Melanie Lynskey: If more people looked like me on screen, I wouldn’t have to talk about it

The second season of Yellowjackets is approaching. It’s set to premiere March 26th. Melanie Lynskey got a full interview in the New York Times to promote it. Unfortunately, the interviewer seemingly spent more time researching adjectives for their piece than they did coming up with interesting questions for Melanie. It’s a decent primer to Melanie if you know absolutely nothing about her as it rehashes her career and the choices she made and how she sought more complex roles. And, of course, Melanie was asked about her weight and how that affects her as an actress and her characters. She gave a great response to question, though. Melanie said that if more people who looked like her were represented on film, she wouldn’t have to keep talking about it.

“I am a quiet person,” the actress Melanie Lynskey said. “I’m a shy person. I’m not a person with a big resonant voice or a big presence.”

Lynskey, 45, born on the west coast of New Zealand, entered the industry early and somewhat by chance. She had always loved acting, which offered her a reprieve from what she described as an acute self-consciousness. But she had only ever done plays at school or church when a casting director for Peter Jackson’s “Heavenly Creatures,” a 1994 film inspired by a lurid murder case, came to her high school.

Lynskey, who was 15 at the time, was cast opposite Kate Winslet, as a teenager who conspires to murder her own mother. She is thrilling in the role, with a scowl that burns through the celluloid and a dark, mordant energy. That predilection for women with turbulent inner lives, women who strain against social norms — it was there from the start.

For a long time, though, Hollywood ignored it. After finishing high school and trying college in New Zealand, Lynskey moved first to London and then, in 2000, to Los Angeles, where she spent a decade playing anodyne supporting roles in mainstream films (“Sweet Home Alabama,” “Coyote Ugly”) and the occasional indie (“Shattered Glass”). Casting agents and her own representation saw her as the sister, the stepsister, the friend and, rather more vividly, as Charlie Sheen’s erotomaniac neighbor in “Two and a Half Men.”

She was slender in those years, though not perhaps as slender as the industry prefers: The scripts she received were typically for “the fat friend or the jokey kind of fat person,” she recalled. “There was one thing I read where the person had a candy bar in every scene.”

Lynskey’s performances have been scrutinized on social media largely (and irrelevantly) because of her size, which remains smaller than that of the average American woman though greater than the Hollywood norm. Lynskey has complicated feelings about this.

“I very much want to be onscreen representing an interesting person who’s not paying attention to what her tummy looks like,” she said. But she is troubled by the misogyny, the callousness. And though she has an elegant way with a clapback, she wishes that her perfectly ordinary body wasn’t so unusual for prestige television.

“If there were more people who look like me, then I wouldn’t have to talk about it as much,” she said.

[From New York Times]

Melanie’s mission has been to appear on screen as a sexual being without having her character focused on their weight. That ties into her point here. For characters who place larger than a size 2-4, mainly women, generally at least a portion of the dialogue is spent discussing their weight in some way. Maybe a joke at their own expense or a wink to the audience, but they’re rarely allowed to exist unbothered. Melanie’s right, if they simply put a wider variety of faces and figures on screens, everyone would become accustomed to seeing it. It would start looking like the word around them – how novel.

I didn’t love season one of Yellowjackets – I liked it – but I did love the cast. However, the last episode hooked me, so I am looking forward to season two. I’m looking forward to the new characters too.

Jeffrey Mayer, Xavier Collin and JPI Studios/Avalon and Cover Images

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24 Responses to “Melanie Lynskey: If more people looked like me on screen, I wouldn’t have to talk about it”

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  1. Ang says:

    Hear hear!
    There should be something like the Bechtel test for regular looking women NOT discussing weight or looks in scripts. Or “carrying candy bars” in every scene. Ugh.

  2. hangonamin says:

    and here we are now where a diabetic drug is used so much for weight loss that diabetics can’t get their hands on them. sigh…
    i think we have to get more women in the industry: writers, directors, producers. bc men, unfortunately, focus primarily on a woman’s look and write characters they desire or want rather than the experiences of a real person.

  3. FHMom says:

    What has always irked me with Hollywood and the fashion industry is that there is no middle ground. There are millions of women and sizes between emaciated and obese. Why are we never represented? And I’m not shaming the very thin or the over weight. It’s just that many women are somewhere in between and feeling invisible.

    • Kitten says:

      I feel like the recent trend of online retailers featuring clothes shown on a variety of body types is a major step in the right direction. It’s also so helpful in terms of understanding how clothes will fit your body type–for those of us who aren’t 5’9″, 108 lbs…

  4. Jess says:

    That was a point made on 30 Rock when Jenna gained some weight – she either had to gain more or lose it all if she wanted to keep acting. And any time I read stories about the pressure to stay thin in Hollywood I think about Courtney Thorne Smith and Ally McBeal. CTS was (and still is) a gorgeous, slender actress but she said she quit Ally McBeal bc they wanted her to be even thinner. It was gross and I haven’t liked David Kelley since then.

    • JanetDR says:

      Melanie is such a lovely woman and she just shines on-screen! You can’t take your eyes off her.

    • Kitten says:

      I remember that well. The same thing happened on the 90210 reboot. All those young actresses–Grimes, Stroup, McCord, Lowndes–became rail-thin at the same time.

  5. Fernanda says:

    This whole narrative around Melanie baffles me. She is exceptionally pretty woman and it is beyond me why media always pushes this storyline. Just because she is not extra Holywood skinny? She is of normal weight ffs! And with an angelic face.

    • SarahCS says:

      I don’t know her as an actor but she looks like a normal (if very attractive) person based on these pictures. Good grief Hollywood is messed up.

