Melanie Lynskey Responds to ‘The Last of Us’ Fan Backlash

This story about Melanie Lynskey first appeared in the Down to the Wire: Drama and Limited Series issue of TheWrap’s awards magazine.

Everybody loves Melanie Lynskey, and Melanie Lynskey loves everybody. Well, almost everybody. (We’ll get to the exceptions in a minute.) When the dust settled on the morning of July 12, the New Zealand actress and pop culture fan favorite had nabbed two Emmy nominations, her second consecutive nod in Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for Showtime’s “Yellowjackets,” as well as a nomination for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series for Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann’s post-apocalyptic video game adaptation “The Last of Us” for HBO.

There are commonalities that exist in both characters. On “Yellowjackets,” Shauna is deeply traumatized by the plane crash and subsequent quest for survival she experienced when she was a teenager. She struggles without the tools to move past the 19 months in the wilderness that seem to define her, and on some level she’s OK with that.

Similarly, Kathleen on “The Last of Us” has been forged in the fires of a global fungal outbreak, forced to adapt and survive no matter what price she must pay. As a result, she rules her fiefdom with an iron fist.

As bleak as both roles and shows can be, Lynskey still finds joy where she can, relishing the rich experiences and relationships she’s been able to build.

“The actual experience of filming [“The Last of Us”] from beginning to end was amazing,” Lynskey said in an interview conducted ahead of the SAG-AFTRA strike. “And I probably cursed it because I was like, ‘Nothing has gone wrong. This has been a perfect experience.’ Everyone working for it is at the absolute top of their game, the costumes and the production design, Craig’s writing, the directing, the acting, Neil’s vision… I felt really lucky that Craig wrote this interesting, scary, tragic person for me to play. It was pretty amazing.”

Photographed by Jeff Vespa for TheWrap

Less amazing was some online reaction to her portrayal of Kathleen, which inexplicably focused much more on her appearance than her badass performance.

“Some dude wrote me a message and he was like, ‘Sorry, but getting the facts right is important and you just don’t look anything like the character in the game.’ I wanted to be like, ‘Sorry, getting the facts right is important? That character wasn’t in the f–king game,’” Lynskey said, exasperated.

This is not the first time the internet has declared open season on her appearance. How does she weather these inexplicable attacks? Unsurprisingly, with the patience of a saint.

“I just try to have compassion,” she said. “Sometimes I go to their pages and I look at them and I’m like, ‘You know what? This person is struggling. Life is really hard. Here he is with his kids. OK, this is humanizing this person who feels the need to tell me every day that he doesn’t like me.’”

One place the actress has found camaraderie is with her costars on “Yellowjackets.” “Everyone’s a very big personality, but I’m grateful that we have open communication with each other,” she said. “We’re all honest people, and we’re people who respect and love each other so much. It feels like we’re sisters.”

She added: “There’s never a dull moment. We’ll be in the green room and it’s alive all the time. At three o’clock in the morning when we’re all exhausted, there’s an energy between us that I’m so, so grateful for. It’s our creative energy, and we feel so lucky to be able to express in the show as well.”

Read more from the Down to the Wire: Drama and Limited Series issue here.

Illustration by Becki Gill for TheWrap

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