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“Yellowjackets” Star Samantha Hanratty Talks Misty, Fan Theories, and Being a “Bratty Disney Kid”

Teen Vogue logo Teen Vogue 1/17/2022 P. Claire Dodson

Long before Samantha Hanratty was the slightly unhinged, teenage outcast Misty in Showtime’s Yellowjackets, she was the Pringles girl.

If you were watching TV in 2004, you’ll feel the instant flash of nostalgia watching Samantha do Pringles ASMR in the wildly popular commercial she starred in. The clip was everywhere, turning her into a recognizable face on the street by age eight (even though in real life she was allergic to the chips). But Samantha (who goes by Sammi) loved it for a different reason: “It was airing at the same time as Survivor, which was sponsored by Pringles. So I’m watching my favorite show, and then I'd see my face come up.”

It’s almost too on the nose that her favorite show as a kid was Survivor, given her role in Yellowjackets. (Spoilers ahead for the finale.) The show is told in two timelines as it follows a high school soccer team stranded in the wilderness after a plane crash and the survivors as adults in their 40s, coping with lasting trauma from the experience. Misty is the team’s equipment manager, striving to fit in and never quite getting there. Her quest for belonging leads her to some interesting choices: destroying the plane’s location tracker, drugging the coach she has a crush on (twice), and possibly leading the charge toward cannibalism. Adult Misty, played by Christina Ricci in a perfect teen/adult matchup, seems to prefer outright murder, and is endlessly flattered when she’s asked to get rid of a body.

Sammi has a penchant for chaotic characters, Pringles girl notwithstanding. She’s had memorable turns on Shameless, The Vampire Diaries, Pushing Daisies, and How to Get Away with Murder. In 2005, she scammed Drake & Josh out of a foam finger. From 2006-2007, she had a recurring role on Suite Life of Zack and Cody as a hotel guest who hustles Zack out of $40 playing video games. “I had the biggest crush ever on both [Dylan and Cole Sprouse],” she says. “Ashley [Tisdale] was the person who introduced me to my best friend growing up. It was such a big part of my career, being that bratty Disney kid.”

Misty, however, is her first starring TV role. Yellowjackets filmed in Canada for almost six months, and it was the longest she’d ever been away from home — she lives in the Bay Area with her fiancé and also has a house in L.A., where she grew up the youngest of five siblings. Her past projects were filmed on a soundstage, but this was out in the wild. Add to that the physical transformation of Misty’s blond, curly wig, contacts, glasses, and nerdy outfits. She and Ricci commiserated in Interview magazine that once they got into hair, makeup, and wardrobe, they were literally treated differently, which she would talk to her therapist about. Some people, including the crew, were almost protective of her, she says, while others were more “dismissive.”

“It's funny because you don't think you're going to talk about something, and then somebody like Christina opens it up and you're like ‘Oh, is it okay for you to say this?’ But, yeah, I had a hard time with my anxiety onset,” she tells Teen Vogue. “For the first time in my life I got on medication for my anxiety because it was getting so bad, and when you're dressed up and not looking like yourself and not being treated how you normally would it can affect you in not the best of ways. I become more self conscious when I'm in my Misty gear.”

It was difficult to leave the anxiety — and wig and contact-induced tension headaches — behind when the work day ended, though it helped when she asked if she could be the one to remove the Misty gear, rather than a makeup artist or stylist. “There was something about me being the one to take it off at the end of the day,” she says, “and I mean this in the most polite way possible, but not being touched. Taking off the makeup and getting back to who I am.”

She’s been talking with her fiancé about her anxiety strategy for next season: making time for meditation before and after shooting, and taking time to work out her insecurities in therapy. “There should also, in my opinion, be an onset therapist for people, especially dealing with difficult content,” she says.

© Colin Bentley/Showtime © Paul Sarkis/Showtime

Sammi knows she tends to play a certain kind of character, but she sees Misty as deviating from that type, even though she brings her own brand of chaos and villainy to the characters’ lives. Teen Misty gets so excited. She’s always ready to cheer people on, even when they don’t want her around. She has a certain fearlessness.

“Those parts of her are really endearing,” she says. “I love all the parts where she's giddy about liking a boy, or asking those spirits like, ‘does he like me?’ … Now she does a lot of other things that aren't right. Like going in and trying to touch Ben, no, no, no, we don't do that, we also don't drug the boys to get them to like us.”

Fans have been delighted to discover that some iconic Misty moments were unscripted. When she puts her hand on Shauna’s stomach to feel her pregnancy and Shauna slaps it away with a “not right now,” that was all improv. Same for when Coach Ben asks who wants to slice open a deer and Misty’s hand shoots up. “There’s no way Misty would let an opportunity go where she could be the provider … the first thing that's going to hit her mind is like, how can I help but also, how can I insert myself in this really big news?” She used to be scared of stepping on toes, or being a guest star with too many opinions, so she’s glad the creators gave the cast room to have a voice and play around with the characters they know intimately.

And so we turn to season 2, with a season 1 finale that asks more questions than it answers. Sammi is on the subreddit “all the time,” so she knows all the fan theories. Could adult Misty actually be Jackie, somehow surviving her apparent fate? “I think that Ella [Purnell] and Christina do have a similar look, the big eyes and stuff. I can't totally cancel it out and ruin everybody's dreams, but…” Is adult Misty a serial killer, who started in the woods and never stopped? “I like that, I mean, why else would she have a room like that where she has Jessica? I could see it. I watch Dexter.” Is Misty still engaging in cannibalism? “We love that, what a healthy diet.” (Sammi would also like to note that the “meat” she eats as Misty is Beyond Meat, since she’s vegan.) Any wild theories of her own? “If she has Ben Scott somewhere that would be fun. Like if older Misty has Ben in a cabin. Sorry to Steven [Kreuger] for throwing that out there.”

At the end of the first season, we see Misty kneeling with Van and Lottie, seemingly praying to the tree stump. But don’t mistake her piety for a respect for the supernatural.

“I don’t think she buys what Lottie is spewing,” Sammi says. “I think she’s seeing an opportunity.”

© Kailey Schwerman/Showtime

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