Awards Daily talks to Juliette Lewis of Showtime’s Yellowjackets about what Nat has been up to post-plane crash, her relationship with Travis, and filming that rage-filled “dance” on the phone in a face mask.
On Yellowjackets, while all of the adult characters have other characters to play off of—and maybe even bunnies—Nat, played by Juliette Lewis, has a lot of internalized struggle.
“My character—it’s all self, self, self,” says Lewis. “It was heavy. I’m not method. I don’t come from academia. I come from energy-based, which still can be frightening.”
When Lewis was pitched Yellowjackets, creators Ashley Lyle and Bart Nickerson talked about Nat being a grifter who can weave her way into situations. Originally in the pilot, the idea was for Nat to be on her way to rehab, but when they took a year off, they decided she was going home from rehab.
“I think she’s riddled with addictive impulses. Probably shopping sprees where she blows all the money. I feel like all the worst of her is coming to at home. Then you add a death, one of the most profound meaningful relationships, and then we’re off and running. Her journey is so specific, and then what we’re going to see in the second season, will be different.”
No one knows what happened between Natalie and Travis in the time between the plane crash and present day, but Lewis would use bits of her own history and feelings to fill in the blanks.
“That’s one of the neat things about the work that I do is that you’re hyper mindful of your own experience—or I am—and feelings. Cause they’re like your paint. I could go off on a tangent. I remember early sexuality and early shared experience, it bonds you on a cellular, molecular level and also emotional [level]. And then we’re just sort of guessing what’s been going on in the last decade. I think [Travis and Nat] keep coming back to each other.”
Whatever happened between the two of them, Nat is clearly not taking his death well, as depicted in her powerful, rage-filled scene where she’s trying to find out who took all the money from his bank account.
“This was wild because at that point in the show, in the series, we’d all been isolated in Canada for five months. The borders were shut, so you’re oddly claustrophobic in a country that you can’t leave and no one can visit you. How this leads into the exploding—I kept getting, ‘Natalie’s in a hotel room, Natalie’s in a hotel room.’ ‘She wants to find Travis, but she’s in a hotel room.’ But we start to learn that she’s filled with obsession and I wanted to make every time you go into the hotel room, what is her state? What is she wearing? How put-together and not-put-together is she? When they wrote—and then she gets pissed off and rips the TV off the wall—that’s how it’s written. But for me there’s so much potential for magic and truth because when you do an explosive, out-of-control tantrum, there’s a lot that comes out in your subconscious. I did remember when you were a kid, yelling to your mom, ‘I want to go see dad’ and crying in your pillow. What would come out of her subconscious if she was yelling? ‘Fuck you’ is very dramatic. This is her exploding and emoting of all of it. What came out of it was, ‘Get me the fucking records’ and then it’s the journey she’s on, ‘Do you believe in love?’ That just came out. That’s her saga. In that moment, that is her truth, even though I could judge and go, nah that’s a lie. You’re toxic and obsessed.”
Wearing the face mask as she raged in the hotel room, was Lewis’s suggestion.
“That’s the magic of our environment. If I came to someone else and said, ‘I want to be wearing a white face mask, you cool with that?’ That might have been a problem. People aren’t necessarily adventurous. But they went for it because I did want a sense of opera and then what finished the tale was the perfect synergy with the camera man, because it was a dance of him following me and we had a blueprint and then we followed that blueprint.”
While she had worked out a dance with the camera man, Lewis also had a natural chemistry with Christina Ricci (Misty). In fact, she couldn’t figure out how they hadn’t worked together sooner.
“I had an odd, deep affection for her in a sisterly way because I’d seen her and admired how she’s carved her own path and stayed true to her individuality and that can be hard and not a lot of people can do it. I have such a deep admiration and respect for her—not to mention, we have fun. We enjoy each other’s company.”
In the season finale, we last see Nat sitting on her hotel bed with a shotgun to her neck. She’s about to pull the trigger, when a group of kidnappers bounds through the door and drags her out.
“I think she would have done it, 100%, and they stopped her and that is going to be an amazing shift into the second season, just for me as an actor. When I was talking to the show creators, we both referenced the same documentary, and it wasn’t a current documentary, but when we were talking about where she is mentally the next time we see her, I thought that was really exciting. We had a synergy creatively.”
Yellowjackets Season 1 is available on Showtime.