Acting Out Cannibalism Made The Yellowjackets Cast Throw Up

This post contains spoilers for "Yellowjackets."

I can't do cannibalism in movies or TV shows. I'm okay with the goriest horror movies, but as soon as people start chowing down on one another, I'm out. As a result, I initially gave "Yellowjackets" a wide berth until curiosity won over and I took the plunge to see what all the fuss was about.

Season 1 of the extremely watchable survival horror series became Showtime's second most-streamed TV show in the network's history after "Dexter: New Blood," proving that many viewers' fascination with the dark and macabre is evergreen. The show doesn't hold back on revealing that cannibalism will be involved, dangling that as grisly bait during the opening minutes of its premiere episode.

The show's creators, Ashley Lyle and Bart Nickerson, wisely postponed the act itself until early in the second season, by which point they had already hooked millions of viewers with a gripping and doom-laden tale of a girls' soccer team lost in the wilderness after a plane crash. There are times when they're trying to keep too many balls in the air, flipping back and forth between the past and present, dumping the teens in a dire situation that inevitably recalls "Alive" and "Lord of the Flies," and also adding potential supernatural elements and a present-day murder mystery.

The show stays on the right side of exploitation by investing in the character dynamics and developing relationships that feel authentically messy and riven with grudges, regret, and conflict. Best of all, it's great to see '90s stars Juliette Lewis, Christina Ricci, and Melanie Lynskey in juicy roles, well-matched by their teen counterparts. When the moment finally comes, it is horrific but not as graphic as it might have been. But I can still feel sympathy for the actors who almost lost their lunch playing out those scenes.

The cannibalism scene in Yellowjackets

The survival portion of "Yellowjackets" begins in 1996 when the titular girls' soccer team board a private flight from New Jersey to take part in a national tournament. The plane crashes in the Canadian wilderness and the surviving passengers take stock of their situation: with no sign of a rescue party and low on food and water, they discover a nearby lake and a spooky old cabin where they can hole up until help arrives. The problem is that mousy misfit Misty (Sammi Hanratty), feeling needed for the first time in her life thanks to her first aid skills, decides to extend their stay in the woods by destroying the plane's black box.

The rest of the principal characters are economically established. There is the fiercely driven team captain Taissa (Jasmin Savoy Brown); high school golden girl Jackie (Ella Purnell) and her sensible best friend Shauna (Sophie Nelisse); and moody goth Natalie (Sophie Thatcher) and her love interest Travis (Kevin Alves), the coach's eldest son who fatefully went along for the ride. Several more side characters are gradually developed as the first season unfolds, most crucially Lottie (Courtney Eaton), a girl dealing with mental health problems whose influence grows with her witchy prophecies as the situation becomes increasingly desperate.

Things come to a head after Jackie sleeps with Travis and the rest of the girls turn feral when they are accidentally spiked by Misty's stash of shrooms. After a bitter argument with Shauna, Jackie decides to sleep outside as the snow sets in and freezes to death overnight. An attempt to cremate her goes wrong when a quirk of fate — or a dark supernatural force — results in her corpse getting roasted instead of incinerated. Facing starvation and with the smell of freshly cooked forbidden meat in their nostrils, the team surrounds the body and starts tucking in.


The creators of "Yellowjackets" put a lot of thought into how they would present the cannibalism scene, what it meant for the characters and themes of the show, and did their homework on whether a corpse might actually roast that way if covered in fallen snow. Jonathan Lisco, the co-showrunner, joked (via Vulture):

"We're probably all going to get arrested at some point for the research that we do: 'How do you cook a body?'"

The cast tried to keep a sense of humor about the scene they were about to enact, but it came as quite a shock when they were confronted with the corpse dummy created by the show's props and arts departments.

"They're just totally stunned. Here's this dummy, she's got the perfect biometric face of Jackie, but there were these big crevices and fissures. Then our guy comes over who made the Jackie-fruit, which we called it, because it was made of jackfruit, paprika, maple syrup, some smoke flavors, salt, and pepper."

As a finishing touch, the crispy skin was made from rice paper that was soaked and dried out in an air fryer. Thoughtfully, the recipe for Jackie's innards was created so even vegan cast members could get in on the feast, with spittoons also provided for those who didn't want to swallow the concoction. "It tasted pretty good," Lisco added, contradicting Jasmin Savoy Brown's opinion. Maybe that was easy for him to say; he didn't have to get in the headspace of a character about to eat one of her friends.

They're going to have to decide who they are

As upsetting as the scene is, it could have been much worse. Brown revealed that there was some far more graphic footage shot, including a moment when Taissa picks up Jackie's head and munches on her cheek (via Pop Sugar). Season 2 got the show's first cannibalism scene out of the way pretty early, but Lisco has teased that there are even more taboo-busting activities for the survivors still to come (via Vulture):

"One of the things about the season that we're very excited about is this is the least transgressive thing that they may do. Their choices are going to get more morally ambiguous as the season progresses, and they're going to have to decide who they are and integrate their worst impulses into themselves."

The cannibalism scenes made the Yellowjackets cast puke

Ashley Lyle and Bart Nickerson, the creators of "Yellowjackets," cite two influences: "Alive," which recounted the 1972 Andes flight disaster when the survivors resorted to eating the flesh of the deceased until rescue came, and the haunting tale of the Donner Party, the U.S. pioneers who purportedly turned to cannibalism when they became snowbound in the Sierra Nevada mountains in 1846. They explained (via Forbes):

"Cannibalism is revolting and we have a moral aversion to it. It represents the complete deconstruction of society. We all agree there isn't anything more taboo. It's the most extreme distillation of everything that it is to be a human being."

The taboo nature of cannibalism has made it a horror subgenre, from video nasties like "Cannibal Holocaust" to the multi-Oscar-winning "The Silence of the Lambs." As such, it is perhaps no surprise that "Yellowjackets" has proven so popular. Jasmin Savoy Brown described acting in the scene when the team finally succumbs to their hunger (via Pop Sugar):

"It was gross. People were throwing up. People were retching. Someone might've cried. [...] There's really not much you can do to make any of that stuff more appealing because when you're in the scene, if you're really in character, you're thinking you are eating a human."

We're spared much of the detail as we cut away from the ghoulish feast to a hokey fantasy sequence where the team dines on a lavish banquet. It's harrowing but thankfully restrained, but, with the promise of more cannibal action as the survivors split into factions and start hunting each other, is it just a starter before a more shocking main course to come?

"Yellowjackets" airs on Showtime and is streaming on Paramount+.