Melanie Lynskey Knows Teen Girls' Angst

The scene-stealing actor is having a full-circle winter with 'Yellowjackets' and 'Don't Look Up.'


Melanie Lynskey knows something about murderous teenage girls. The New Zealand native’s first film role was in 1994’s Heavenly Creatures, where she and Kate Winslet starred as two real-life friends whose obsession with each other turns vicious when adults stand in their way. Now, she’s channeling that brutality again in Showtime’s Yellowjackets, playing Shauna, a woman who survived a plane crash with her high school soccer team in 1996 and lived in the wilderness for 19 months, feeding off whatever was available, even her fellow comrades.

“I just remember thinking, ‘There’s something in this that is so true to my darkest inner thoughts,'” Lynskey says of the Heavenly Creatures script. “It captures so much of what it’s like to be swept up in this rush of crazy teenage hormones and love and lust and obsessive friendship and obsessing over music and just all of those things that just really felt real to me. But I feel like Yellowjackets also comes from the same place of identifying something that’s very real that’s inside teenage girls.”

This winter has offered a couple of full-circle moments for Lynskey. Not only has she gotten rave reviews and a Critics Choice Award nomination for Yellowjackets, but she also appears in Adam McKay’s celebrity-filled doomsday comedy Don’t Look Up as the wife of Leonardo DiCaprio’s nervous scientist who identifies a world-ending comet. “Two days in of working with him, I was like, ‘You know I know Kate,'” she says. “And he was like, ‘Kate who?'” DiCaprio had no idea Lynskey began her career opposite his Titanic partner. “He was like, ‘Wow!’ Completely shocked.” (Leo, by the way, should really check out Heavenly Creatures.)


While differing wildly in tones, both Yellowjackets and Don’t Look Up have an apocalyptic edge that suits Lynskey, who is drawn to projects that are darker than her sweet demeanor would initially imply. Though she is widely known for her stint as Charlie Sheen’s neighbor on Two and a Half Men, she also has a knack for playing women who spiral, like in the indie I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore. On Yellowjackets, Shauna is trying to maintain the facade of a suburban life with her nuclear family while also casually butchering a rabbit she finds in her backyard. “I have a very hard time in my own life being angry,” Lynskey says. “I just let things go, let things happen. People are always like, ‘You need to speak up, you need to stand up for yourself.’ And so I find myself at work being drawn to people who are figuring out how to express their anger in good ways and bad.”

After Heavenly Creatures, Lynskey had a difficult time getting cast in the teen movies that were dominating culture at the time and didn’t relate to the kind of perfect Seventeen magazine-ready stars who were dominating box offices at the time. “When I did come to Los Angeles and started auditioning, a lot of the things that were being made were things that just felt very foreign to me,” she says. “In my pop-culture world that I was living in, I was obsessed with PJ Harvey. I was listening to Hole and Bikini Kill and all these great bands. And there were women who owned their femininity in a way that felt very wild and interesting. And they were sexual. I felt very free to be a sexual person, to not feel like I had to adhere to some kind of standard.” Lynskey did, however, make her mark with parts in films like Ever After and But I’m a Cheerleader.

It’s likely no coincidence that three of the lead adults on Yellowjackets, Lynskey included, were known for their portrayals of fucked-up girls in the 1990s. Alongside Lynskey, there’s Juliette Lewis of Natural Born Killers as the recovering addict Nat, and Christina Ricci, aka Wednesday Addams herself, as Misty, now a nurse who listens to show tunes while drugging people, dismantling cars, and spying on her ostensible friends. (Rounding out their gruesome foursome is Tawny Cypress as Taissa, a lawyer running for public office. Cypress did not start acting on-screen until the 2000s.)

Lynskey knew Ricci through mutual friends during the era but remembers being intimidated by her. “I had tickets to go see Nick Cave-I don’t know when it was, probably 2002 or something like that,” Lynskey remembers. “And nobody wanted to go with me, so I just went by myself. I remember I saw her there, and she was like, ‘Are you by yourself?’ And I said, ‘It’s so loud. I can’t hear you.’ And she was like, ‘It’s not that loud.’ I just thought she was the coolest person in the world. I didn’t want to admit I was there by myself even though now I look back and I’m like, ‘Going to see Nick Cave by yourself is perfectly cool, don’t be worried about it.'” Despite her own storied career, Lynskey still gets starstruck. On the Don’t Look Up set, she was shocked to find herself bonding with DiCaprio over Zillow-“we were obsessing about the houses that I can’t buy that I’d look at for fun, but houses that he can buy”-and the party game Mafia. Mafia even worked its way into an improvised take in a scene.


