Courtney Eaton and Simone Kessell Have a Meeting of the Lotties
Season one of Yellowjackets ended with a promise: Lottie is coming. Specifically, adult Lottie, who may or may not be a cult leader. Several months later, the hit Showtime series delivered on that promise when it was announced that New Zealand actor Simone Kessell was cast in the role, finally giving her younger counterpart, Australian actor Courtney Eaton, someone to share the show’s most mysterious character with. Now that the second season of Yellowjackets just wrapped (no spoilers here) Eaton and Kessell got on the line to talk about playing the same character in different timelines, Lottie’s future, crying on cue, and dealing with the very particular heartbreak of acting.
COURTNEY EATON: Hello, cutie.
KESSELL: How are you, darling?
EATON: Good, I miss you.
KESSELL: You too. Where are you?
EATON: I’m in L.A. Are you in Aus?
KESSELL: I’m in Sydney. How’s L.A.?
EATON: It’s gloomy, but I like that it’s gloomy. Feels nice and lazy. I just got my ass handed to me in personal training, so I’m going to go lay in bed after this.
KESSELL: What are you doing for personal training?
EATON: I just signed up at a gym right down the road and she’s amazing, but it’s mostly just weights and cardio, my arch-nemesis.
KESSELL: I love it. Are we interviewing each other?
KESSELL: Have we got questions that we’re meant to be asking?
EATON: I think it’s just conversational.
KESSELL: Do you have prepared questions?
EATON: I have four, but they’re so random.
KESSELL: Well, I’m going to wing it.
EATON: Okay, let’s wing it.
KESSELL: You start babe.
EATON: Maybe I’ll start it off with the show. How did you feel coming into the Yellowjackets world? Were you excited, scared?
KESSELL: I was apprehensive and a little bit intimidated, not by the role, but by the older cast because they’re all such incredible actresses with long histories of being on such successful shows. I knew I could hold my own, but I just had to find my spot in that. It’s like being the new girl at school.
EATON: Coming in halfway through when everyone’s already made their friends and their groups.
KESSELL: And you’re trying to be cool. Let me ask you this. When you found out that you were going to have an older you, tell me about that.
EATON: It was intimidating, especially the way they left it off at the end of the season, I felt a lot of pressure going into season two because I knew everyone would be wondering who the fuck Lottie Matthews was and what we were all about. I had never shared a character before, so I was intimidated by that and a little scared. And both of us are so protective of her. If anyone says anything, I’m sure both of us would kill for Lottie.
EATON: But as soon as I met you, I don’t think we had said one word to each other, and we hugged just before dinner.
KESSELL: It was a relief, remember?
EATON: We barely even talked about the show when we sat down.
KESSELL: I know. I was trying to be all professional.
EATON: We both knew that our characters lived on different plains and that we could do our own thing, but we had the same thread that tied us together.
KESSELL: Absolutely. But, let’s go back for a second. You know at the end of season one where you stab the bear?
KESSELL: Doing it and then watching it are quite different things. I’m learning everything I do on set and then I watch the episode back and it blows my mind. How was it when you saw that all cut together? Because obviously, there was no bear there.
EATON: It was the most awkward thing to shoot because it was just this blue ball on a stick with one of the crew next to it, huddling down and holding it. Everyone had to be all serious, and we were in a giggly mood that day. It ended up looking pretty cool, but I just felt so awkward.
KESSELL: My next question is, what do you think is going to be the journey for Lottie, baby Lottie, and old Lottie in season three?
EATON: Lottie has started on a spiral in the end of season two that’s probably going to keep going. I don’t see season three being especially light and fun for her. It’s going to be a bit of sadness or anger or finding her feet in her faith.
KESSELL: Maybe that’s when she starts to find her gift and her liveliness.
EATON: And is more confident in it. I don’t think she’s found confidence in it yet at all, whereas your Lottie has. Do you have an episode or a specific scene that you’re most proud of?
KESSELL: I’ve only watched six and they’ve sent the screeners, but I haven’t watched any because I don’t want to watch it on a small screen, and sometimes it’s like, “Insert ADR line here” and it’s not the right mix and grading.
EATON: I find it hard to watch things that aren’t 100 percent done.
KESSELL: What have you watched up to?
EATON: I watched bits of all of them up to six, but just bits that were on my mind. I was like, “I wonder how that turned out.” But I agree, I can’t really watch anything when there’s no coloring and music.
KESSELL: Remember the whole cast and crew watched the first episode of season two? I was like, “Okay.”
EATON: It was me, you, Sophie [Thatcher], and Melanie [Linskey]. Everyone else was like, “Wow, that was amazing.” We’re like, “You’re going to look like that? Is it going to sound like that?”
