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Though Melanie Lynskey and Christina Ricci are sharing the screen in Showtime’s critically acclaimed psychological drama “Yellowjackets,” there was a period of time early in their career where they were competing for the same roles in Hollywood.
During a new interview with Rolling Stone this week, Lynskey reflected on her career following her breakout role at 16-years-old in the 1994 movie “Heavenly Creatures.” After the premiere, Winslet’s fame skyrocketed when “Titanic” released three years later, while Lynskey’s effectively went back to normal.
“I was the person who was sort of just sitting there while everyone was excited about somebody prettier,” Lynskey said of Winslet. “She was very confident, she found it very easy to do interviews. And it was hard for me. I was so shy.”
“It just felt like (Kate) was somebody who knew how the world worked, and knew how to be a beautiful woman,” she added. “And I felt like, ‘I’m never gonna be that.’ She just felt magical to me.”
The actor graduated from high school and went to college for one year, studying film and television, but she remembers that time of her life being difficult.
“It’s hard to have a dream come true and do this thing that feels so special and amazing and then have to just go back to your pretty small town,” she said. “I felt like an impostor.”
Once Lynskey got an agent, they convinced her to send some tapes to casting directors in Hollywood. One of the first roles she ended up auditioning for was the 1996 cult classic “The Craft.” It was around this time when she began to audition for the same parts as Ricci. Now, she can laugh about, but their competition for roles typically ended with the same outcome, with Lynskey commenting, “though she usually got them.”
In the same interview, the 44-year-old actor recalled the enduring criticism she has faced as a woman in Hollywood regarding her body and sex appeal. She recalled the difficult audition process for "Ever After," explaining, “It was the mid-90s and there was a look that was popular and it wasn’t this chubby, dark-haired New Zealander.”
Lynskey struggled for years with the pressure to meet Hollywood’s standards. In a 2016 interview with People, the actor opened up about her body image issues, explaining, “I was losing my mind trying to conform to something that was not physically possible for me.”
“I was very unwell for a long time,” the "Don't Look Up" star said. “I had eating issues and at a certain point I was like, ‘I’m not going to survive’ — not like I was on death’s door or anything, but I was so unhappy and my hair was falling out.”
The actor was able to get to a point of acceptance, saying, “I was like, ‘I just need to look the way I’m supposed to look’ and have faith that people are going to want to put someone in a film or on a show who looks like this. I did have to truly become comfortable with myself, because you can’t fake it.”
Even still, it was an uphill battle for her to reach that point as she continued to receive a barrage of commentary in the media.
In 2012, she landed the leading role in the movie “Hello I Must Be Going,” wherein she portrayed a divorcée in her 30s who has a fling with a teenager, played by actor Christopher Abbott. After its release, criticism surfaced surrounding her character’s affair, with some saying she didn’t have enough “sexual gravitation transcending age” to attract Abbott’s character.
In the decade since, celebrities including Reese Witherspoon and Beanie Feldstein have spoken out against body-shaming, misogyny, and sexism in Hollywood, but these issues still exist today. There’s even been criticism online surrounding the plausibility of the affair that her character in “Yellowjackets,” Shauna, has with with a young, attractive artist named Adam, portrayed by Peter Gadiot.
“I’m just like, ‘Wow, really? That’s where people’s heads are at, that the most important thing is being thin or young?’” she said.
In addition to the online commentary, she faced body-shaming remarks during the filming of “Yellowjackets” made by a member of the show’s production team. She recalled their comments, saying, “They were asking me, ‘What do you plan to do? I’m sure the producers will get you a trainer. They’d love to help you with this.’”
Despite an unspoken competition decades prior, Ricci had her back, along with co-stars Tawny Cypress and Juliette Lewis. The three actors pooled their support for Lynskey, with Lewis even penning a letter to the producers on her co-stars behalf.
It's comments like this, though, that motivate her to shift this harmful perception in the industry.
“It was really important to me for (Shauna) to not ever comment on my body, to not have me putting a dress on and being like, ‘I wish I looked a bit better,’" she said. “I did find it important that this character is just comfortable and sexual and not thinking or talking about it, because I want women to be able to to watch it and be like, ‘Wow, she looks like me and nobody’s saying she’s the fat one.’ That representation is important.”