‘Yellowjackets’ Star Courtney Eaton Sees Lottie As "Half Person, Half Idea"
The actress opens up about how she takes on the show's most pivotal character.
When it comes to Yellowjackets, there are theories and then there are Reddit theories. The former, curious guesses about the plot’s biggest mysteries: Who is Pit Girl? Who is getting eaten next? The latter, fully formed hypotheses about the smallest minutiae, calculated after hours spent poring over every last frame of each episode: Will trigonometry save them in the end? Is there a third timeline we’re watching that we’re not even aware of? And, of course: Why aren’t Lottie’s bangs fully grown out despite being in wilderness for months?
“Because I want to have bangs in the hiatus,” Courtney Eaton says. “I want to live my normal life and not have f*cked up hair during the filming.” Consider that one mystery solved, but when it comes to the mysterious Lottie, that’s just the tip of the full story’s iceberg. Season 1 of the hit Showtime series ended with the question: “Who the fuck is Lottie Matthews?” With only two episodes left in Season 2, viewers are still trying to figure that out. Eaton is right there with them.
“There's so much to her that she's the most confusing person to understand,” the Australian actress says. Originally a reoccurring character, Lottie and Eaton were bumped to series regulars this season, when we meet adult Lottie, played by Simone Kessell, as well. Both versions of the character come with a wavering uneasiness despite their positions of power: Eaton as the accidental leader for a pack of lost girls, and Kessell as a bohemian cult leader. Eaton plays Lottie with a wide-eyed wisdom that leaves you wondering with every blink. “We share the same brain in the way that we make decisions, so even when I'm confused about what I should be doing, I think it's because Lottie also is,” Eaton explains. “And that's the most fun character to deal with as an actor.”
Ahead of Friday’s penultimate episode, Eaton talks about bringing Lottie to life, the season’s most shocking moments, and avoiding Reddit theories.
We’re in the home stretch now, but how has it been navigating interviews like this week to week? You have one of the rare mysteries on TV that actually comes out on a traditional schedule.
Yeah, it's been crazy. It's been a lot of work and it's exciting and nerve-wracking. With this season I've just been trying to not pay attention to Twitter and Reddit and all that, because there just feels like an immense pressure on this season. I always get so scared with posting behind-the-scenes photos. Samantha's really good at it, but I just don't want to get in trouble with anyone. The amount of interviews we do and we've all almost slipped up, being like, cool, we almost fired ourselves.
Going back, what are the memories of your first audition for the show?
I think they were just bringing everyone in to read these two characters just to get an overall view of people's personalities and then fit them to characters. But it was insane. I think every actress, everyone was sitting outside, running lines. I've never seen that big of a cattle call of actors at a studio, but it was really cool. I went in and read one of the scenes from the pilot as Shauna, and then I got a call back pretty quick after that for Lottie, and then I got it. I did a weird ass scene and thought I took it too far, but...
What was Lottie like on paper at that point?
In the pilot, she's just an idea, and there was the option to be a series regular, but because this is my first time coming into TV, that scared the sh*t out of me, to be on something for five years. Showtime and Bart [Nickerson] and Ashley [Lyle, the show’s co-creators] were really gracious in letting me just come on as a recurring character. But as soon as we started filming, I was like, "Oh, yeah, I do want to stay on for five years. I won't get bored of this. Please keep me." Then throughout the season I got little tidbits here and there from Bart and Ashley of where the character was heading and that she’d be getting an adult version, but generally they keep everything pretty close to the chest. It's a guessing game.
What was it about Lottie in those first episodes that made you see a future with her?
It's just the way that the writers flesh Lottie out. I had an interview the other day and it made me realize that she's hard to explain because she's mostly an idea. She's half person, half idea. Half of her stands for an energy that also leads the show somewhere, other than just a character and a person.
The show took off mid-pandemic, which was great for viewers, but how was that for you filming and then seeing it blow up while fairly isolated from the rest of the world?
We shot the pilot and then went into the craziness of 2020, and shot the rest of season one in the lockdown bubble. We were in Vancouver and all the borders were closed off, so we were stuck together for six months, losing our minds. But I think that's what also makes the show work so well because we had to bond so quickly and we know each other so well in such a short amount of time. Then when it first came out, it kind of trickled out and then we all started feeling the pickup of it and Reddit blowing up about it and everyone's theories. It was intimidating.
When did you notice it was starting to become A Thing?
It was episode three or four of the first season. We have a big group chat, and I remember everyone sending different Reddits and memes and things and we're like, "Oh, people are actually watching this." And then I don't even think it sunk in fully now, but I remember us being at the Emmys being like, "What are we doing here? This is insane."
And then the season ends with the line, “Who the fuck is Lottie Matthews?” and all questions are now about you.
I remember after reading that script, I went to Bart and Ashley and I was like, "Why did you make me close out the season like that? Why does the camera end on me? Sure you don't want to do it to someone else?" Yeah, it was a lot of pressure. And then going into the season and having to share Lottie with the amazing Simone Kessell was intimidating too because, just the way they left it off. “Who the fuck is Lottie Matthews?” was all I heard up until shooting season two, so I definitely felt all the pressure of that.
Did you stay away from the internet in that time leading up to shooting Season 2?
