John Cameron Mitchell on Giving Christina Ricci’s ‘Yellowjackets’ Character ‘Slightly Psychotic’ Advice With His Surprise Cameo
In this week’s “Yellowjackets” episode, which hit Showtime streaming on Friday, Tony-winning singer and actor John Cameron Mitchell makes a surprise cameo as part of Misty (Christina Ricci)’s out-of-body experience in a sensory deprivation tank. [Spoilers for episode 2.07, “Burial” follow]
“I’m the go-to one-off singer/guest star for shows now,” Mitchell quipped in a Zoom interview with TheWrap. Mitchell, who rose to fame for writing and starring in the stage musical and subsequent film “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” has appeared recently in “The Sandman” and costars in Apple TV+’s “City on Fire,” which premieres Sunday.
In previous “Yellowjackets”episodes, we learned that Misty and her fellow Citizen Detective Walter (Elijah Wood) both love showtunes, so a Broadway-style fantasy sequence isn’t entirely out of left field. It unfolds in a theatrically heightened mode with Mitchell against an empty black stage with a few props while wearing a fabulous red gown and a black beak as Caligula, Misty’s gray parrot, who, naturally sings and dances.
We talked to Mitchell about how the over-the-top sequence came together
‘Yellowjackets': Hear a Message From Lottie Matthews’ ‘Emergency Phone Line’ (Exclusive)
TheWrap: So how did that call for this appearance go? “Hey, do you want to play a singing parrot?”
John Cameron Mitchell: (Laughs) It did come to me directly. In my elderly period of acting — I just turned 60 — it’s nice to get offers. Maybe they saw me singing in “The Sandman,” where I sang a few songs from “Gypsy” and so they’re like, “Oh yeah, he’s the Broadway guy.” But it’s nice to get an offer, you know, after all these years of paying your dues. And it was very easy. It was very fun. I knew Elijah socially and it’s a very fun set.
Alanis Morissette Debuts New Version of ‘Yellowjackets’ Theme Song ‘No Return’ (Video)
Tell us about the song.
It was written by Craig Wedren, who I’ve known for a long time. He worked on [the 1998 Todd Haynes film] “Velvet Goldmine,” as well as [Aidy Bryant’s Hulu series] “Shrill.” And he’s kind of a go-to guy who’s been around a long time. It’s a fun, light ’20s-style Broadway song.
Did you get to interact with Elijah Wood at all on set?
I just sang with him. And we got to hang out.
How did you first meet him?
“Lord of the Rings” was put out by New Line, which also put out “Hedwig” the same year. And it was an exciting time because we’d always be at the same events and he had big viewing parties where everybody was in drag during the shooting of “Lord of the Rings,” which I love. And then he’s such a music fan, he had his own record label for a while. So it was great to see him years later, you know, he’s a father now and still a great guy.
Christina Ricci, legend of the ’90s, I’d never met, but was very easy to work with, very fun. And it’s kind of fun to be the elder statesman. Now there are more queer characters, and I enjoy playing them. I mean, I don’t know if this parrot is queer, but I’m wearing a lovely gown with a beak and a cigar.
He’s pretty fabulous. And he gives her good advice, well, maybe slightly psychotic advice.
Slightly psychotic. Like, “You’re not a murderer, you’re a closer, you get things done,” which you could say to a school shooter. But you know, I’m a figment of her imagination. So I’m going to tell her what she needs. Right?
Do you think Christina and Elijah should do their own Broadway musical after this?
Oh, I would think so. I mean, the interesting thing about people who sing who suddenly come to Broadway is they realize they have to do eight shows a week. And that does require training and chops, because you can lose your voice pretty quickly. I haven’t heard them full out with their voices yet, so I don’t know exactly their chops, but certainly in the acting category, I would welcome them as costars.
Had you been watching the show?
I hadn’t. So I don’t know anything about it, I just know that everyone is obsessed with it. And I actually was working with Showtime on a developing project. So that was the same people, who were super nice and queer. And you know, it just felt like a natural place to be. I’ve directed pilots for Showtime, I’ve acted in Showtime stuff. So it felt very easy. The whole experience was completely delightful.
How is the strike affecting you?
I had a project I was working on. And now the writers strike will delay the second season of that. Maybe I’ll go to Europe and bum around and stop thinking about money and rent my house or something. I just moved to New Orleans with my ill-gotten gains. I bought my very first house and now there’s a writers strike and I can’t afford it.
“Yellowjackets” Episode “Burial” is currently streaming on Showtime. It will air on Showtime on Sunday, May 14.
‘City on Fire’ Star John Cameron Mitchell Was Cast in the First Attempt at ‘The Breakfast Club': ‘I’m So Glad It Didn’t Happen’
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.