‘Yellowjackets’ Star Sophie Thatcher on Season 2’s Tragic Finale: “She Already Let Herself Go”
[This story contains major spoilers to the season two finale of Yellowjackets, “Storytelling.”]
Sophie Thatcher is relieved that the season two finale of Yellowjackets has landed. It’s been buzzing around in her head for quite some time, and the double-whammy ending for the character of Natalie wasn’t an easy secret to keep. So, she told a couple of her friends.
“They made a big deal out of it but I was like, ‘You can’t tell anybody!’” she told The Hollywood Reporter, speaking shortly before the May 25 episode released. When asked which spoiler she shared — the one for teen or adult Nat — Thatcher says both: “It’s in a package to me.”
Thatcher plays Natalie Scatorccio, who is affectionately known as Nat, in the 1996 wilderness timeline of the hit Showtime series. In the penultimate episode, her character made the fateful decision to let Javi (Luciano Leroux) die in her place after she had pulled the Queen of Hearts; the young survivors, who previously feasted on Jackie (Ella Purnell), had decided that whoever pulled the card would be sacrificed for the rest of the starving group to eat. When Nat goes on the run and Javi tries to help her, he falls through a crack in the ice and drowns as Nat and the others actively decide not to save him, becoming complicit bystanders in his death. “She’s going to be carrying that guilt with her for the rest of her life,” Thatcher told THR last week when unpacking her choice.
Now, with the highly anticipated finale, “Storytelling,” written by Ameni Rozsa and directed by Karyn Kusama, it turns out that the wilderness came back to collect. (Last spoiler warning!)
In the finale’s 1996 timeline, the major reveal is that Lottie (Courtney Eaton) anoints Nat as the Antler Queen. After recovering from her brutal beating from Shauna (Sophie Nélisse), Lottie tells the group that the wilderness has chosen Nat as their true leader. “I never wanted to be in charge,” says Lottie, in part. “Maybe what it wants for us now is a leader who can help us survive for the rest of the time that we’re out here, and that isn’t me. The wilderness chose who fed us. It’s already chosen who should lead us. How else do we explain what happened out there? We tried to kill you. It wouldn’t let us.” Nat being crowned — with everyone in the cabin, except for Coach Ben (Steven Krueger), bowing down to their new Queen — plays out effectively with the present-day gut-punch that immediately follows, which no one saw coming:
Adult Natalie, played by Juliette Lewis, is accidentally killed.
And her death is layered in tragedy. When the adult survivors find themselves returning to their ritualistic ways after reuniting at Lottie’s (Simone Kessell) wellness community, Natalie ends up dying in a self-sacrificial attempt to save Lisa (Nicole Maines), the Lottie follower Nat has grown close to. Misty (Christina Ricci) was going to stab Lisa with a lethal dose of phenobarbital to, once again, save the group, but Nat threw herself in the line of fire to take the injection instead. Not only is Nat killed by her best friend (accidentally), but the recovering addict’s death is covered up as an overdose; meaning that Nat, in a tragic twist of fate, dies in a manner that many might have assumed she would, had they not known about her personal triumphs in season two.
Thatcher says the death of future Nat was devastating to read once she got the script, even though Lewis had confirmed her departure shortly beforehand to her younger counterpart. The pair, who have bonded through their shared character on Yellowjackets, were doing season two press together when Thatcher asked Lewis about the rumors. While she says she’s excited to watch Lewis’ next moves as an actor, she’s still processing the loss of her mentor and the tragic ending for their character just as she is emerging as the show’s long-awaited Antler Queen: “This is what makes her who she is. And, the guilt is really heavy.”
Below, Thatcher unpacks the high-low of that season two ending, goes behind the scenes of filming her and Lewis’ final scene in the airplane and looks ahead to young Nat’s future, which now has an expiration date, while awaiting the start to season three amid the ongoing writers strike.
The writers keep the Yellowjackets plot under lock and key. But, how much of this season’s arc did you know going in? Given this huge ending for Nat, were you privy to more ahead of time?
I didn’t know anything. I knew there would be tension between Nat and Lottie. The writers told me about that bathtub scene [between them in episode four]. They said they were excited about it: “It’s so simple, yet grounding, and goes back to their roots.” But the only thing I really knew about was that she becomes a huntress and more of an outcast this season.
So when you got the script for the turning point penultimate episode, did you know what would then happen next in the finale?
No. I don’t think anybody did, of the younger cast. There was a sense with Juliette [Lewis] that she might be going; there was some talk. When we were doing the eighth episode, we did this New York Times interview together and she was finally like, “Yeah, I’m moving on. I’m going on.” She told me then. I had heard, I think, through some rumors. And then we finally got the script, and did the table read. And, it was really depressing!
You two have grown close from sharing this character. I’ve read that you text about scripts and I know you talk a lot about how to play Nat. What was it like for you to find out her fate, and what were your conversations like after?