Yes. I remember specifically on the first day of shooting, we all sat in the tent, and you could tell everyone was just nervous before we went in for our first scene of being like, "Ugh, this season feels different and we all have the pressure on us," We all sat down and were like, "I think we just have to leave that at the door and go in and do what we need to do or else we're going to make a mess of it." But especially with Reddit, I can't read it because I'll be like, "Oh, that's an amazing idea. They're going to be disappointed that we don't do it that way." Talking with Bart and Ashley and the writers about it too, they're like, "Yeah, it's kind of dangerous reading the Reddit threads because you're like, Ooh, that is a good twist. We could take it."’
I feel like it’s internet lore that Pretty Little Liars did that mid-season once.
Yeah, I think I've heard that for a few shows, but luckily ours don't do that, and I think that's a good thing.
Was your approach to Lottie different for Season 2, knowing that she was going to be a larger character?
It didn't really change how I approach her, really. I think her emotions have definitely shifted and the stakes of the group have changed, so that automatically just puts her in a different place. But I don't think I approached it any differently than I did first season. There were definitely scenes here and there that were new to me and how Lottie would react, especially the leadership role. But then on set, and I'm just like, "Okay, I understand where it's all coming from and what I got to do.”
This season we meet adult Lottie. I’ve read how the teenaged characters in Season 1 mirrored some traits of their adult counterparts, but you fully crafted Lottie yourself. What was the balance in making Lottie whole with Simone? Was there a briefing of, “This is Lottie”?
The first time we met we had dinner in pre-production, and as soon as I hugged her and sat down, I was like, "You got it." We have really similar energies, just as people and how we are. There were little things we would talk about here and there, just physicality wise, like hand does she write, because I'm left-handed, Simone's right-handed, so we got to figure that out. But because our Lotties live on such different planes. Simone and I always talk about it as her Lottie is living in the light right now, and obviously there's that thread of darkness that ties them together and creates that inner voice for both of them. But she's been through a lot more than my Lottie has.
How closely were you following, or involved, in the search for adult Lottie?
They kept me pretty in the loop because they wanted to find someone that had the right match for Lottie and that made sense. But then Melanie actually sent in the idea of Simone and as soon as we saw photos, I was like, "Oh my God. Yes." . But it was intimidating because you're like, “Who are they going to pick? Now I have to share my character — do I want to share my character?”
Did you feel protective of her when it came to pass the torch?
I think during the process of finding Lottie, the older Lottie, I was protective and scared of how it would go. But then as soon as I met Simone, we hadn't even talked, we just hugged and I was like, yeah, this will be good.
Early on, we learn that Lottie suffers from some sort of mental illness, and in the wilderness goes off her medication. We haven’t really returned to that plot point, beyond seeing Lottie in a mental facility post-rescue. Does that aspect of knowing this about her factor into your portrayal?
It's a hard one to explain because with this show, Lottie is the only character that walks a line of, is it mental illness? Is it the wilderness? Does she have a gift? Because Lottie has so much going on, I think sometimes in those scenes I'll pick from one side or the other and then have talks with the writers on set being like, "Am I leaning the right way or am I leaning too far the wrong way?" But I think the magic of her is that she walks that line, and doesn't lean too much one way.
We got a brief glimpse of post-rescue Lottie and what her life looked like in that timeline. Are you looking forward to exploring that version of her more in future seasons?
I think that's one of the timelines I'm most excited for, when they get back. And just the aftermath and how we readjust and how our families adjust and things like that. I think that's going to be some of the most interesting stuff. But I don’t know when that's going to happen.
In this week’s episode, we see Shauna take out all her rage on Lottie physically. It was intense to watch. How was it to film?
I was so excited to do that stuff. Sophie and I are really close, we lived together for the second season, so it was fun to just play around and choreograph this thing with her and our stunt team. But filming it was a workout. I had to be on a plane the next day going to Australia, and I had the most fucked up whiplash that my collarbone had popped out. And the prosthetics of it could almost drive anyone mad.
How did it work, logistically? Did they have a mockup Lottie dummy?
There was no dummy. I had a stunt double just for the bits where she literally gets thrown to the ground. We shot it in stages of the first portion and then when I’m down on the ground. We would stop, pause, and then I would go get all the prosthetics in and then we would keep going from there. Which was an interesting thing to try do a fight scene when I can't really see and fake where the punches are coming from. I love that scene and the energy that it brings to the show. I don't know what this says about me being like, "I love the violence," but it's like this new world that's opening in Yellowjackets where the stakes are so high, we're desperate now, and the things that we can and probably will do later down the line is just beginning.
This season really dropped the gauntlet when the cannibalism happened in episode two. As a viewer, you’re like, “Where does this go from here?”
Yeah. What the fuck else can we do?
I’ve seen a lot of your cast members say the last two episodes of the season are the darkest yet. Can you confirm?
Yeah. I think from just six all the way to the end, it doesn't let up. I haven't seen any theories of what's going to happen, so I think people will be quite surprised. And I know that they got a really cool song for something that happens in the finale.
What have been your favorite needle drops so far this season?
I really loved “Seventeen” by Sharon Van Etten. I fucking love her. And Elliott Smith in episode six. Those two are great. I don't know, they just fucking kill it without soundtrack
And the Florence Welch cover of “Just A Girl” is so good.
The queen. When they told us, we all literally screamed. I'm obsessed with her. I want her to do a cameo in the show. She can be the no-eyed woman or something.... some witchy type of thing.