All about that 'Yellowjackets' cannibalism scene: 'Almost had an anxiety attack'

·4 min read

Spoiler alert: This story includes details from the Season 2, Episode 2 of Showtime's "Yellowjackets."

The buzziest “Yellowjackets” episode yet?

The surviving members of a New Jersey high school soccer team, destitute after their plane crashed in the remote wilderness, finally feasted on one of their own.

Showtime’s dark thriller returned for its sophomore season last week (Sundays, 9 EDT/PDT, and streaming Fridays on Paramount+ with Showtime). In Episode 2, aptly titled “Edible Complex,” the teens – teetering on the brink of starvation – gorge on Queen Bee Jackie (Ella Purnell) after a failed attempt at cremation.  (She froze to death in the Season 1 finale.)

For two months, Jackie’s closest friend Shauna (Sophie Nélisse as a teen, and Melanie Lynskey as an adult) was lost in her grief, and spent time with the corpse as if her bestie was still alive. But the Yellowjackets decide it's time to put an end to the delusion, suggesting Jackie be cremated. When the team discovers the teen was roasted over an open flame instead, Shauna gives the group permission to dig in.

“She wants us to,” Shauna says of Jackie, with her hand on her own pregnant belly.

Shauna (Sophie Nélisse) and her best friend Jackie (Ella Purnell) get into an argument in the Season 1 finale of "Yellowjackets."
Shauna (Sophie Nélisse) and her best friend Jackie (Ella Purnell) get into an argument in the Season 1 finale of "Yellowjackets."

“The question of the show is not whether or not they're going to submit to cannibalism, ultimately because they need to survive. It's why and how, and what it does to them,” says executive producer Jonathan Lisco. “We didn't absolutely know if Jackie was going to be, in fact, their first meal. But as we started to really excavate these characters and think about where they were psychologically and emotionally, it just felt like a really wonderful story and a repulsive story to have Shauna in some ways leading the charge on that.”

Why the Greco-Roman reference?

The cannibalism sequence was filmed over two days, Lisco says. The scene toggles between a fantasy sequence and the reality of the girls in the wild, ravaging their friend with an allusion to a Greco-Roman feast, as with the actors clad in togas and gold laurel wreaths.

“We thought it was psychologically very truthful for them to create a mass psychosis to distance themselves from the horror of what they were doing,” says Lisco, adding that the teens had  studied European history and Greek civilization. “So in their minds,  they were creating this Bacchanalian feast, when in fact they were breaking one of the biggest taboos.”

What were they actually eating?

The cast’s meal was comprised of jackfruit (dubbed Jackie fruit), stuffed into a dummy of Jackie’s body. One version was flavored with maple syrup, smoke, paprika and other spices, Lisco says. Another was flavorless. The “skin” was made by crisping rice paper in an air fryer.

Sophie Thatcher, who shares the role of Natalie with Juliette Lewis, described the recipe as quite disgusting.

“Funny that we're getting COVID tested and have to wear masks, but we're all sharing the same (meal) and having to put back pieces that we just chewed off back onto the body,” she says. “It was really, really gross (laughing).”

"Yellowjackets" actress Sophie Thatcher in a scene with her costar, Kevin Alves.
"Yellowjackets" actress Sophie Thatcher in a scene with her costar, Kevin Alves.

What was it like filming the scene?

Thatcher, 22, found shooting the cannibalism scene a surreal experience.

“There was a moment where I just almost freaked out,” she says. “Almost had an anxiety attack. Just thinking, like, ‘What am I doing? What are we doing?’”

Thatcher lost her breath. “Everything felt a little blurry,” she says. “Within these really intense scenes … your body doesn't know that you're not in a state of panic a lot of the time. So your body just starts to believe it.”

What happens now?

Thatcher warns that engaging in cannibalism “is the beginning of the end (for the Yellowjackets). And I think they realized that too. Once this door is open, anything can happen, which is really scary.”

Lisco says viewers will see the teens come to grips with their feelings about eating other people.

“Do they look at themselves in the metaphorical mirror and say, ‘Well, that was terrible, but we had to do it? We had to. We have to survive,’” he says. “That's a human instinct. Or do they come out of it full of self-loathing, with this notion that we can never do that again?”

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'Yellowjackets' cannibalism episode: Everything to know, who stars ate