It was pretty devastating. But also, I’m excited for her as an actor to go onto different projects and explore different roles. Because Natalie is a really hard role, emotionally, to take on, and I can’t imagine doing that for another three seasons or whatever [note: the creators have a five-season plan]. I’m not saying she’s not capable, but she wants to explore and I’m excited for her; she’s already doing a lot of movies. But, I think it’s really tragic for our character. Everyone has been through a lot, but Nat is the one who has been taking it all in most intensely, and letting it live inside of her and bubbling up, so there’s something really sad about that. I haven’t really thought about it yet, because we don’t know when we’re doing season three, but not having that mentorship… I know she’ll always be a contact, but not having that immediate [mentor], everyone else has that and now I’m removed of that. She’s given me so much confidence as a performer and an artist, and I’ll take that with me my entire life. But it will be hard for everyone to have their older counterparts and to be left alone!
This must have been a rollercoaster reading the script. What was it like to first see that you are now the Antler Queen?
At first I didn’t really register that it was officially going into Antler Queen. We’re always texting the group chat and Courtney [Eaton] was like, “Ah, the throne has been taken over, Sophie!” And I was like, “What the fuck does that mean?!” This was before I got there in the script. (Laughing.) So I wasn’t fully processing, but then I read it for a second time. It was really exciting to see. Like we’ve talked about, this is probably why she is the Natalie we see. She’s gone through so much and now she’s taking on more guilt. She’s going to be carrying more guilt [as the group’s leader] and she’s going to continue this journey of self-destruction. But, I was happy to see such a shift. I think this is more juicy and more fun to play around with as an actor for future episodes. So it’s ultimately exciting, besides the Juliette part.
In Lewis’ final scene of Natalie crossing over, you appear with her as a vision in the airplane. You tell her: “This is exactly where we belong. We’ve been here for years,” which I took to mean in this place between living and dying. What message were you sending her off with?
I think because she’s been so far removed from herself and gone in and out of these suicidal feelings and thoughts, I think my character is talking about when she let herself go in the wilderness. As in this last episode, with Javi. She already let herself go. She already is going to be living with that guilt, and it’s going to be evil and tear her apart. And that’s going to be what she’s going to live with her entire life, so I think she’s referring to that specific moment. Because that is the beginning of what we’ll see a lot more of. But saying that “we’ve been here, we’re already a person away from ourselves;” it’s been 25 years. It’s been so long. So I think there’s a sense of acceptance. It’s so sad!
It’s so sad. Coupled with the fact that she didn’t seem suicidal in the end. It was self-sacrificial.
Yes. She was trying to protect Lisa and saw a future in Lisa. She was being the bigger, the brave person. It wasn’t suicidal. And it’s interesting that it happened that way, because I think everyone was expecting her to die. And that if she were to die, it would be a suicide. And, it’s not that. It’s not as obvious. There’s something so tragic about an accidental overdose. It’s a complete freak accident. This isn’t her choosing to overdose, and this is still her dying from drugs, which haunted her her entire life. There’s something so strange about that that I really love. It’s very unexpected — and comes out of fucking nowhere! So, it’s effective.
What questions did you have for the writers? I know they don’t talk to you about what’s ahead, but did you sit them down here and ask: Why Natalie?
No. (Laughing.) There are so many of us. Most of the time, I don’t want to bother them! I’ll just keep doing my job — and hopefully I’m not going to get written off. (Laughing.) I talked to [director] Karyn Kusama before filming the finale. It’s so amazing to have her back. She directed the pilot and is so connected to the show and to the characters. She’s been there from the very beginning; as an executive producer, she’s very connected and in tune. You don’t always have that with TV. And we had a conversation beforehand: This is the turning point. This is what makes her who she is. And, the guilt is really heavy. I remember leaving that conversation really excited, but also really nervous for next season.
I’ve talked to several of you about the Antler Queen, if it’s a person or a symbol representing something larger. Courtney Eaton said it also could be fought over; just because Nat has been anointed, doesn’t mean it will stick.
Exactly. I think it will mess up the group dynamic no matter what. And no matter what, it’s going to be exciting. But it doesn’t mean that she is going to fully take over that role. Because, you don’t see her reaction after that scene. I think there is a sense of accomplishment and that she feels seen, for once, for everything she’s done. So I think she’s going to try to hold onto that and wouldn’t just completely dismiss or throw it away immediately. But I think the group is going to react terribly. I think there’s going to be tension between her and Shauna, because Shauna obviously has endured so much and felt like she was the natural one to fall into that role. I think it’s just going to start more conflict. Not that things were going well, but they had a leader that people agreed on and now everything is thrown out of sorts. People don’t even like Natalie that much. They trust her, but she’s not giving them what Lottie was giving them.
