How ‘Yellowjackets’ Used Radiohead and an Ensemble Cast

This story about the editors of “Yellowjackets” was first published in TheWrap Awards magazine’s drama series issue.

The opening theme of “Yellowjackets” reads, “Stay simple, don’t get tired,” and this mantra couldn’t apply more to the people who might actually be the real heroes behind Showtime’s success: the tireless editing team. The second season of the drama about a group of women struggling with the aftermath of a desert crash landing in their youth has pushed the envelope even further (cults! cannibalism!) and introduced more characters (including the wealthy amateur detective from Elijah Wood). But for two of the show’s prominent editors, Kevin D. Ross and Jeff Israel, it was just another day at the office, conveniently located in their own residences.

“We all work from home, so we have to constantly keep in touch,” Israel said. “They are writing the episodes as often as we are putting them together, especially the first ones, and we don’t always know where everything is going in each season. So the publishers are always communicating with each other and often mess things up.”

That is, when they are actually aware of the stories. “We’re guessing as hard as anyone online and we need to know how many dashes we have ahead of us,” Ross said. “But it’s fun because you can edit the characters in whatever emotional state they’re in at the moment, or if they’re lying. So if there’s a little sparkle in his eyes, we can remove it because we think he looks cool.”

Great is a euphemism for the actors that Ross and Israel get to cut. The series employs one of the best sets in the business, offering a wealth of options. “Christina Ricci makes typing look amazing, and Tawny Cypress has some really great reactions,” Israel said. “Juliette Lewis has always had some amazing improvisations. And obviously, everything that she is doing Melanie (Lynskey) ”.

Yellowjackets Storytelling Season 2
Lauren Ambrose, Tawny Cypress, Christina Ricci, Melanie Lynskey and Juliette Lewis in “Yellowjackets” (Colin Bentley/Showtime)

Ross wholeheartedly agreed. “Usually we have at least three takes with variations,” he said. “It is the job of the editors to try to find what we think is the correct interpretation of the scene. It’s always great stuff to start with, but I’ve never been on a show with all the actors, so on top of everything, the young actors, the older actors, everything is top-notch.”

And unlike many current dramas, Yellowjackets stays tense in the runtime, surpassing the hour-long format only once in two seasons. “The magic of editing is that we get things out that no one will miss,” Ross said. “I mean, the writers will miss him. For example, there is a scene with Misty (Ricci) and Walter (Wood) driving. That scene was probably 30% longer. It’s Christina and Elijah, so you want to live in their world forever because they’re great together. But just to make it move a little faster, you can ditch a couple of lines in there and the story just keeps flowing. The fun thing about our job is that we do editorial gymnastics all the time.”

'Yellowjackets' Season 2 Soundtrack: Every Song From The Showtime Series

The duo credited editors Genevieve Butler, Kindra Marra, and Daniel Williams for striking this balance. (Many of the episodes give credit to more than one of them, which is not surprising given the profusion of story elements at play.) Walls” in the tense episode “Edible Complex.”

“The song was perfect because it grows and grows and gets really frenetic, and that’s when (the party) gets really crazy,” he said. “And with Thom Yorke’s scream at the end, the door slams shut. When you find the perfect drop of the needle, he really tells you how to set the scene.”

Read more of the drama series question here.

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