Since Yellowjackets premiered in November 2021, audiences have become obsessed with the Showtime series’ winning combination of ‘90s teen stars, cannibalism, and the traumas that come on the cusp of womanhood. The survival drama has become the most buzzed-about series on the internet since Euphoria, with ravenous viewers chatting nonstop about the thriller’s key questions: How did the girls really survive in the woods? Who is Adam? And is Jackie alive?
Christina Ricci, who plays the adult version of the delightfully unhinged Misty Quigley—one of the survivors of the ‘90s plane crash—has emerged as a venerable scene-stealer. Ricci is at the center of it all: from her close relationship to her pet bird Caligula to her antics with Nat (played by Juliette Lewis)—whom she spies on using a hidden camera, then bursts into her motel room and snorts her cocaine—blending desperation with sociopathy. “As an adult, you get to see how years of frustration, being rejected, and not being a part of the group has made her more dangerous because she has accepted it’s never going to work out for her,” Ricci says of her role during a phone call from her home in Los Angeles.
For Ricci, who grew up as a child actress in the ‘90s starring in cult-favorite films like Now and Then, Casper, and The Addams Family, playing Misty in a show with other young actresses who found fame during that time—like Juliette Lewis, for instance—has culminated in a full-circle moment. “We’ve been through a similar experience at a similar time,” she tells me, while nursing her newborn Cleo—whom she carried while filming the show. “We have a lot to talk about, in general, when we work together.”
Ahead of the season one finale, Ricci discusses her desires for Misty’s future, her favorite Yellowjackets theory, and which ‘90s actress she hopes will appear on the show someday.
What has it been like to star on a show that took place during the ‘90s, focuses on a group of girls around your same age, and features actors who, like yourself, found fame during that time?
It’s funny. I’m from New Jersey—I played on the girls soccer team at the same time this takes place; Tawny [Cypress] is also from New Jersey and was raised there around that time, so she and I talk about [it] all the time. Like, “Did you ever see anyone dress like that New Jersey?” It’s hilarious to then see these modern, 20-year-olds living in 2020 doing the weird dances we used to do in the ‘90s, and seeing them sing songs that never occurred to me they would know. But of course they would know “Kiss from a Rose.” I was like, “Oh my god. This so reminds me of being a teenage girl.”
Is there a certain song you’re dying to hear on the show?
I’m waiting to hear some Fugazi, because that was very popular in the mid 90s in New Jersey. [And] Midnight in New Jersey—I introduced my son to “Waiting Room” in the car the other day, and all I could think was, “This should be on Yellowjackets.” And the Pixies. I mean, honestly. Where are they?
The well-intentioned side of young Misty who tries to, for example, protect her friend by putting a hidden camera in her motel room, is often overshadowed by her sociopathic side. How do you see that affecting her in adulthood?
One thing that the writers do so well, especially with my character, is that they show you her core need and desire to fit in, have friends, and be a part of the group. But then they immediately show you why they’re not wrong to shun her. Yes, she has the impulse to protect—but the way she does it is revealing about who she is inside. There’s something wrong with her. She’s going to take whatever she wants, force, and manipulate. That ultimately is what makes her so incredibly untrustworthy.
Is there any room for redemption for Misty?
In many ways, that is her pattern: She redeems herself with people just enough for them to keep her around. Then [it’s only] a matter of time: she will do something again that she needs to redeem herself from. It’s why they all dislike her so much. She is manipulative, and she knows how to be just necessary enough for them to not completely get rid of her.
Were there any specific actors or characters that inspired Misty?
When we first got up there to shoot the season, I was watching a lot of Mindhunter. There’s one serial killer, [Ed Kemper], who is so terrifying because he tries to be so normal, safe, and childlike. At the same time, this character really wants to be liked and needed. [Mindhunter] was free of all camp and was also scary, but in a completely non-obvious way. Another reference was Kathy Bates from Misery, along with that Netflix documentary about the [Rajneeshee] cult, Wild Wild Country.
Some people have commented that Yellowjackets reminds them of Now and Then but is much darker. Did that come to mind when you joined the project?
I hadn’t thought of that, no. But that’s a funny take on it.
You’re not in the ‘90s scenes, but it’s interesting to see how those unsettling interactions between teen Misty and Coach Ben inform Misty’s dating life as an adult.
The point of all that is to show she’s not able to genuinely connect with anyone. She probably read an article on “what is sexy” or “what men like to talk about” and she’s on a date, doing those things. That shows how completely out of touch she is, and unable to connect. But I also think she probably, at this point, is almost dating out of boredom. She doesn’t hold any illusions as to what her romantic future is. When she goes out on that date, she’s sort of messing with that guy. I thought it was fun to play with the idea that she’s going to get him to sleep with her only because she knows he really doesn’t want to. Because that, for her, would be winning.
What’s the most out-there theory you’ve read about Yellowjackets?
I’ve read some comments on a couple articles; it’s fun to see people discussing Laura Lee: “What happened? Did the bear catch fire, or did the airplane catch on fire first? Was it a spirit, or was it really plane engine failure?” It’s cool to be a part of something that people are so invested in.
Some people, including myself, have been dreaming up which other ‘90s actresses they’d want to see on the show. Are there any that you’d like to see join the cast?
Gosh, this is the first time I’m being asked this question. What are some of your ideas?
If Laura Lee survived, Kirsten Dunst or Claire Danes should play her as an adult. If Jackie is (miraculously) alive, then Rachael Leigh Cook or Mena Suvari should play her. And if Van is alive, it should be Thora Birch.
Those are all good guys. I was gonna say Kirsten Dunst, but I always feel weird about calling out that people are the same age as me. But I love Kirsten, she’s amazing. It’d be great to have her on the show.
You shot Yellowjackets while pregnant. What was that experience like?
I’ve seen all the way to the end [of the series] now—my husband and I were watching, and he’s like, “Yup, fully pregnant there.” I knew it was coming, so when we did the character design for wardrobe, there were a lot of layers; I was like, she should always have a jacket or sweatshirt, because we’d go back and pick up scenes from earlier episodes that we hadn’t shot. The jumpsuit was my idea—we could just keep making them in larger sizes and hopefully mask the pregnancy. But I also thought it was a really good idea for her to have a “murder outfit.”
What are your hopes for Misty’s future on the show?
I hope she gets to do more scheming, conniving, and plotting. In the finale, she’s full-throttle action. I want more of [that].
And what are your hopes for your own career at this point in your life?
I would like to have a busy character actress career. My favorite actress is Tilda Swinton, and I would just love to have a career that is as varied and interesting as hers. I also do want to direct, and I have been producing for a while, so I’ll keep that going. But playing Misty has been so fun—I want to just keep playing really interesting characters.