Lynskey is cautious about sounding too much like a “pretentious” actor, but she explains that she did make co-creators Ashley Lyle and Bart Nickerson tell her what exactly happened to the Yellowjackets when they were stranded, even though Lyle and Nickerson were trying to parcel out the information. “I need to be thinking of a real thing,” she says. “I can’t just have the emotion, like ‘guilt’ or ‘shame.’ It’s kind of a weird witch’s brew. Part of it comes from old shame of my own that comes up, but then I need the character to be thinking of something really, really specific.”

That means, provided the writers don’t suddenly go in a different direction, Lynskey knows all of the show’s secrets and has been using them to tap into Shauna’s psyche. “I think for Shauna, things that she realized about herself were really scary, and I think that, for me, the hardest thing is letting in those flashes of rage and coldness and calculating and those things where she is very capable at being quite cold,” Lynskey says. “For me, that’s hard. I’m so careful in my own life, always being warm and sweet and making sure everybody knows ‘I love you. I’m great. I’m a nice person.’ So to just turn that off and not care at all about being a nice person is fun, but it’s definitely the biggest challenge, and I think that those are the moments where Shauna is at her realest.”

Lynskey’s charm is one of the reasons her performance in Yellowjackets is so chilling. You can see traces of the teenage girl in Heavenly Creatures so consumed with her own world that she plots to kill her mother. And why does the actor keep coming back to brutality? “That’s the kind of stuff that I like to watch, and I love it,” she says. “And as an actor, I feel like it’s…I don’t know how to put this. In therapy, you kind of return to the same issues over and over. And you’re just like, ‘Oh god, I guess I’m still trying to work this out. Oh well, maybe one day.’ I feel similarly in terms of the things that I’m drawn to. Sometimes I’ll read something and I understand that it’s good and it’s probably going to be a good movie, and nothing feels prickly inside of me when I read it. Nothing ignites, and I can’t. I don’t know how to do that and do a good job.”Want more Thrillist? Follow us on InstagramTwitterPinterestYouTubeTikTok, and Snapchat.

Esther Zuckerman is a senior entertainment writer at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @ezwrites.


Where to Celebrate Lunar New Year 2023 in Australia

And what it means to be in the year of the Rabbit.

where to celebrate lunar new year australia

Starting with the new moon on Sunday, January 22, this Lunar New Year ushers in the year of the Rabbit. We’ve put together a guide on celebrating the Lunar New Year in Australia.

What is special about the year of the Rabbit?

As you might know, each year has an animal sign in the Chinese Zodiac, which is based on the moon and has a 12-year cycle. This year, we celebrate the year of the rabbit, known to be the luckiest out of all twelve animals. It symbolises mercy, elegance, and beauty.

What celebrations are taking place and how can I get involved?

There are plenty of festivals happening all around the country which you can get involved with. Here they are per state.

New South Wales

Darling Harbour Fireworks
When: Every year, Sydney puts on a fireworks show, and this year, you can catch it on January 28 and February 4 at 9 pm in Darling Harbour.

Dragon Boat Races
When: Witness three days of dragon boat races and entertainment on Cockle Bay to usher in the Lunar New Year. The races will commence on January 27 and finish on January 29.

Lion Dances
When: Catch a traditional Lion Dance moving to the beat of a vigorous drum bringing good luck and fortune for the Lunar New Year. The dance performances will happen across Darling Harbour on Saturday, January 21, Sunday, January 22, and Sunday, February 4 and 5, around 6 pm and 9 pm.

Lunar New Year at Cirrus Dining
When: Barangaroo’s waterfront seafood restaurant, Cirrus, is celebrating the Year of the Rabbit with a special feast menu. Cirrus’ LNY menu is $128pp with optional wine pairing and is available from Saturday, January 21, to Sunday, February 5.

Auntie Philter
When: Hello Auntie’s owner and executive chef, Cuong Nguyen will be dishing out some of the most classic Vietnamese street foods with his mum, Linda. All of Philter’s favourites will be on offer, as well as Raspberry Pash Beer Slushies and other cocktails being served at the Philter Brewing rooftop bar on Sunday, January 22 and Sunday, January 29.


Lunar New Year Festival
When: Ring in the Lunar New Year with food, music, arts, and more on Sunday, January 22, from 10 am to 9 pm.

Lunar New Year at the National Gallery of Victoria
When: Celebrate the year of the rabbit at the National Gallery of Victoria’s festival of art, food, and art-making activities for everyone from 10 am-5 pm.


BriAsia Festival
When: From February 1-19, Brisbane will come alive with performances, including lion dances and martial arts displays. There will be street food, workshops, comedy and more.

South Australia

Chinatown Adelaide Street Party
When: Adelaide is set to hose a fun-filled day celebrating the Chinese New Year on Saturday, January 28, from 12 pm to 9 pm.

Western Australia

Crown Perth
When: Across January and February, Crown Perth hosts free live entertainment, including colourful lion dances, roving mascots, and drumming performances. The restaurants will also throw banquets and menus dedicated to the Lunar New Year.

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