Jasmin Savoy Brown is bossing it.
When we speak, the actor’s latest film, Scream – in which she plays arch and knowing high-schooler Mindy – is top of the American box office. The fifth instalment in the long-running horror franchise reached the summit by dethroning the previously all-conquering Spider-Man: No Way Home, which had scored a billion dollars in only 12 days.
Simultaneously, the 27-year-old Californian is also front-and-centre in The TV Show That Everyone is Talking About: Yellowjackets. Brown plays the younger Taissa, a member of the high school football team that crash in a remote Canadian forest in 1996. In adulthood, the character (now played by Tawny Cypress) is a politician running for the New Jersey state senate. Unfortunately, in terms of the traumatic after-effects of being stranded as a teenager in the woods for 19 months, a late-night dirt-eating habit is the least of grown-up Taissa’s worries.
The finale of Yellowjackets was jaw-dropping – for once, the adjective is literally accurate – and broadcast two days before our interview. Brown, like the rest of us, is still in shock. But first…
Do you like scary movies?
I wasn’t allowed to see a lot of PG-13 or R‑rated movies when I was younger. So I missed the [scary movie] train. I didn’t know what Scream was when I auditioned.
Scream just brought Spider-Man crashing to earth, and the climax of Yellowjackets is pretty much the only thing people are talking about. Forgive the lame question but: how does it feel to star in both those?
It feels great! Pretty nuts! It’s good timing for me, I’ll say. It also feels like I don’t know yet. I had a Covid exposure, so I’ve been inside for eight days. So everything’s just been unfolding for me online – but people are being great online. But there is a bit of a disconnect.
The new Scream is its own meta-verse, a Russian doll of narratives, with a film within a film about previous films, and knowing discourse by the characters about the importance of franchise fan-service and “requels” (a reboot that’s also a sequel). What was it like reading the script when there are so many layers to it?
It was so fun. It reads similar to how it is on screen, just a page-turner. I genuinely was shocked when the killer was revealed, because we each had been given different scripts with different endings. So the version that’s on screen is not the version that I originally read. When that twist was revealed, I gasped! And I think that they executed it excellently.
So when all of the cast were reading their individual scripts, could each of you theoretically have been the killer?
Yeah, there were versions where each person was the killer. [But] it’s fun to be the killer! It’s also fun getting an epic death, and it’s also fun surviving. Really, in the Scream movies, no matter the outcome, you win.
How was it acting with the OGs – Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox, David Arquette – from the original films?
A dream. Each of them are so kind and generous and funny, and they welcomed us into the group with open arms. David taught us all how to paint in the style of Bob Ross – he bought each of us a painting kit and led us in a workshop. Courtney had us to her place to do karaoke. And Neve had us to her place to play cards. And we all made dinner. It was a family.
When you have experienced actors like that onset, does it make you want to reach that bit higher?
For sure. I want to impress them. I want them to be proud that I’m in their movie. I’m watching them to see if I can learn anything from them. But even actors younger than me [were impressive], like Jenna Ortega – I really think that she is brilliant. She is one of the most important actresses of her generation, and this year is going to be the Jenna Ortega takeover. I learned a lot from her.
Her scene in the hospital, where everyone comes checking on her and then her sister Sam [Melissa Barrera] shows up – that was the first scene we all shot as a group. And every take, this girl would be like, “hee hee hee” and goofing off. And then they say action and she’s bawling! And I’m like: how is she doing that? Like, sometimes I need a minute to get myself there. Jenna never needed even a second. She’s brilliant, and I learned a lot from her. I think the casting of her as Wednesday Adams [in Tim Burton’s upcoming Netflix series] is genius.
Why, 12 years after Scream 4, has this Scream struck such a chord with moviegoers, particularly younger ones?
For a few reasons. One, the diversity in casting. Our cast is more of an accurate representation of a modern group of teenagers than what we’re used to seeing right now, and [compared to] what we have seen. That’s diversity including race, of course, but also sexuality, like Mindy being a queer woman of colour.
I also think that in the modern-day, everyone is into nostalgia culture – I’m also on a TV show that’s set in the ’90s. Everyone loves the ’90s for some reason, and I think the combo of all of that makes the younger generation interested in these films.
Thanks for the segue. So, Yellowjackets. What a finale! [LAZARUS-ESQUE CHARACTER NAME REDACTED] is alive! Unbelievable!
I will never forget when I read that in the script. I think I threw it [across the room], and I screamed, just like people watching it! Craziest reveal ever.
And also the reveal for adult Taissa, that she has made a sacrifice of [VICTIM NAME REDACTED] so she can [SHOCKING ACHIEVEMENT REDACTED]. Did you see that coming?
No. And it’s interesting seeing theories, because a lot of people online are saying: “Taissa’s possessed”. I don’t think she’s possessed. I think it’s a sleepwalking stress situation. But, I mean, maybe she is possessed. And then also I read all these theories on Reddit last night about how maybe [scary neek] Misty is part of the cult. Or maybe [dubious loverboy] Adam and [political fixer] Jessica Roberts were part of the cult. Or that Taissa is part of the cult. Stuff that would never have crossed my mind. So I am so excited to get to shooting season two. I need to read these scripts.
