Jasmin Savoy Brown on the Glory – and the Gory – of “Yellowjackets”
Let’s start with the elephant in the room. “Yellowjackets” fans likely know by now that the second episode of the second season, which dropped last weekend, delivered on something fans had been promised since the start of the drama: cannibalism. The hit Showtime series follows a group of girls who are forced to survive for nearly two years in the wilderness after a harrowing plane crash. But not all of them make it out alive: some of them are eaten. Jasmin Savoy Brown plays the teen version of Taissa, one of teammates who does avoid an unimaginable fate in the forrest – but not without making some hard-to-swallow choices. Literally.
Brown tells POPSUGAR that she always knew Ella Purnell’s Jackie, the popular girl who clashes with her teammates, would be the show’s first one to die and be eaten. “Something in my gut just knew,” she explains. “I was like, ‘That b*tch is gonna die and we’re gonna eat her.’ ” Her hunch was confirmed at the table read for that March 31 installment. During the episode, the whole crew feasts on Jackie after her body is accidentally cooked instead of cremated following the character’s season one death.
As for the scene itself, Brown is clear: “It was gross.” “People were throwing up. People were retching. Someone might’ve cried,” she remembers. To make the scene happen, the show made a dummy of Jackie’s body which they filled with jackfruit, a tropical fruit often used as a meat substitute. The dummy’s skin was created with rice paper.
The creation did not taste good, Brown says, though not for lack of the team trying. “There’s really not much you can do to make any of that stuff more appealing because when you’re in the scene, if you’re really in character, you’re thinking you are eating a human,” she says.
While lots of viewers (including this writer) found the scene shocking, nauseating, and gross, Brown says she and her castmates felt like it could have been even more gruesome. “I think we’re all super desensitized because we’ve been on this show for a couple years and preparing this for a couple years,” she says. “I don’t think watching it, any of us are grossed out. We actually wanted it to be grosser.”
“There’s some much nastier takes and cuts,” she says, including one where Taissa picks up Jackie’s head and bites off her cheek. “It was way more gruesome and we all think it’s kind of tame, but if it’s making people feel nauseous, then maybe we’re just desensitized and that’s not that tame.”
With this very heavy stuff happening on screen, it’s important for the “Yellowjackets” cast to keep things light when they’re not filming. They have a tent where they often hang out together on set, goofing around and filming TikToks. But, Brown says, sometimes they need privacy and dissapear into their trailers to cool off. Almost the entire cast are big readers as well, so it’s not rare to walk into the tent and see everyone with their face in a book. They even sometimes trade copies back and forth. She and costar Liv Hewson both read “We Do What We Do in the Dark” by Michelle Hart while filming season two.
“Exploring queer relationships as queer actors is a dream and also feels like my right.”
One of the least bleak aspects of the show’s 1996 storyline is the connection between Brown’s Taissa and Hewson’s Van, who fall in love in the wilderness and support each other through the unhinged chaos the show throws at them. Hewson and Brown are also good friends in real life, and both queer themselves.
“Exploring queer relationships as queer actors is a dream and also feels like my right,” Brown says. “I’m really grateful, and it’s as it should be.” Exploring the relationship with Hewson is “really fun,” but she also credits Hewson with being “a great person to have on your side on set.”
“They have a clear sense of right and wrong,” she says of her costar. When they have intimate scenes together, Hewson is “really big” on making sure they both feel safe with what’s going on, “which I appreciate.” As for their characters’ journey together, Brown says, “Van and Ty, man, what a complicated situation they’re in. I feel for them.”
Tawny Cypress and Lauren Ambrose portray the adult versions of Taissa and Van, respectively, and Brown shares that the older actors will often ask their younger counterparts about the characters and their complicated backstory.
But “Yellowjackets” is just one part of Brown’s very, very busy slate these days. Earlier this March, she starred in “Scream VI,” the follow up to 2022’s “Scream” film. In the series, Brown plays Mindy, a niece of the original’s Randy and twin to Mason Gooding’s Chad. Chad and Mindy are one half of what the new movie calls the “Core Four,” alongside Melissa Barrera’s Sam and Jenna Ortega’s Tara.
