This article references moments from “Yellowjackets” season 2 episode 8.
Dear Lord, I am offering up this prayer to you: thank you for keeping Courtney Eaton off the hamster wheel of diminishing returns that is mega-franchise fame. Hallelujah!
You may be aware that as of today, the hit Showtime series “Yellowjackets” has completed its second season. People died and people cried, and now we have to wait at least a year, though likely longer due to the refusal of the AMPTP to end the WGA writers’ strike, for a third season. So be it: solidarity with the writers! And anyway, there are two silver linings. One, the cast may be able to get a modicum of rest after what anyone who watched this past season knows must have been an intensely grueling shoot. Two, for the fans, there’s an Everest-sized mountain of interviews the extensive cast gave over the course of season 2’s run that we can all bide our time catching up with.
Take a recent conversation that Interview set up between Courtney Eaton, who plays teen Lottie, and Simone Kessell, who plays her adult counterpart. The finale left Eaton and Kessell’s Lotties on wildly divergent paths, with her teenage incarnation shifting out of the spiritual spotlight and hopefully buying herself some time to recuperate from the brutalizing events of season two. Kessell’s adult incarnation, however, is left spiraling into a void of paranoia and psychic dislocation. In the interview, the actresses got to catch up about their twin arcs, the jarring experience of watching scenes with completed CGI and ADR, and the roles that got away. One of Eaton’s constitutes a real sliding doors moment in the young actress’ career, one that, thank goodness, ended up diverting her away from the crumbling fount of franchise excess and toward Lottie, a role that any actor at the outset of their career would kill for.
‘I Had A Panic Attack In Front Of J. J. Abrams’
After Kessell described delivering a bang-on audition but failing to get a call back for M. Night Shyamalan’s “After Earth,” Eaton described her own “devastation.”
“I was up for the ‘Star Wars’ role that Daisy Ridley ended up doing,” she recounted. “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.”
Rey’s first appearance was in 2015’s “The Force Awakens,” meaning auditions must have occured in 2014, if not all the way back in 2013. That would have made Eaton around 17-18 years old, and by that time she only had one screen credit to her name. It was a strong one, though: Cheedo the Fragile, one of the enslaved wives of Immortan Joe in “Mad Max: Fury Road.” Eaton made a strong impression despite having few to no lines in the film, but you can only imagine the immense amount of pressure the young actress felt to nail an audition for what would be a life-altering role.
When Eaton’s agent called for a run down, she told them plainly, “‘I had a panic attack in front of J. J. Abrams. Maybe it worked for the scene, maybe it didn’t.'” It was an experience that will “forever haunt” Eaton, but it’s even more haunting to consider what “Yellowjackets” would be without her commanding and ethereal performance at its core. We never wish for the actors we love to fail. But just this one time, Eaton’s famous flop might have been for the best.
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