Have you thought about what role Nat might be playing in those “pit girl” flash-forward scenes from the pilot?
I truly have no idea. It feels like such a stretch for her to be the one making people do this. I think there would have to be a huge build that would be later in season three or four. There would have to be a lot that happens for that to change. But, anything can happen in this show. I wasn’t expecting her to already have this shift. It’s interesting about the Antler Queen and what it stands for. I wish I had something poetic to say, but — I have no idea!
Was the plane the final scene you filmed with Juliette?
The last scene that we all did was the burning of the cabin. But the last scene with Juliette, yes, was the plane. It was emotional. It was kind of terrifying. They cut this out — it went maybe too borderline on creepy — but at the end of that sequence, me and Javi start laughing at her. And the scene ended with her screaming and crying, and us laughing at her. Filming that felt so wrong. And so terrible. I would just be apologizing after every take like, “I’m so fucking sorry. Are you ok? I don’t mean this!” (Laughing.) So that was interesting when I saw they cut that out. But I understand. Because it was such a powerful moment, and then for them to use Radiohead throughout most of the season [“Street Spirit (Fade Out)” plays during Nat’s death scene.]
In the final shot that they did use, Nat seemed to arrive at some acceptance.
Right. The laughing takes away from that. There’s terror built in that, but there’s already so much terror so it probably felt like too much. But, it was a sad day. And I just wanted to give her her space because you’re going to such an insane place of terror and screaming and getting there emotionally is hard, especially when my character isn’t helping and I’m laughing at her.
What have your conversations been like since you wrapped filming, have you two said goodbye or is more of a “see you later”?
Yeah: See you later. I don’t know when our next press event is, but now just with social media, I see all her posts and she sees mine. We’re going to be connected. She’s not too far from where I am; I’ll visit.
We know Nat is in for a lot of darkness after they are rescued. When you saw how in the end, she stepped in to save Lisa, did that choice make sense to you? Did it give you hope about how her story ends?
What’s so sad about her, especially out of all the characters, is that everyone has been battling their own demons, but Natalie has maybe had it the worst. And I think her surrendering and self-sacrificing was so sad, because there’s also so much bravery and a lot of admiration that I had for what she did. At first I read it as her giving up, but it’s so far from that because she’s already passed that threshold. She’s already done everything wrong that she can in life, that I think it’s the beginning of a new chapter for Lisa and the end of her chapter.
Did you see it coming as you were reading it?
Nope. (Laughing) I was like, wow.
In the mythology of the show, you could say she had this lease on life after drawing the Queen of Hearts and trading Javi to the wilderness. Do you think that contributed to her outlook as an adult, that she was on borrowed time?
Lease on life, that’s a really interesting way to put it. Because I feel like everyone feels that to some extent. Because everything is such a great unknown, and you never know when people can switch. But with Natalie, it actually was supposed to be her. And somebody that she got close with, somebody who was younger and full of more life ended up leaving. So I think it’s that extreme guilt that she’s been living with that’s been building up, that I viewed this as a release.
The season then ends with the cabin burning, and the survivors left homeless heading into season three. We saw Coach Ben (Steven Krueger) outside the cabin and then making a run for it with supplies. When people go on the run, it doesn’t end well.
I’m so curious about their dynamic! Because they used to be the two outcasts and the point of connection. They only had each other. And he’s scared of her now. Or, is beginning to be. You see that shift. After that scene, she’s looking through a different lens. She has a different viewpoint, and he sees that very immediately.
Some of your co-stars like Sophie Nélisse have talked about disassociating and not bringing this show home after you wrap filming. Where do you land on that, does Natalie stick with you between seasons?
The first season was really hard for me, with it being in COVID and then leaving. They were all my best friends. I think I naturally fall into something that’s close to Natalie when I’m around them. It’s not Method actery, but subconsciously, I fall into that. I was better this season. But it’s interesting going into other roles and trying to start as a blank slate, and not have all that turmoil and heaviness; I’ve done that for so long for Natalie. But I have to rid myself of that, because a lot of other roles don’t require that heaviness. And Natalie is a very specific way of speaking; there’s just a lot that she’s carrying that I’m excited to see with other roles, something polar opposite. Something fresh. Something different. That’s been the hardest thing for me; auditioning and being a blank slate.
You have the horror Boogeyman coming up. Will you be doing perhaps a rom-com anytime soon?
It’s funny, because once you start booking this stuff people are like, “Oh, she can do that, let’s offer her another horror movie!” We’ll see. I don’t think I’ll ever be doing really light projects, because I like the challenge and heaviness. I’m drawn to it. But maybe one day, a rom-com!
Interview edited for length and clarity.
The second season is now streaming, with the finale airing Sunday at 9 p.m. on Showtime. Keep up with THR‘s Yellowjackets season two coverage and interviews.
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