“We really do love each other,” she says of the central quartet. “There’s no acting involved.” She jokes that when Gooding came to her birthday dinner a few weeks ago, some people asked if they were really siblings – that’s how clear their bond is. In “Scream 6,” there’s a scene where the four are sitting at the dinner table joking around, not knowing Ghostface is attacking their roommate. “We did so much improv,” she says of the scene, in which she and Ortega were just throwing out one-liners. “We all take it seriously, but also take it lightly. You really never know how well received something is going to be, and so you might as well just have a good time making it and cross your fingers.”
Brown’s Mindy is the first canonically queer main character in the series (though LGBTQ+ “Scream” fans have been reading subtext into the films since the first was released in 1996). In “Scream 6,” Mindy has a girlfriend, Anika (Devyn Nekoda), and the two kiss before Anika – spoiler alert – is killed by Ghostface. Originally, the kiss wasn’t in the script, but it was an important moment to include for Brown. The movies, she says, are full of “casual straight kisses” – so why not this one?
You really never know how well received something is going to be, and so you might as well just have a good time making it and cross your fingers.”
“The audience that comes to see ‘Scream,’ yes, it’s very queer, but there’s also a very straight, very masculine audience, for ‘Scream,’ ” she explains. “I think that if they can be exposed to queerness in their space in a way that is palatable and fun and no different than the straight kisses, that can only do good.” She adds, “Any time we can have visibility, whether it’s big or small, it’s only helping. And I also thought Mindy and Annika deserved it.”
Brown’s Mindy is the star of one of the film’s scariest sections, during which Mindy is pursued by Ghostface in a crowded subway car. “I don’t know if I can take the subway now after like 10:00 p.m.,” she jokes. Just having Ghostface on set, she says, completely changes the energy and makes things scarier – “no matter which delightful stunt person is behind the mask.”
If all that screaming and crying and fleeing and eating people sounds like a lot, Brown agrees. She’s ready to tackle something a little lighter. Her dream is to star in a movie version of the Broadway musical “Waitress,” which itself is based on the 2007 movie. “Beyond that, I would love to do romantic comedy. I just would love to do comedy,” she says, something very big and specific like Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, and Kate McKinnon do.
Brown also wants to explore her music more; she’s already written and recorded a few songs, and is looking for the “right producer” to help her. Plus, she’s working on a pitch for a sex podcast with the writer Carmen Maria Machado, who she met while filming the music video for Lucy Dacus’s “Night Shift,” released this March.
Thought it all, Brown has become a big star to her queer fans – a mantle she’s happy to take on. She says having queer fans is “loving and affirming” and that she’s always felt “a lot of love” from them. She and her girlfriend of almost a year, Anouk, also just went public on Instagram back in March. “We both had a moment of feeling nervous because people online can be mean,” she says about deciding to post the photos. But then she remembered who she was talking about. “I was like, ‘Oh yeah, that’s not my fans. My fans aren’t mean. They’re like loving and gay and they’re just gonna be happy for us.’ ” She read every comment, and not one was negative.
Now – post-“Scream 6” premiere, her 29th birthday, and the start of “Yellowjackets” season two – she’s hoping to decompress, though she’s still “trying to figure out” what exactly that looks like. She and her girlfriend are heading to London to visit two of her closest friends, both of whom aren’t in the industry, which she thinks will help.
There’s one other mystery she’s still trying to figure out, too. Brown is an Aries sun, Cancer moon, Scorpio rising, and she loves talking about astrology – but she’s not sure what sign her character Taissa is. “She could be a Capricorn with a Scorpio rising. That would make a lot of sense to me. But she could also be a Scorpio with a Capricorn rising and her moon no idea,” she says. There’s always season three to solve that mystery, while “Yellowjackets” many other puzzles remain to be seen.
“Yellowjackets” premieres new episodes Fridays on streaming and on Showtime on Sundays.
“Scream 6” is in theaters now.
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