Spoilers for “Doomcoming,” the ninth episode of Yellowjackets season one, below.
Being a teenage girl is hard enough without crash-landing in the Canadian wilderness, immediately running out of your (presumed antipsychotic) medication, slowly running out of food, and losing your best friend to an explosive death. Oh, and you’re seeing visions of red smoke and rivers of blood, maybe being possessed during an ill-advised séance, and sparring with your fellow survivors, who treat you with a mixture of wariness and impatience. It’s a lot, and yet Courtney Eaton’s performance as Lottie on Yellowjackets confidently captures the myriad motivations of the most mysterious member of the varsity girls soccer team.
Over nine episodes and several months in the Canadian Rockies, Lottie has left behind her timid personality for conviction and creepiness in equal measure. That transformation goes full mask-off and antler-crown-on in “Doomcoming,” which sees a high-on-shrooms Lottie leading some of the other Yellowjackets in sexually assaulting, chasing down, and nearly killing Travis (Kevin Alves). Eaton spoke with Vulture about the cast members’ own theories, Lottie’s reveal as the queen from the pilot episode’s cannibalistic ritual, and how Lottie keeps her hair so perfect despite the circumstances.
“Doomcoming” feels like a significant turning point in the evolution of Lottie. How did you prepare for what she goes through?
When we got the script and rushed onto set that day, I remember being like, “What are we about to film?” The party, the shrooms — we called it the orgy. I didn’t see it taking that big of a turn, but it makes sense for Lottie, especially with what she went through in episode eight. Laura Lee had this unwavering faith and mental clarity and that’s what Lottie is searching for — she’s uncertain about her own reality and trying to find something to hold onto. Losing Laura Lee is kind of her breaking point.
With her predictions, it’s the first time in her life that whatever is going on with her has been labeled a positive thing. In episode six, you see her get shut down by her parents and medicated, so her whole life she’s been taught that whatever is going on with these thoughts isn’t normal and is unnatural. At the party, she is obviously grieving and has been pushed back to the edge. When you add psychedelics to someone who is already questioning their reality, it can go south pretty quickly. With psychedelics, a lot of the time people talk about having this spiritual experience or feeling this energy; I don’t think she realizes it’s starting to lead her down a negative path.
The show does such a good job with the ambiguity about what is real: What is potentially occult, and what are we seeing from the girls’ perspectives that might be affected by the traumatic event they’re experiencing? Lottie is at the center of that. Are you playing her like she believes she’s really a spiritual conduit?
When I was coming in to prep, I talked to Bart [Nickerson] and Ashley [Lyle] about how we were gonna handle Lottie and her mental state. There’s been a big discussion with the citizen detectives on Reddit about what medication Lottie is taking, and what I loved about the script is the ambiguity around what is going on with Lottie’s mind. It gave me a lot of freedom because I didn’t want to box it in and say that she’s doing certain things because of mental illness. There’s so much stigma around that topic, and it’s been portrayed negatively on film many times. I really loved that she walks that line, and me as an actor, I prep, but I’m also very in the moment with whatever is coming and I’m feeling. [Laughs.] I’m not leaning toward one way or another, and I think that helps in keeping it like that for the audience.
What role did the baptism have in Lottie’s character development? She doesn’t tell anyone that she had a vision of something bad happening to Laura Lee. Do you think part of her grieving process is the guilt of thinking she could have done something to save her friend, or do you think that hasn’t connected for her yet?
I think it hasn’t fully connected for her yet, and I think the reason she was led to the baptism is, you know, a lot of times in intense situations, people fall back on something that is greater or bigger than themselves, like a godly figure. As humans, we can manipulate things to fit our own situations, and I think she’s reaching for any answer she can get. It’s so hard breaking Lottie down because while I was acting, sometimes I would look at her visions like, maybe this isn’t just her. With the other girls and the river … maybe it’s a collective kind of PTSD thing.
Almost like a collective imagining — like they’re feeding each other.
That’s what’s so interesting about the séance. Part of me wonders, why are you having a séance? But it’s another huge moment for Lottie in terms of a spirit, or demonic entity visiting her. In your own understanding of the character, what do you think is happening to Lottie at that moment?
The séance happened so quickly, and we got that script not far out from shooting it. The way I looked at it was more of an accumulation. Even though she’s spewing French, I played it as a mental break, because if I had gone into it like she was being taken over by something, it wouldn’t have grounded it for me. The way I approached it was a building up of fucked-up shit.
What kind of prep went into the “Doomcoming” orgy for you?
We had a really great intimacy coordinator, Katherine Kadler. It’s an uncomfortable scene to shoot, especially with Kevin, who plays Travis — we’re all essentially sexually assaulting him. It was a big team effort to choreograph how we would all come together. Mentally, for Lottie, I think she’s just grieving, especially when they’re around the campfire and about to start the party. She feels like everyone has moved on pretty quickly from Laura Lee’s death. When I start singing, we found that it grounded it, and maybe it was Laura Lee’s favorite song. So the night starts off negatively for Lottie because she’s already in this head space, she’s isolating herself and she’s still grieving heavily, more than the rest of the girls. Then you add shrooms to it, and she’s gonna go find answers somewhere else.
What do you think would’ve happened if Jackie and Nat hadn’t stopped the girls?
I didn’t think past that point because that is a whole other realm of different consequences. But I think they — at least Lottie, probably — would have gone through with it. I think Shauna also would have gone through with it.
