It would not surprise me if Melanie Lynskey had deliberately matched her pale blouse to the pale curtains behind her, and her pale complexion, the better to blend into the background. After 30 years of critical acclaim, but not mainstream fame, Lynskey is getting noticed and it feels very, very strange to her. Her show, Yellowjackets, has steadily become a hit. Lynskey is not quite the lead in this ensemble piece, but near enough, as one of four fortysomething women who survived a plane crash as teenagers, and went through some savage stuff, involving murder and almost certainly cannibalism.
Likened to a mix of Lord of the Flies, Lost and Mean Girls, with a pleasing amount of 90s nostalgia, it has become one of the most talked-about shows of the moment. “It’s funny to be on something that people are watching,” Lynskey says with a laugh. “It’s a different experience.”
A concerned friend recently texted her to ask how she was dealing with that. “I said, I actually feel very nervous,” she says when we speak over Zoom (she is in Atlanta, where she is filming a crime drama with Jessica Biel). She is low-key and gentle. “It’s a lot easier to stay under the radar, have people be like, ‘You should get more attention, you should have more roles’ or whatever. It’s weird to have been doing this for 30 years and then all of a sudden …” She smiles. “I didn’t think this would happen. I thought if it was going to happen, it would happen in my 20s. So I’m grateful, and it’s really nice to have choices. But it feels vulnerable.”
Lynskey has worked a huge amount, in a career that might have lacked attention but not quality – she was in the HBO series Togetherness and the recent BBC drama Mrs America, and independent films such as Hello I Must be Going and I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore. I suspect this is how she likes it. She is wary of fame – until now, one of her most high-profile roles was as a stalkerish neighbour in the…