Sunday, December 26, 2021
Elissa Nadworny speaks with Ashley Lyle and Bart Nickerson, creators of the new show about a girls soccer team whose plane crashes en route to a tournament – stranding the teens in the wilderness.
ELISSA NADWORNY, HOST:
Teenage girlhood can be an intense experience for many – a time filled with ups and downs and hard lessons to be learned about yourself and your friends. A new TV series from Showtime takes that thought to a dramatic extreme. The show is called “Yellowjackets,” and it tells the story of a girls soccer team from New Jersey whose plane crashes en route to a tournament, stranding the teens in the wilderness for months.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, “YELLOWJACKETS”)
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character) We are surrounded by hundreds of miles of wilderness.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As character) How do you know that for sure? What if there’s, like, a town or an outpost or something closer than we think? It’s not like we’re on an island. If we head south long enough…
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character) Tai, Tai, you go tearing off into the woods, how the [expletive] are you going to survive?
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As character) I don’t know. But I know what’ll happen if we stay.
NADWORNY: The story is told in two timelines – one in 1996, the time of the crash, and another in the present day, where we get to meet the girls, now women, as they continue to deal with the trauma of what happened to them out there in the woods. It’s equal parts survival tale, unsettling psychological thriller and coming-of-age story that explores the way pieces of our past can continue to shape our present. The show was created by husband and wife writing team Ashley Lyle and Bart Nickerson, and they join us now to tell us more.
Ashley Lyle, Bart Nickerson, welcome to the program.
BART NICKERSON: Yeah, hi. Yeah, thanks so much.
ASHLEY LYLE: Thank you for having us.
NADWORNY: A long intro, but now we get to get to the good stuff. I wonder, what inspired you to create and write this series together?
LYLE: Well, we do pretty much everything together (laughter). So we spend just an absolutely ridiculous, slightly obscene amount of time together as both, you know, life partners and writing partners. And, you know, we are constantly throwing ideas back and forth at each other, and this was one of them. It started from a really simple place of a what if with, you know, a sports team and a plane crash, and it just sort of spiraled for us creatively, I’d say.
NADWORNY: Yeah, do you remember that, Bart, like, the seeds of it?
NICKERSON: Yeah. I mean, I think the seeds were actually just the idea of a girls sports team sort of getting lost or trapped in kind of the woods, I think was, like, the first germ of the idea. And then that just kind of sat for a while. And then I think it pretty quickly, I think, sort of, like – the idea of, like, kind of cannibalism, them having to resort to cannibalism kind of came up. And then I think two timelines came after that. So yeah, it was just an idea that had some gravity, and then more sort of, like, mass in the form of ideas was added to it. And then it just became this thing that was like, oh, like, it’s a big, living thing now.
NADWORNY: So the show has been compared to the “Lord Of The Flies.” And, also, there was “Alive,” that real-life story in South America about members of a rugby team who survived a plane crash in the Andes. I wonder, were you guys inspired by those stories when you started to write?
LYLE: Absolutely. I mean, I think both of those were pretty formative for me. I very much remember watching the – I think it was a remake of “Lord Of The Flies.” I know that Balthazar Getty was in it because I had a crush on him at the time. And I’m 100% dating myself. And same – very similar story with “Alive.” I like to say that my best friend, Alison (ph), and I in middle school, we – I guess we were probably close to eighth grade at that point when “Alive” came out. And similarly, Ethan Hawke was very much on our radar. And we convinced Mrs. Denny (ph), our social studies teacher – we had a 15-minute sort of study period every day, and we convinced her to let us watch the movie “Alive” in 15-minute increments because we argued that it was educational (laughter). So we 100% just watched the movie “Alive” 15 minutes at a time in the eighth grade.
NADWORNY: (Laughter) and then what about the kind of, like, switch? Because those are all men. This is women. These are girls.
LYLE: This is. And we just felt like that story had been told and told really well from a fictional standpoint and told, you know, in a really fascinating and sort of upsetting way in terms of the real-life story. And, you know, it just occurred to us that, particularly when it comes to “Lord Of The Flies,” you know, there’s this sort of famous golden quote about how it would never happen with women. And it was clearly in the quote meant to be some sort of compliment to (laughter) the female gender. But, you know, I take some issue with that and, you know, the idea of socialization and what happens when that falls away. It just occurred to us that it’s a really fascinating question, insomuch as you know, women are socialized, arguably, even more so than men in a very specific way. And having grown up as a teenage girl in the ’90s, you know, from my point of view, I was like, that will get very dark, but in a very different way, I think. And so it felt like a new story to be told.
NADWORNY: What were you hoping the audience would take away from the first season? Did you have an idea when you went into it?
NICKERSON: I – go ahead, Ash.
LYLE: You know, I’m curious what you have to say.
NICKERSON: Oh, OK. Well, yeah, like, because – so I was trying to stall.
NICKERSON: And I thought I heard you take in a breath. So I was like, OK, great; go, go. But yeah, it was kind of early on, I was talking to somebody who had read the script. And we were talking to them about the script, like, a couple of days later. And they said, you know, just, like, at some point we’re talking, and were like, you know, since I read your script, I’ve had these, like, really weird and vivid dreams. And I think that – like, I think that one of our grand kind of aspirations is, like, just to get something cooking deep in, like, the recesses of, like, the audience’s sort of psyche – like, just to sort of create this moving and engrossing experience that feels exciting and terrifying and just, like, really compelling, if that makes sense.
NADWORNY: It’s dark, but it does make sense (laughter).
NICKERSON: But they could be good dreams, too.
LYLE: (Laughter) I don’t know that we’re inspiring a lot of good dreams with this show.
NICKERSON: You wait.
LYLE: I think similarly, there’s certainly a lot of answers that I or we could give about themes – you know, obviously friendship, female friendship, female anger and rage, you know, trauma. There are all sorts of themes that we’re exploring with the show. But in terms of a takeaway, my honest to God, No. 1 hope is that people just enjoy watching it, that they’re entertained and have fun. And that might be a strange thing to say about a show that is fairly dark. But what I hope people take away is that they just enjoy watching it, and it gives them a little bit of an escape from, you know, the sometimes slightly grim world that we’re living in now.
NADWORNY: Well, we’ve been speaking with Ashley Lyle and Bart Nickerson, co-creators of “Yellowjackets,” which is airing weekly on Showtime right now. Ashley Lyle, Bart Nickerson, thank you so much for being with us.
LYLE: Thank you. This has been…
NICKERSON: Yeah, thanks so much. It was so much fun.
LYLE: …So much fun. Jinx (laughter).
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, “GLORY BOX”)
PORTISHEAD: (Singing) I’m so tired of playing, playing with this bow and arrow. Going to give my heart away, leave it to the other girls to play. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.
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