They are the ones leading the charge in that scene. I sort of anticipated Lottie, but not Shauna.
Yeah, definitely Lottie! It’s funny, too, because Shauna and Lottie are the ones — at least that the audience sees — who are dealing with such big secrets, whereas Taissa is very good at cutting things off where she needs to, seeing a path and getting things done. I guess it’s like when people do shrooms: You see some people having a great time, someone’s crying in the corner, and other people are questioning life and God and all that. I think it made sense that the two who are struggling the most are leading the charge, weirdly.
What was it like putting on the deer crown?
It was crazy because no one knew up until that episode who was going to be the “Antler Queen,” as everyone’s calling it. [Note: The opening scene of the pilot episode was shot in Mammoth, Calif., with only Samantha Hanratty as Misty from the cast on set. All other characters were played by stunt performers.] We kind of knew it was Lottie to begin with because Sam had done some things in the pilot and she had put some things together. But it was kind of insane.
Is it actual antler? Is it plastic?
They said it was real antler horns, but they shed them usually. I’m vegan, I was like, “I don’t really want any fur,” but I’m okay if it’s a naturally occurring thing. We had that and a headpiece covered with earrings and leftover pieces of T-shirts and things like that. It was hard for it to stay on your head while we were fighting.
This show has been very rabidly consumed in terms of theories. Do you have a theory group chat? Are there any that you’re staying on top of or appreciate more than others?
It’s funny because I watch it with all my friends, and at the end of every episode my boyfriend is like, “Shush, you’re not allowed to talk,” and they talk about all the different theories. Some of them they run off with, and I’m like, “Actually, that would have been a great twist! I didn’t even think of that!” But we all have a group chat where — especially while we were filming, because we didn’t know a lot of the things until they happened, like the Antler Queen or the pink Converse — we were all breaking it down too. In episode nine, the cast started theorizing about who was gonna split and who would be on what sides. It will be interesting to see who the audience thinks is on the “good” side or the “bad” side.
Do you think there’s any possibility that the deer headdress changes hands?
I think it naturally fits Lottie. Obviously I don’t know what happens in season two, but it seems like something that could be passed on. But also, I don’t know if it would make sense for a lot of other people the way it makes sense for Lottie. No one else has that way of thinking that surrounds the Antler Queen. But I’m not sure. I troll Reddit and it’s interesting to see other people’s picks for who it is.
Do you approach Lottie differently in terms of how she interacts with other people, like Laura Lee versus Jackie? Or do you feel like she stays the same no matter who she’s with?
I think at the beginning of the season, she’s interacting with everyone equally and kind of just floating. I was trying to break her apart before we started filming: You know she’s someone who keeps to herself, she probably has one best friend in high school, she’s friends with the girls on the soccer team but she has a hard time connecting with others — maybe because she doesn’t trust herself. And I think she’s an empath and worries more about what other people are feeling than herself. But you definitely see that change in episode nine and how she’s interacting with other people because her state of mind has shifted.
The characters for whom there’s a younger version and an older version, those performances play off each other. But we don’t yet know if there is an adult Lottie. Did that give you some freedom to create the character solely for yourself?
Yeah, especially seeing how the other girls had to. On set, the day we were filming the scene where Jasmin Savoy Brown is eating the dirt, she was trying to get video of Tawny Cypress doing it so they could mirror each other. Because Lottie is so complicated, I think it would have been really hard to split her between two timelines. She would be a lot different in the adult version. It gave me a lot of freedom and ease to figure out my own world. And if someone did come in later, we could pick it apart.
Do you have anyone in mind to play the adult Lottie? People love fan casting for this show.
I would love to see who people are casting as older Lottie. It’s hard. Everyone on set was talking about everyone’s different versions if we had adult counterparts. It’s hard! I’m part Asian, part Islander, and I don’t often see that many actresses who are a similar heritage to me. Who have people been saying?
One of my colleagues said Jordana Brewster. I thought Fairuza Balk, give you some strong The Craft energy.
[Musing] Okay … Yeah, I’m not sure.
The show is known for its excellent ’90s needle drops. Have there been any songs on the soundtrack that excited you?
I think the whole soundtrack is pretty killer, but it was episode eight, with the classic “Fade Into You,” with Sophie Thatcher slowly turning away, I was like, “Yes!”
For you personally, between the Canadian wilderness or the desert in Mad Max: Fury Road, which would you rather be stranded in?
I would say the wilderness because I’m naturally more drawn to the woods and forest more than beaches and deserts. And I think I could do pretty good out there. I also just yearn to live in a forest, in a hut, away from everyone.
Speaking of the wilderness, how does Lottie maintain those perfectly beachy waves?
A little quick dunk in the lake! When Laura Lee was alive, I think she kind of looked after Lottie. In those episodes when she’s starting to get closer to Laura Lee, we added little braids in the back of her hair, as if she’s nurturing her and looking after Lottie. And then I think from then on, it just grows out. She doesn’t give a fuck anymore.
There’s this whole theory that the Yellowjackets are not cannibals because you don’t actually see anybody picking up and eating a leg, for example. Do you have any thoughts on that?
I think in general, if you’re left out there for as long as we are, and winter is gonna hit, and maybe people in the night die naturally … We’re not hunting them, per se, but I think you would end up eating human. At least one, if you have no other options.