Always & Forever: Elijah Wood

Elijah Wood Is Ready To Lighten Things Up A Little On Yellowjackets

by, Jessica Toomer April 7, 2023 Uproxx

Elijah Wood had no idea what he was signing up for when he said yes to a guest starring role in season two of Showtime’s Yellowjackets. Literally.

Showrunners Ashley Lyle and Bart Nickerson reached out to the Lord of the Rings star to gauge his interest in playing opposite Christina Ricci’s neurotic, true-crime-loving misfit Misty Quigley once scripts were finished, but they couldn’t let Wood actually see anything in writing. (He wasn’t an official cast member and they’ve got Lindelofian plot secrets to protect.) They could only tease a name: Walter Tattersall. And a vague outline of who his character was before meeting Misty and getting swallowed whole by the central enigma fueling the survivalist drama.

But that was enough for Wood. The show had already checked the boxes needed to claim him as a fan.

“It’s very much my kind of show,” Wood tells Uproxx. “It dabbles in genre. It’s got potential supernatural elements to it. There’s a mystery at its core. The timeline between the past and the present, and how the past informs the present, is just so rad, and unique.”And then, there was the most important hook.

“But also, I love Melanie Lynskey, she’s a friend.”

For most of season two, Wood acts opposite another former co-star in Ricci with the two Citizen Detectives sizing up one another’s sleuthing skills in a quirky, slightly sinister will-they-won’t-they way. (By that, we mean will they kiss or kill each other.)

We chatted with Wood about his own love of true crime, being the comedic relief of season two, and his advice for dealing with genre fandoms.

How did the showrunners convince you to come on board this season?

Basically, it was a leap of faith, but it was an easy leap. They described Walter as this odd citizen detective [who] would team up with Misty, a favorite character of mine from the first season. And getting a chance to work with Christina was really exciting because we’d worked together when we were kids, in the nineties. It was an easy ‘Yes.’ I was really chuffed, genuinely, to even be asked to play in the sandbox, because it’s really a first for me. I’ve never watched a show, and then been asked to participate in a subsequent season of the show.

Did they clue you into any of the mystery driving season two?

I think I’m at liberty to say that the driver for Walter and Misty this season is just locating Natalie, trying to figure out where she’s gone, and ultimately, what has happened to her, which opens a whole Pandora’s box. And then, that there would be a potential coming together of a lot of the characters at the end of the season, which is really an exciting notion. My experience, for the most part, was just working with Christina. We were on our own little journey throughout the course of this season that ultimately comes to a head at the end.

How does the relationship between Misty and Walter evolve over the course of the season?

Misty’s an eccentric that can’t function in the world. She tries to, but it doesn’t quite work. The description to me of Walter initially was that he had similar eccentricities but has figured out how to make it functional. In that way, they’re a really interesting pair. They complement each other. That was really exciting. Then, just the nuts and bolts of who that person is, and where we would be going, that was enough for me to be excited. This season feels darker, maybe more fucked up than the first season.

Walter and Misty are both internet sleuths who take things a little too far, especially this season. What’s behind their obsession with the Citizen Detective message boards?

I think the draw is our collective interest in true crime. Blend that with the internet, and it provides an armchair hobby for people. They can commiserate, can discuss a certain unsolved case, come up with a variety of ideas of what they think may or may not have happened, and collect evidence. Basically, it’s hobbyist, which I completely understand. I’ve been interested in true crime for a long time, and I’ve devoured documentaries over the years, and podcasts and documentary series. I get it, I understand the pull that has.

Again, you put that into the realm of a message board, or an online community, where information is shared, there’s a sense of excitement of following a trail, and figuring out what could have happened. Potentially, you could make a difference, and I think that’s where the appeal comes from. I think that’s certainly where Walter is. I would say Walter might take it a step further.

Right. Like in episode three. Which is all I’ll allude to.

There’s a great deal of researched knowledge, some of which may not have totally been field tested. When you jump into something with a great deal of enthusiasm, you think you have all the answers. I feel like all of us have experienced this on some level in our lives, where we feel like we know what we’re doing, and then we get into a situation, and we’re like, ‘Fuck, we actually don’t know what we’re doing,’ but you play it off. That’s a little bit Walter. He’s in over his head, but he actually knows his shit. I don’t think that he’s really been able to field test it in quite the way that he’s going to with this journey that they’re on.

The last time you worked with Christina was in the 90s on a movie called The Ice Storm where you had to make out at the bottom of a pool while your mom was present. You said that was one of the most awkward experiences of your career. Were things less awkward this time around?

[Laughs] It was less awkward than that, undoubtedly. Christina is incredible. Working with her has been the easiest, and the most fun and rewarding experience. She is a fucking pro, man. She’s a finely tuned instrument as an actress, and it is a joy to work with because she knows her character so well. For me, acting opposite her makes my job so easy because she’s so skilled.

There’s also a lot of humor in their back-and-forth relationship, especially early on in the season.

Which is also one of the fun aspects of being asked to come and play Walter — it’s this sideline comedy section of the show. There’s quite a lot of darkness and the stakes are really fucking high for a lot of the characters throughout the series, both in the past and in the present. What was lovely about what we got to do this particular season is play a lighter duo, a relationship journey that ultimately ends where everyone is headed, but it definitely felt like the comic relief of the show, which was really fun. We didn’t have to deal with a great deal of heaviness, or darkness. It was just relative silliness.

We’ve talked to Melanie Lynskey about giving advice to the younger actors on this show. You’ve defended some of The Rings of Power cast amidst backlash from LOTR fans. What’s your advice to younger actors having to deal with fame in the time of social media?

Social media wasn’t even a thing! There was no Twitter, there was no Facebook. It was pre-Friendster. This idea that you would have an online presence, and have a direct line to both positive and negative responses from fans, and just people in general, that was just not something that we had to face at all. Now we’re dealing with racism and shit online in response to casting choices. It really is ridiculous. They had to deal with that as they were just about to celebrate their experience making something on this scale, having had this really incredible experience working together in New Zealand. Many of them are part of something on this scale for the first time, and before it even comes out, there’s all this negative response.

What’s the advice? I was going to say to not give it much attention, but it’s hard if you’re the folks that are the target of that criticism. I don’t really look at comments. That’s just a personal rule. I don’t really give a shit what anyone has to say. I just think it’s a slippery slope because if you start paying attention to what everyone has to say about you, it gives it weight. It’s almost like conflating schoolyard behavior to a much larger, more hurtful scale, and it’s a bummer. I think taking yourself off social media is a good idea, I think not paying attention to it, and I think focusing on the work.