The ‘Yellowjackets’ Premiere Papa Roach Music Moment: The Inside Story

This is a preview of our pop culture newsletter The Daily Beast’s Obsessed, written by editor Kevin Fallon. To receive the full newsletter in your inbox each week, sign up for it here.

When given 60 seconds to speak with Melanie Lynskey—star of Yellowjackets, candid whistleblower about what Hollywood is really like for women, and beloved LGBT ally—how much of that time would you spend discussing Y2K-era hard rock band Papa Roach?

The indelible (and perhaps infamous) group is permanently stitched into the “cringe nostalgia” portion of the brain for those who spent their early teenage years wearing JNCO jeans with legs the circumference of overpass support pillars, pretending to enjoy music that amounted to a cacophony of construction sounds and tuneless screaming. (Just me?)

But during a drive-by encounter at the Yellowjackets Season 2 premiere red-carpet event on Wednesday, Lynskey didn’t wince at the mention of the band. Instead, her eyes actually lit up, as she started to nod her head in a groove motion, as if she were imagining listening to—and perhaps even liking—the song “Last Resort.”

The first episode of Season 2 of Yellowjackets is now available to stream and will debut linearly on Showtime Sunday night. The horror-thriller-drama-mystery series, a portrait of friendship, survival, and light cannibalism, returns in great form. Watching the premiere, I gasped twice, groaned in surprised disgust once, whispered, “Oh, that’s juicy…” after one reveal, and, in reaction to a particularly grotesque moment, reflexively blurted, “Oh my god, no, no, no, nope, absolutely not.”.

“It really delivers on the more gruesome elements. It’s shocking. I mean, the first couple of scripts, I audibly gasped a few times,” star Christina Ricci told me on the red carpet, which was actually—and appropriately—black. (The Daily Beast’s Obsessed produced the fan experience at the show’s world premiere in L.A. Our little baby is glowing up, y’all!)

But the moment in the episode that elicited the biggest reaction from me involved Papa Roach, in what might be the most unexpected and hilarious music needle drop in a TV episode that I’ve seen in a long time. I burst out laughing and started applauding. “It’s just so good,” Lynskey said, speaker of the truth, purveyor of unimpeachable opinion and endless wisdom.

This is the only thing I’ll spoil from the episode, and I promise it’s not a huge plot point—just a delightful one.

If you recall from the end of Season 1 (and, for the love of God and Antler Queens, stop reading if you didn’t), Shauna (Lynskey) revealed her affair with artist Adam (Peter Gadiot) to her husband Jeff (Warren Kole)—after she accidentally killed him. She and Jeff are now not so much in forgive-and-forget mode (Jeff had been blackmailing the other Yellowjackets survivors) as they are in “forgive-and-work-together-to-cover-up-this-murder” mode.

At first, Jeff seems to be OK and even relieved by this. But then, after a series of unexpected twists in their pursuit of destroying evidence, he is alone in his car. It seems like we’re going to glimpse his true, raw feelings about the gravity of what is happening in his life and his marriage. We start to wonder what moody, introspective ballad might accompany such an emotional moment, especially given Yellowjackets’ impeccable taste in music cues.

But no. “Cut my life into pieces,” the radio starts blaring. “This is my last resort.” It’s Papa Roach. Jeff isn’t going to be staring out a window and contemplating. He is losing his shit, thrashing around his car, banging on the dashboard, and just fully letting loose.

“We knew immediately it was going to be this song” that played in this scene, showrunner Jonathan Lisco told me. “We needed a way for him to expurgate all that rage. He’s obviously being very cool trying to get over the fact that Shauna had an affair, but we needed a very terse, intense way to show that he is not OK. That song popped into our minds right away because of that really intense, anthem-like quality of it.”

Perhaps more shocking than any moment in the Yellowjackets premiere itself was how few people on the red carpet were familiar with the song. “That’s my favorite moment from the first episode, but I actually didn’t know the song,” Kevin Alves, who plays plane crash survivor Travis, said. “Now it’s on my playlist.”

Even Kole, who plays Jeff, had never heard it. It was released in 2000, the same year he graduated college. “So use your imagination as to how that one was jarred out of my memory,” he laughed. He estimated that he listened to it about 50 times to figure out how he wanted to play the scene, which wasn’t exactly the most pleasant experience of his time working on Yellowjackets this season: “I hate it. Terrible song. A perfect song for the scene. But oh, I can’t stand it.”

The rest of the cast all had their own dream picks for which song from that era they’d want their characters to listen to during a cathartic rage/rock-out moment, similar to the one Jeff has. Tawny Cypress (Adult Taissa) is a massive Jane’s Addiction fan but “I don’t know if Taissa would be listening to that music,” she conceded. “So maybe some En Vogue.” Liv Hewson (Young Van) said, “I’m dying for a Fiona Apple needle drop on the show. That’s my wish upon a star.” Lauren Ambrose, who is joining the cast as Adult Van this season, said “something from the Hole canon,” a response that my colleague Coleman Spilde noted needs to become a meme immediately.

Lynskey almost made me do a spit take when she nonchalantly explained, “The only songs I feel [like rocking out to] are, like, hip-hop songs or rap songs. Sometimes if I’m mad, I will sing, “I Don’t Fuck With You.’” As I guffawed in shock at the song title, she gave a coy glance. “I don’t know if I can say that,” she said, before offering that it’s by Big Sean. Helpful! I will give it a stream!

But if the theme of this piece is “things that made me have a wild, full-body response,” a la the Papa Roach needle drop or Lynskey calmly saying the words “I don’t fuck with you” while inches from my face, then I must mention one answer from Ricci. She gave it when I asked how she feels about being outdoors in real life now, after appearing on this traumatizing show.

I’m going to paint the entire quote as a mural in my apartment. I’m going to create a series of throw pillows with these words on them. I’m going to print it onto business cards and hand them out to strangers and passerbys, hoping to enlighten and brighten their day. Here it is:

“I always feel strange going outdoors. I don’t like wind. I don’t like the sun. Wind makes me gag until I vomit. I prefer an indoor, controlled environment.”

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