny and so sad. It was really interesting to me how she was compartmentalizing and discussing [Adam’s murder] and how Jeff’s going through more than she is. She’s just like, this thing happened and now we have to get on with it.”
Season 1 of Yellowjackets is available on Showtime.