Melanie Lynskey: If more people looked like me on screen, I wouldn’t have to talk about it

The second season of Yellowjackets is approaching. It’s set to premiere March 26th. Melanie Lynskey got a full interview in the New York Times to promote it. Unfortunately, the interviewer seemingly spent more time researching adjectives for their piece than they did coming up with interesting questions for Melanie. It’s a decent primer to Melanie if you know absolutely nothing about her as it rehashes her career and the choices she made and how she sought more complex roles. And, of course, Melanie was asked about her weight and how that affects her as an actress and her characters. She gave a great response to question, though. Melanie said that if more people who looked like her were represented on film, she wouldn’t have to keep talking about it.

“I am a quiet person,” the actress Melanie Lynskey said. “I’m a shy person. I’m not a person with a big resonant voice or a big presence.”

Lynskey, 45, born on the west coast of New Zealand, entered the industry early and somewhat by chance. She had always loved acting, which offered her a reprieve from what she described as an acute self-consciousness. But she had only ever done plays at school or church when a casting director for Peter Jackson’s “Heavenly Creatures,” a 1994 film inspired by a lurid murder case, came to her high school.

Lynskey, who was 15 at the time, was cast opposite Kate Winslet, as a teenager who conspires to murder her own mother. She is thrilling in the role, with a scowl that burns through the celluloid and a dark, mordant energy. That predilection for women with turbulent inner lives, women who strain against social norms — it was there from the start.

For a long time, though, Hollywood ignored it. After finishing high school and trying college in New Zealand, Lynskey moved first to London and then, in 2000, to Los Angeles, where she spent a decade playing anodyne supporting roles in mainstream films (“Sweet Home Alabama,” “Coyote Ugly”) and the occasional indie (“Shattered Glass”). Casting agents and her own representation saw her as the sister, the stepsister, the friend and, rather more vividly, as Charlie Sheen’s erotomaniac neighbor in “Two and a Half Men.”

She was slender in those years, though not perhaps as slender as the industry prefers: The scripts she received were typically for “the fat friend or the jokey kind of fat person,” she recalled. “There was one thing I read where the person had a candy bar in every scene.”

Lynskey’s performances have been scrutinized on social media largely (and irrelevantly) because of her size, which remains smaller than that of the average American woman though greater than the Hollywood norm. Lynskey has complicated feelings about this.

“I very much want to be onscreen representing an interesting person who’s not paying attention to what her tummy looks like,” she said. But she is troubled by the misogyny, the callousness. And though she has an elegant way with a clapback, she wishes that her perfectly ordinary body wasn’t so unusual for prestige television.

“If there were more people who look like me, then I wouldn’t have to talk about it as much,” she said.

[From New York Times]

Melanie’s mission has been to appear on screen as a sexual being without having her character focused on their weight. That ties into her point here. For characters who place larger than a size 2-4, mainly women, generally at least a portion of the dialogue is spent discussing their weight in some way. Maybe a joke at their own expense or a wink to the audience, but they’re rarely allowed to exist unbothered. Melanie’s right, if they simply put a wider variety of faces and figures on screens, everyone would become accustomed to seeing it. It would start looking like the word around them – how novel.

I didn’t love season one of Yellowjackets – I liked it – but I did love the cast. However, the last episode hooked me, so I am looking forward to season two. I’m looking forward to the new characters too.

Jeffrey Mayer, Xavier Collin and JPI Studios/Avalon and Cover Images

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