How challenging is it for you playing the younger iteration of Taissa, knowing where, in adulthood 25 years later, the character ends up?
That’s more on Tawny, because I am playing her backstory. Basically, every decision I make, she has to base her work on me. So in that sense, I get the easier half of the job! But we talk about smaller things, like making sure we say certain words the same. I called her on set once and said: “Do we say ei-ther? Or do we say ee-ther?” Stuff like that that I think ties the character together. Or our dirt-eating situation – we made sure to practice and have a similar stance. But otherwise, nah, I just do me.
One of the big fan theories is that there’s a supernatural element to the show. Do you think there is?
Yeah, I think there has to be. Because otherwise, it just doesn’t make sense to me, with the behaviour of the animals, like the bear. I don’t think a regular animal would do that. Or the lack of animals in the area, even in the summer. Why weren’t they able to catch more food? There has to be something supernatural going on.
We talked to Ella Purnell (who plays Jackie) last week. She said that on your first day onset, you had to shoot the gentle introductory scenes of… the plane crash.
Oh, yeah, nothing crazy! But honestly, I think it was a gift because we had no choice but to surrender to the insanity and give it our all to something so intense. That set the tone for how we all, as a cast, approached our work for the rest of the season. We had seen each other screaming and crying and bruised and bloody. So then the rest of the season, we just went to a hundred.
Up until the last 10 minutes of the series, Jackie was perhaps the character that viewers loved to hate the most. But I think in the last five minutes, Taissa might have edged it. Do you like the prospect of being a badass in season two?
Oh, hell yes! I would love to. I love being a badass. That’s shits fun.
Do you have any personal feelings or thoughts about how season two is gonna pan out?
Literally no. I mean, I can see what happens with Jackie being the catalyst for, “Hey should we start eating our friends? Because we need food and outside is a freezer.” But that’s really all I got for you. I have no idea. It’s going to be winter. What are they going to do? How are they going to survive the winter? Oh God, it’s going to be so cold when we shoot.
On the podcast that the Yellowjackets showrunners did with The Hollywood Reporter, they seemed to intimate that Jackie is going to be back in season two.
See, I’ve heard this. I don’t know what the hell that means. Flashbacks perhaps? Maybe she’s haunting [former BF] Shauna? When I said that, I meant younger Shauna, but maybe she haunts older Shauna more – because we already saw Jackie at the rave, when she thought [Shauna’s daughter] Callie was Shauna. Who knows?
Do you have any sense of when you’re starting filming?
I think it’ll have to be May, June, simply because I read that Showtime wants Yellowjackets to come out at the same time this year, which would be November.
Similar lame-ass question to the Scream question: why do you think that Yellowjackets has become such a phenomenon, especially on social media?
It’s very meme-able! So it works for the internet. And, people are hungry for female-led, female-driven content – and especially female-driven content that is a reflection of reality. And by that, of course, I don’t mean bears sacrificing themselves for them to eat. I mean: women and girls are multifaceted, and there are ugly and brutal sides. And we don’t explore that very often.
Then there’s also a dark sense of humour attached to it. I think Gen Z in particular has a very dark sense of humour! And, again, the ’90s nostalgia, and great music. We have the same music supervising team as Euphoria. So the soundtrack to Yellowjackets is killer.
Was there music playing onset to help you get into the ’90s vibe?
The whole younger cast, we’re all very musically inclined. Most of us made a playlist for ourselves. But also, I brought my guitar to set when we were shooting the plane crash scenes. Sometimes as we waited for setups around the fire, we would take turns playing and singing. We really love Nightshift by Lucy Dacus, so we listened to that a lot.
Did you make a Taissa-specific playlist?
I did. The songs are not going to be what you’d expect. They were more to get me in the zone. I have Soko, Kiah Victoria, Joanna Samuels, Cautious Clay, Yana Perrault, Hayley Williams, Wye Oak – a bunch of moodier songs that, again, I don’t think reflect Taissa, but helped me get in her headspace if that makes sense.
It does, thanks. [And, readers, you can listen to Jasmin’s playlist, which she generously shared with us, below, at the end of our interview.] Ella told me a secret from the set, which was that when you were eating the first deer – not the maggoty deer – that was actually “old squishy tofu slathered in hot sauce”…
It was for them. For me and Sammi [Hanratty, who plays young Misty] it was Beyond Meat because we don’t eat soy. So we got the better deal!
Any other secrets from the set? For example, in the Doomcoming episode, when you were all tripping balls on mushrooms, were there any tricks you guys had to get into that zone?
Oh, I think that we’ve all done mushrooms! We just knew exactly what to do. A couple of us had done mushrooms the weekend before, you know I mean? They’re legal in Canada. So you can just go buy mushrooms like you’re going to the grocery store. So we practised! We weren’t high on the day, but I was high the day before.
Scream is in cinemas now. And Yellowjackets is still on NOW TV. What you waiting for?
Listen to Jasmin Savoy Brown’s playlist for THE FACE: