Samantha Hanratty on Her ‘Yellowjackets’ Character: “I Just Want to Hug Her and Tell Her to Go to Therapy”

When Samantha Hanratty was filming the terrifyingly intense plane crash sequence that kicks off the plot of Showtime’s Yellowjackets, she had to do the opposite of tapping into her own emotions. “I’m a very emotional person; I’m an empath,” she says. “I, as Samantha, would have been sobbing. I would have been having a mental breakdown. But Misty takes in things so differently.”

In the first season of the Emmy-nominated series about a high school soccer team lost in the wilderness in 1996 and their adult counterparts dealing with the repercussions of their actions in the present day, Hanratty chilled audiences as the calculating loner Misty Quigley, played as a grown-up by Emmy nominee Christina Ricci. But as many times as Misty sabotages her classmates, drugs her soccer coach or coolly amputates a leg, Hanratty also feels for the curly haired oddball: “I just want to hug her and tell her to go to therapy.”
The 26-year-old Hanratty has been acting since she was 6, but even after stints on Pushing Daisies and Shameless, Yellowjackets is by far her biggest role to date. She went through multiple rounds of auditions for the series — reading for both Misty and the cynical cool girl Natalie, eventually played by Sophie Thatcher — before booking the part. Hanratty had no idea that she would be playing the same character as Ricci, another star who has been working in the industry since childhood. When Hanratty learned with whom she would share the role, she went down an internet rabbit hole. “I started looking up pictures of her and looking at pictures of myself,” she says. “I [put] them side to side to be like, ‘What is it that we have in common? And what is it that we don’t?’ ”
Hanratty and Ricci didn’t coordinate much to find their takes on Misty. And while Hanratty isn’t going about putting psychedelic mushrooms into anyone’s soup, she does find commonality with the awkward teen. “There’s something about her that I relate to so much, just wanting to be liked by people,” she says. “I feel like I really struggled with my own mental health in Canada when we filmed last season. It was the first time that I ever got on medication for my anxiety and depression.”

Production was based in Vancouver, but the younger castmembers were thrown into an intense bonding situation as they lodged in a hotel about an hour outside the city to be closer to the rural location. “We would all be like, ‘What the hell did we get ourselves into?’ ” But as Hanratty prepares to head north for season two — road-tripping with castmate Alexa Barajas — she’s excited about what’s to come, even if for now she’s just relying on her own theories.
After so many years in the business, Hanratty is sure that acting is what she’s meant to do. She’s also embracing her reputation for playing “the quote-unquote crazy person.” She says, “A big part of that is that I enjoy diving into the psychology of why people do what they do. I don’t judge the character. I don’t go into things like, ‘Oh my God, Misty’s psycho.’ I go into it being like, ‘Oh, this is a wounded puppy that bites because they’ve never been loved.’ ”

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