Most of Yellowjackets’ teen characters spend the bulk of the series trapped in the middle of the Canadian wilderness. But Sarah Desjardins’ Callie, the daughter of adult Shauna (Melanie Lynskey) and Jeff (Warren Kole), occupies an unusual role: She’s the only major teenage character in the present-day timeline, an intriguing counterpoint to the girls surviving 25 years in the past. Since learning her mother killed an innocent man, Callie has taken on much more complexity in season two, going from “typical bratty teenager,” as Desjardins describes Callie, to willing accomplice. Call her the Paige Jennings of Yellowjackets.
In “Qui,” Callie proves her eagerness to get in on the cover-up during a scene that cross-cuts between separate interrogations of her and Shauna at the police station. Knowing that the information she unwittingly shared with undercover cop Matt Saracusa (John Reynolds) about her mom’s affair with Adam Martin wouldn’t be admissible if he crossed a line during their relationship, Callie lies to Detective Kevyn Tan (Alex Wyndham) and says Saracusa took her virginity. It’s as much an expression of Callie’s desire to feel connected to her family as it is an attempt to keep them out of jail. “I know that maybe some people haven’t been lovin’ Callie,” says Desjardins, addressing a popular fan sentiment. “But I think finding out the truth unlocks this other side of her.”
What initially attracted you to this role?
I auditioned to play young Shauna for the pilot years ago. It was so captivating to me — so many complex female characters. As someone who goes to therapy and works on their trauma, I loved that it was all about seeing how it affects them as adults. When I was auditioning the first time, I felt like, This is amazing, and I love Melanie Lynskey, but aw, I wouldn’t get to do any scenes with her! That’s a bummer.
Well, that worked out well!
I’m a big “What’s meant to be will be” and “Everything happens for a reason” person.
When did you find out how your season-two arc would take shape? You have a lot more screen time than in season one.
Melanie told me the first time I met her, actually, that they wanted to hire someone who could handle a more challenging emotional situation. And while Callie seemed a certain way on the surface — the typical bratty teenager — there’s so much more. She let me know that, eventually, more was going to happen with her. I wasn’t sure if that would actually happen or not, and I honestly didn’t have a deep discussion with them about it. It just became evident at the beginning of this season. I was reading every script, like, Okay, there’s more, this is exciting!
What is your dynamic with Melanie and Warren like?
I’m a grown woman, I’m 28 playing 17, but I look up to them, and I do feel bonded to them in a paternal/maternal sort of way. Our circumstances this season are very serious, but we’re leaning into the absurdity of those circumstances. Oh my God, Warren especially — I don’t know how I ever keep it together. I do think I’ve ruined a couple takes.
Our dynamic from the beginning, but especially as we grew to bond, was very playful. I’m coming to terms with the fact that I’m quite a perfectionist and I like to control things, but through working with them, I’ve learned so much about letting go of that and seeing where the scene takes you or adding your little bit that feels right. At first, I was like, Oh my God, you can’t do that. They can do that; they’re them. I can’t do that. But by the end of the season, I leaned into that. There are a couple throwaway things here or there that weren’t in the script that they kept in the show.
What parts of Callie can be traced to either of her parents? It seems like she has some of her mom’s killer instinct that’s waiting to come out.
When we meet her, she’s like her dad in the sense that she’s more of a grounding force. Once she’s in on the situation, we see her shift onto Shauna’s end of the spectrum. A lot of people have felt like Callie is a reminder to Shauna of Jackie, and you can definitely see that in her personality. But throughout this season, it’s almost that Shauna and Callie are so alike that they’re clashing. I don’t know if I would necessarily say she has a killer instinct, but she’s a lot more like her mom than you may have initially thought.
Callie is so confused. She has never felt connected to her mom, like, literally at all. That’s why she’s lashed out so much. It’s sad. She wants love. When Shauna finally tells her the truth, it’s crazy — she killed a person — but also, in a way, she doesn’t have the reaction you’d expect. She’s taking it … okay? I think she feels closer to her mom because she finally told her the truth. In a weird way, she’s excited.
In episode five, after Callie tells Saracusa the lie about Shauna sleeping with Randy, she says to her parents, “I fixed it. Did I fix it?” I like that she’s still trying to impress them.
Even in these crazy circumstances, she wants her mom to love her and be proud of her. I understand that many people feel like Callie is annoying and bratty, but that’s all coming from how disconnected she’s felt from her family.
What was it like shooting the dual interrogation scene in “Qui”? What’s going on in Callie’s head when she chooses to lie to Kevyn about her relationship with Saracusa?
If I’m not mistaken, the original plan for the interrogation scene was that Melanie’s scene and mine were less cut together. I love that they did that — it’s so much more effective this way.