  6. AB says:

    Whoa is that red dress photo from this year’s party? She looks fantastic 😍 and I want those sparkly shoes.

    The entertainment industry’s obsession with thinness (in women) is out of control and has been for a long time. It sucks especially for the message it sends to young people. If you ever see these celebs in person they are absolutely TINY. My tween daughter has recently grown out of girls-sized clothes and is now wearing women’s XS and double zeros. I can’t imagine the pressure trying to maintain that size as an adult when your natural body wants to and should be a larger size.

    As a parent I can now appreciate how my parents managed to instill a lot of self confidence in me so that I didn’t have body image issues as a teen. Hopefully I can do the same for my daughter but it seems so much harder in this day and age of social media.

  7. ariel says:

    I LOVED Yellowjackets (though, definitely not for everyone) in fact i have pulled up a subscription to showtime so i can re-watch season 1 before season 2 starts in a week (it streams on the 24th, on live tv on the 26th, which makes no sense to me).
    And holy crap that Yellowjackets cast- the current day cast with Lynskey, Christina Ricci and Juliette Lewis- amazing- and the young case in incredible too.

    I am 50, and i have loved Ms. Lynskey since i was her in the 90s in Heavenly Creatures- also an amazing movie (and also, not for everyone) but a fascinating story with amazing performances by Lynskey and Kate Winslet.

    I loved her in Two and a Half Men too- she stole every scene she was in. And yes, the comedy was basic- but it was funny. And she was terrific.

    She is in some great indies too. She makes great choices.

    And i’m tired of her having to talk about her [must be shamed b/c she is not “sample size”] body too. She is gorgeous.

  8. salmonpuff says:

    I have loved Melanie Lynskey for years and never thought anything about her shape until she gained fame and every interviewer started asking her how she dared exist in her body.

    The American entertainment industry is so homogenous that I often can’t tell individual characters apart. They all have the same hair, the same teeth, the same bodies. Every time I watch a British tv show I’m struck by how ordinary the people look — funny lumpy bodies, wonky teeth, quirky faces. It’s so refreshing and interesting to see a variety of people on screen, and I wish the American entertainment industry would give up its obsession with veneers, hair extensions and pin-thin bodies.

    • Lurker25 says:

      @salmonpuff, I thought the US entertainment industry was the worst. Until I finally paid attention to Instagram recently. Jesus, these Instagram social media influencers. Between plastic surgery/fillers and filters, they look EXACTLY the same. Just an endless scroll of white women with plumped up pouts, contour/chiselled cheekbones, same nose, same eyebrows… How do they even have the same *eyes*!?? Same expressions, poses, voices. Like a robot sex doll clone army. They make flipping channels or looking at a streamer like a wonderland of diversity.

      It’s disorienting that social media seems more fake that made up shoes about imaginary characters.

      • Maryscott OConnor says:

        One word: filters.

        Far more prevalent than fillers and surgery on social media – ANYONE can “tweak” their video images. And by choosing certain standard filters, they all end up looking alike.

  9. Mabs A'Mabbin says:

    I love her so much. She’s so stinking talented. We still have a long way to go as a society, and on some layers, yes, Hollywood and the media have to do better. You know, I had to get healthy or basically die lol, so I have and I am. Now friends and family members are concerned I’m looking thin. I swear to God, nothing ever goes without criticism.

  10. Mle428 says:

    I met her in LA a number of years ago. She’s stunning and so sweet. Yes, as she says in the interview, she also comes across as very shy. My roommate at the time was super jealous I met her because she was his dream girl.

  11. Grant says:

    How many times is she going to be asked about her physical appearance? Based on the questions, you’d think she was Quasimodo hiding out in the belltower. In reality, she’s a strikingly beautiful woman with a natural, attainable physique. NEXT.

  12. Jeannine says:

    What is she? Probably a size 8 or maybe 10? Ridiculous to focus on her size when she is so massively talented. I also adore her husband an love how he beams in every picture with her.

  13. Eggbert says:

    I think the few times I’ve ever seen a non-Size 2 female actress/character (in an American show or movie) exist without her weight being portrayed as negative or even mentioned once was Sookie from Gilmore Girls (Melissa McCarthy). She was just treated as any other character who had a life and personality and depth and got married and had kids. It was so refreshing yet sadly still an outlier some 20 years later.

    • Anners says:

      There are so few American movies and shows that have normal people. It’s why I think I prefer British tv – they hire the best person for the job and it’s okay that they’re not glossy, hollywood types. Once you get past the weirdness of not being generically thin/tanned/bright white teeth, it’s really refreshing. I watched Faraway recently on Netflix (German/Croatian film) and the two leads were attractive but in very accessible, normal ways. And the woman was allowed to be in her late 40s and still considered desirable! Far from a perfect film, but as an older, rounder woman I quite enjoyed it.

  14. LosFeliza says:

    I see Melanie around LA sometimes, and no one would ever think of her as “plus-sized” in person. She is very normal-sized (and gorgeous enough to make you do a double-take). I hate that she has to endure interviews like this but grateful that casting directors are casting her in material like The Last of Us in roles that shatter typecasting about how women should look. Anyway, I love Yellowjackets and I love that every single character is complex.

  15. WTF says:

    Something that I’ve noticed is that as much as hollywood is obsessed with large breasts, they seem to hate the body style that will most often have larger breasts. Bigger breasts make you look curvier (which reads heavier on screen), but somehow that is unacceptable. But it is crazy that someone with 6% body fat would have triple D’s. She doesn’t seem to be a particularly heavy woman, but her boobs (which are fab in that red dress) make her read heavier on screen.
    I get it. There is an unrealistic ideal beauty standard. But even the ideal is schizophrenic.