Zendaya’s ‘Euphoria’ Emmy Win Could Help Cast Young ‘Yellow Vests’

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Zendaya made history in 2020 when, at 24, the ‘Euphoria’ star became the youngest actress to win the Emmy for Lead Actress in a Drama for her role in the first season of the drama. HBO show. The win was a much-celebrated upset that proved acclaim for a teen-centric show is possible when on rare occasions it breaks through to older audiences.

While “Euphoria” is still in the game, Showtime’s “Yellowjackets” have also made their way into the awards conversation, and about 50% of that is due to the show’s young stars.

“‘Yellowjackets’ is so unique in that it shows how complicated and messy humans are, not to mention teenagers,” says Samantha Hanratty, who plays the current version of the character Misty vs. Christina Ricci in the survival thriller. “We already have so much to do, and then you add a plane crash and survival element to it, and then it becomes, who can people trust? And when you don’t have anyone to trust, all you have to do is find your own voice. Basically, these girls need to figure out who they are in the midst of chaos and puberty.

Along with Hanratty’s Misty and Ella Purnell’s Jackie, the ’90s cast of “Yellowjackets” is led by Sophie Nélisse (teenage Shauna), Jasmin Savoy Brown (teenage Taissa) and Sophie Thatcher (teenage Natalie), who play the youngest , lost-in-kind counterparts of Melanie Lynskey, Tawny Cypress, and Juliette Lewis, respectively, the surviving characters trying to come to terms with their past trauma in the present.

“We’re definitely more of an adult network, but we have young women watching many of our shows,” Showtime President Gary Levine said. “In a sense, if we build it, they come. And as a premium cable network and now also streaming, we have the ability to truly plumb the depths of the human experience and do it honestly, never for free. And I think an honest exploration of the connections between these young women, the competition between these young women and the reality of a fight for survival in the wild, just explores a really interesting human dynamic. And I’m not at all afraid of young people watching it.

But some people in the TV industry are, and further assume that if a show focuses on teenage stories, it will be unable to strike the same artistic chord as more “adult” content.

“Ashley and I started writing in a teen space,” says Bart Nickerson, who co-created “Yellowjackets” with Ashley Lyle and presents the series with Lyle and Jonathan Lisco. “Our early writing work was on things that would be considered a ‘young adult’ series. And there was always this question we were asked at town hall meetings and such, ‘Have you ever considered? write for adults?’ I don’t think it was meant to be condescending, but it was almost like, ‘Have you ever considered doing anything big?’ We’ve never really seen writing about young people like this thing that’s instantly less meaningful.

Lyle has found that shows that are “young adult in quotes” will generally have a more female audience.

“They tend to focus often on romance – young love and things of that nature. And they’re immediately categorized as something that’s narratively or thematically less than. At the same time, I think there’s a distinction between shows that are aimed at teenagers and shows that are about teenagers,” she says. “There are points of inspiration for us, things like ‘The Virgin Suicides’, a film and a book that speaks a lot about teenage girls and certainly not for a younger audience. We’ve always longed for this show to be more like that. It’s a show about teenage girls and it’s just because it’s about those women who are our main characters and those different times in their lives.

Nickerson adds, “I wonder if some of that is in things like ‘The Virgin Suicides’, ‘The Bell Jar’ and ‘Catcher in the Rye’, the lens through which they view these younger stories. You still feel like the narrator, very openly in “The Virgin Suicides,” is in his forties and looking back. Sylvia Plath was in her thirties when she wrote “The Bell Jar”. There is a retrospective weariness in the narration. So I’m wondering if that’s also part of it, if there’s a way to write teenage characters where it’s almost as if the narrator is also from the same period, which can be really cool. But as far as critics who respect it, or even audiences who respect it, they seem to be more comfortable dealing with something so important when there’s a retrospective quality in the middle or later in the life.

Thatcher saw the importance of this flashback nature of “yellow vests” in her interactions with older fans.

“You think younger stories only appeal to younger audiences, but that’s totally wrong,” she says. “And because it’s set at two different times, I think it has such a large audience. And I have a lot of people coming up to me and saying, ‘I was you in high school.’ You don’t don’t know what that means to me because you don’t see it much on TV. [my character of] Natalie is such a strong feeling and that’s what I want to keep doing. My sole purpose in this work is for people to find comfort and feel less alone and see themselves in character and make connections like that.

A particularly poignant but grounded scene for the survival drama with cannibalistic flair and hinted supernatural elements is when teenage Taissa helps teenage Shauna attempt an abortion in the wild. For Brown and Nélisse, it’s those uncomfortable, emotional moments — the ones that treat the teenage story with as much gravity and weight as the adult plot — that make “Yellowjackets” a groundbreaking show not just for the space. youth, but for all series.

“There may be certain tropes, for lack of a better word, that these characters fall into,” Brown says. “Laura Lee [Jane Widdop] is the Christian, and Taissa is the concentrate. But within those tropes, they’re blasted and explored with such clever dialogue and masterful character development. This doesn’t necessarily happen on teen dramas because the stereotypes, quote teen dramas, just want to move, move, move and continue the story. The “yellow vests” aren’t afraid to sit in silences and awkward moments – to sit and watch someone have an abortion instead of just talking about it.

Nélisse says she sees the show taking significant risks there. “But I think that’s what people need. They need to see reality and they don’t need to see anything that’s sugar coated or embellished or pretty, because that’s just not life. And that’s the beauty of life is that sometimes it sucks. And so, we have to show those uglier sides of reality so people feel connected to the stories. I think that’s the strength of Showtime and HBO is that they’re not afraid to show the ugliness of it all. And that’s why it’s working so well right now.

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