My favorite line is my last one: “Especially when they ask me to describe his weird-ass balls.” She’s having fun, in this crazy, messed-up way. When she gets back in the car, she’s like, “I think they’re scared shitless now.” She is excited to be involved and connected to her family. It’s definitely more fun for me to play than “What you’re doing is wrong!” But Callie is Callie. We get to keep her essence.
There are a lot of teenage girl characters in the cast, but you’re usually siloed into your own story with Shauna and Jeff. Have you gotten the chance to know those other actresses?
The day I joined the show, Jasmin, who plays young Taissa, added me to a group chat. We’re constantly on the group chat. The first year, Jasmin had a birthday party for her cat. I am a cat lady, so that was the perfect outing for me. And this year, I went out with them at the beginning. We did a karaoke night.
I am quite an introverted person, so I don’t hang out with them all the time, but what was great about them shooting more in the studio this year is that I got to cross paths with them more. I made an effort to come out of my shell and hang out with them because they are always so welcoming and inviting me to everything. Sometimes I wish that I could shoot some scenes with them, but I’m happy to be in the present timeline and learn from all of these legends.
Do you see a connection between Callie and those other teenagers? Twenty-five years have passed between these two timelines, but since you’re the main teenage girl in the present, it’s easy to compare you to the other characters in 1997.
The comedy of Callie is the drastic difference between her and the girls 25 years ago. We see them before they crash and then the intensity of their situation, and Callie’s problems are nothing compared to them. While her issues with her parents are very real, she has a dim boyfriend, she’s vaping all the time — she’s like, “I want to vape until my head falls off” — that’s part of the comedy of it. They definitely leaned into the lighter aspects of that dynamic this year, almost to juxtapose it with how dark the other timeline is.
You’re also on The Night Agent, and you played Donna Sweett on Riverdale, a show I love. These three shows have completely different tones. What’s the difference in shooting these three series, either from a production standpoint or tonally?
Most people became aware of me due to Riverdale and Yellowjackets. Donna in Riverdale was a villain, and everybody hated her. It’s so funny being most known for those two characters, because up until this point in my career, I always played the cute girl, the girl next door who’s so funny and dorky and the guy likes her. To have done that forever, and then the first time I play this kind of character, everyone’s like, “That’s what that girl is like” — I’m like, “No!” But I guess I’m really good at it, because you all think so.
And I feel like Riverdale is its own universe, as you are very aware.
It has its own weird logic.
The biggest thing for me going into Riverdale, was, I just need to embrace this. At first, I was like, What? I kept saying “Shawshank” instead of “Shankshaw.” [Laughs.] I still remember one of my lines took me an hour to memorize, because I was like, “How do I say this?” I think in the episode they cut some of it: “I followed Betty to this post-apocalyptic bunker, where she was sloppily swapping spit with that carrot-top neanderthal, like she was gunning for the lead role in some dinner theater production of Spring Awakening.” I’m never going to forget that.
Do they encourage you to lean into how inherently ridiculous that is?
I don’t remember anyone ever telling me, “Yes. Lean into it,” but that’s what you have to do to make it as real as you can. You suspend disbelief and commit to what’s in front of you. They’re very word for word; everything that’s there is what you’re going to say. But I think that’s why it’s become what it’s become and so many people are along for that ride.
It was also my first experience working with a bunch of people my age that were very well-known. A lot of the time, I play a lot younger than I am. In Yellowjackets, I don’t work with the girls, but I’m closer in age to them. Up until that point, I would often work with people who are closer to that actual age they’re playing, and I’m seven years older.
You probably saw Cole Sprouse on Disney Channel as a kid like I did.
I watched Zack and Cody! I was that generation. He’s really hilarious. And I loved working with Lili [Reinhart]. I worked with her a lot, too. And then Night Agent is my first really hardcore, dedicated, action show, which is really fun to do. That character is 19, so we’re getting there. She’s in college. I made it to college!
She’s the vice-president’s daughter, so I can’t relate to that, but I can relate to “All these eyes are on you, but you feel like nobody really sees you for who you are.” When I was younger, that’s how I felt, so there was so much to draw from there. That’s more straight drama, whereas Yellowjackets is a genre all its own, especially this year. I love comedy, and I want to do more of it. I’ve gotten really close to a lot of comedic projects, so I know I’m funny, okay? It just hasn’t quite happened yet.
Well, I look forward to seeing you doing more comedy, and playing a 20-year-old one day.
I’ve auditioned for a couple of wives recently.
You’ll be playing 40 before you know it.
[Laughs.] Wouldn’t that be crazy? Wish me luck!