Awards Daily talks to Tawny Cypress of Showtime’s Yellowjackets about wolves, being in her own political drama, and what’s going on with Taissa’s sleepwalking. *Spoilers ahead*
Yellowjackets‘ Season 1 finale ends with a humdinger of a reveal. Biscuit, the dog who’s been missing for part of the season, has been sacrificed on a hidden basement altar by dog-mom-from-hell Taissa (played by Tawny Cypress), all in an effort for political gain.
“As soon as I read that in the script, I hopped on the email and wrote to [Yellowjackets showrunners] Ashley [Lyle] and Bart [Nickerson], ‘You bastards! How could you kill Biscuit?'” says Cypress with a laugh. “And I’m a dog lover, so this is not a good look for me. I guess she’s letting the sleepwalker take over a little bit.”
Is she ever. All season long, there’s been something missing with Taissa, something that doesn’t quite click, and then it all comes together in that season finale. It was something Cypress didn’t even see coming.
“I knew my character was living in a Stephen King book from the get-go. She has the creepy kid, she has the whole nine [yards]. I was also waiting for something to happen. Where they went with the character is not at all where I thought it was going to go. In fact, I didn’t know I was the lady in the tree. I thought maybe there was another survivor who was stalking me. But they write this stuff, and it blows me away every time.”
It’s such a great misdirection. For much of Season 1, it almost feels like Cypress is acting in a CBS political drama where her character craves the spotlight—even if she and the surviving Yellowjackets pledged never to seek attention.
“Taissa’s driving force is perfectionism. She needs to be a perfect picture. She’s gotten so far with that—beautiful house, beautiful family, successful lawyer. Where else is there to go? She has to constantly keep proving herself. So in the comfort of nothing happening for a while, she thought she could dip her toe in [the spotlight], and it didn’t work out.”
Cypress also sees this as another effort on Tai’s part to attempt to be happy, even if she might not be capable of it. When she and Shauna (Melanie Lynskey) have a sleepover, she outlines what her life would have been like had they not experienced the plane crash and in the process reveals that she did everything she ever set out to do.
“Even the people she says she loves, they’re just the pieces of a puzzle she’s forming to show she’s fine. I’m not even sure her family makes her happy. That’s what’s not ‘real.’ She did all of the things she set out to do from the get-go. She didn’t let the tragedy stop her from fulfilling her dreams, but really, who cares? And I think that’s her trauma. She’s filling her life with these perfect diamonds and beauty and nothing fucking matters to her.”
Another part of her trauma appears to involve wolves, since Tai sees them wherever she goes. What do the wolves mean to her?
“Nobody has ever asked me that!” says Cypress. “And it’s something I think about a lot. Why is Taissa the only one seeing wolves all the time? I have theories but I’m going to keep them to myself. I don’t know if I’m right or wrong or if I’ll sound stupid or not.”
The other trauma Tai carries with her appears to have something to do with her sleepwalking, an affliction that’s so bad that she asks her wife Simone (Rukiya Bernard) and son Sammy (Aidan Stoxx) to go away for a while because she’s afraid she’s going to hurt them.
“I think that she recognizes that once the sleepwalking starts, it can only go down. There’s no coming back up without some terrible tragedy. I think she alludes to that the night with Shauna at the sleepover. I don’t know what that is yet, but she knows obviously the havoc that the sleepwalking rains on her life. I don’t think she wants it, but at the same time with that end scene with that end look, I think that maybe she’s starting to welcome it because it’s a way to move further in the things she wants to achieve.”
Does this mean that the wolves that attacked Van might not be real and might actually have something to do with Taissa’s sleepwalking?
“Whoah! That’s cool! That’s a good one. I thought maybe she somehow called the wolves, but I do think she is to blame for the [Van wolf attack] situation. That’s my theory as well. You find her in the tree with the Talisman. She took the protection and ran.”
Speaking of that final look she gives in the finale, Cypress reveals that she had an epiphany while filming it.
“In that moment, I found out that I might be evil. I read the script, I did all the acting, and literally Ashley had to come out from the behind the monitors to say, ‘I need to see evil.’ And I was like, ‘Shit! Taissa might be evil.’ It’s a moment where the sleepwalker is wide awake.”
Yellowjackets Season 1 is available on Showtime.