KESSELL: It’s vanity. I was like, “Is that the final lighting on me?”
KESSELL: Okay, what else have you got there?
EATON: Let me check my phone. Some of them are so random. One of them is, what’s the place that you find peace in?
KESSELL: A beach.
EATON: An Australian beach?
KESSELL: A New Zealand beach because the sky is different. The climate is a delight, and there’s something so pure about the ocean and the sand. When I get frantic or anxious or nervous, I try to drop into that place. What about you?
EATON: Mine is similar. It’s a lake or a body of water that’s usually surrounded by forest or mountains.
KESSELL: Did you grow up near a lake or a body of water?
EATON: No, I grew up right by the beach, but for some reason the ocean doesn’t do it for me, but a lake or a river does. One of my favorite places to swim is a river in Yosemite, it’s so grand and you feel so small in the best way.
KESSELL: That’s nice. What else have you got? I’m just piggybacking on yours.
EATON: I only have one left. What was one job that got away that you kick yourself over?
KESSELL: It’s funny because when you’re up for a job, you want it so much, right? You create a fantasy around it, how it’s going to be a game changer.
EATON: I can’t stop that thought process of planning my life around it actually happening.
KESSELL: Planning your life around it happening and how magical and wonderful that’s going to be. You set up all of this expectation, and so then when you don’t get it, all of this magical expectation that you’ve created for yourself hits hard when you don’t get a job. That’s what’s devastating. I’ve started to learn not to create the scenario around what that job will bring, because it never does.
EATON: You’re damaging yourself more than the “no” is.
KESSELL: You set up these expectations and they’re never met. Oh, I’ve been up for some big jobs. I was flying out for M. Night Shyamalan’s film, the one with Will Smith and his son in it. It bombed terribly, I can’t even remember the name of it.
EATON: Oh no. I can’t remember either.
KESSELL: I remember flying out to where he lived. I was in Sydney at the time, and I remember listening to Adele to get me really emotional. I got there and didn’t sleep. They put me in this beautiful hotel in Philadelphia, I went in the next day and I did the perfect audition. He was like, “Wow, Simone, this is beautiful work.” And I was like, “Thank you so much.” Then I flew home and read that another actress had gotten the role and I was broken. So devastated. I was like, “M. Night, I thought we had something. I flew around the world for this role to audition for you and didn’t get it.” But then the film came out. Now, what’s your devastation?
EATON: I was up for the Star Wars role that Daisy Ridley ended up doing, and I still lived in Australia at the time, and they flew me out to L.A. I was shitting myself, and I had never really done in-person auditions. It was an intense scene, but I wasn’t getting it, and I was getting really frustrated with myself. It was a test with the costume director and J. J. Abrams, so essentially I ended up getting so worked up that I had a panic attack and ruined my audition.
KESSELL: They would’ve known you were nervous, though.
EATON: They were really sweet about it, but I’d say that would be my most embarrassing one to lose.
KESSELL: It’s also the feeling after. You know when you come out of the room—
EATON: And your agents call and they’re like, “How’d it go?” I was just like, “I had a panic attack in front of J. J. Abrams. Maybe it worked for the scene, maybe it didn’t.” That one will forever haunt me. And to be fair, I was really young at the time, and Daisy did an amazing job and she suited it more than I did, but it is funny to look back on.
KESSELL: It’s funny to look back on now because you’re hugely successful, talented, and killing it. But it would not be so fun to look back on if you were not working.
KESSELL: Those ones really stick because you know you mucked it up. I’d often get very nervous. Sometimes I still do if it’s something I really, really want. I met this actress once. She’s like, “I love auditioning. It’s my thing. I love it.”
EATON: Oh my god.
KESSELL: Yeah. I’m like, it’s my worst thing to do.
EATON: And a lot of the times in those types of tests, it’s one scene that’s really happy and then right after is the scene where you’re bawling your eyes out. And you’re like, “Okay, I need a second to get into that mind space. I have to go mentally ruin myself. I can’t just switch it on.” I wish I was a person that could cry on cue.
KESSELL: Who are the actresses in the young version of Yellowjackets that can just switch it on like that?
EATON: Samantha can do it. I think Kevin can also cry on cue. I’m not sure about anyone else, but Samantha is really good at not needing that much time, whereas Sophie and I will be in a corner with headphones trying to bring up all our worst memories ever. Can you do it?
KESSELL: I have a bit of that. I have to be quiet for a moment and as you say, dig deep and tap into the pain and the moment. But then when I’m in it, I can do it again and again and again.
EATON: Once I’m in it, I’ll go full blast and then I might just run myself dry.
KESSELL: And then you watch it back and they don’t even use those takes.
EATON: What a weird job. What a weird thing we’ve signed up for.