"Welcome aboard the train," Jasmin Savoy Brown told TODAY via Zoom.
That train the 27-year-old actor is referring to is "Yellowjackets," the buzzy Showtime thriller that everyone can't stop talking about. Centered on a girl's soccer team deserted in a remote wilderness in the mid-'90s, the new series follows them then and now on how they handle the trauma of such a harrowing experience and the ripple effects that possibly include cannibalism. Yes, you read right: cannibalism
"It's been quite an experience ... nice and bizarre," Brown — who plays younger Taissa — told TODAY of the show's success and its impact on her.
"We shot the pilot in 2019 in literally a different world. Then we shot over COVID and were in a bubble because the borders were closed up in Canada. So we didn’t even have visitors. Normally you have friends and you bring them to set and it already feels living and breathing but it really felt like it was our little secret because no one could come to set."
Well, that secret is out.
With the finale set to air Sunday, Jan. 16, on Showtime, "Yellowjackets" has been renewed for a second season and has firmly placed itself in pop culture with fan theories abounding on Twitter. As the show has developed a fervent, cultlike following, viral memes are being made left and right of its main stars, who also include Juliette Lewis, Christina Ricci, Tawny Cypress (older Taissa) and Melanie Lynskey.
Premiering in mid-November 2021, the show caught on a few weeks later around the holidays, maybe because with a new COVID surge people found themselves stuck inside desperately seeking something bingeworthy. They found "Yellowjackets."
“Everyone’s like, 'I’m sure your phone’s getting blown up right now so I don’t want to bother you,'” Brown explained. “No, actually ... not that many people text me because they don’t want to bother me. I really want them to text me because I like knowing! So that’s why I started engaging a little more online, because I love reading the fan theories. People will come up with things that I've never even thought of, or they’ll point things out that I would’ve never noticed. So many little details people pointed out that I completely missed.”
Brown revealed that the show was a slow-burn even with the cast because initially many of them didn't like it when they first watched the first few episodes.
"Things get cut, things get left on the editing room floor. It’s the first season so we’re still finding the tone," she explained. "I think for most of us — and sorry to the writers and editors — but for most of us, when we saw the first episodes we didn’t all like it that much, because it was just so much trauma and it looks so different on screen than it felt in the moment and we were just so attached to that."
The cast and crew only wrapped filming in October 2021, and with the premiere a few weeks later, Brown said it was "confusing" and everything happened "so quickly."
"There wasn’t time for there to be room to breathe," she shared. "It just happened so fast. Now the dust has settled and I really love the show and the cast really loves the show. It just took a minute. Seeing people react to it so well honestly really helped us feel more comfortable with it. Now it has a whole life of its own. I can’t wait to get back to shoot the next season."
But "Yellowjackets" isn't the only project Brown has going on right now that is making headlines. She also stars in the next "Scream" film, which comes out Jan. 14, becoming the first queer character ever included in the franchise's vast history.
“I’ve seen a lot of queer content where the character feels half-baked, and it’s such a rip-off and it makes me feel sad and used, as if we’re props,” Brown recently told NBC OUT. “I just wanted to really make sure we went fully in the opposite direction, had a completely lived-in person who isn’t defined by her queerness, but her queerness is celebrated even in the nuances.”
Brown added, “It’s subtle changes that really make a difference and me as an audience member feel seen when I’m watching something. It’s the showing versus saying. It’s the doing versus alluding to."
Like her "Yellowjackets" and "Scream" characters on-screen, Brown identifies as queer off-screen, sharing her relationship with actor Violett Beane on Instagram.
"I've been really fortunate that most, if not all, of the characters that I've played in my career have been pretty complicated, realized people. Taissa is no exception," she said of the complexity of her character. "It's just been a joy because people — and next to that women — are complicated. So often women are written so simply. Well, she's the 'nice one.' She's the 'main one.' She's the 'one that sleeps around.' Maybe all of that's there. Maybe it's a combination of a couple of those things and something more. The girls on 'Yellowjackets' — especially Taissa — really prove that that there's so much in one person. All of it is at odds, but you cannot say this is the 'fill-in-the-blank one.'"
Brown makes sure to bring her character's queerness to the forefront of the story and that it's real and authentic in the ways that it's being told. She also makes sure her Blackness is recognized and fully realized as well. For Taissa, she made sure her hair was a prominent representation of what was going on with her character emotionally but above all else, was being properly maintained amid the chaos of the show's plot.
"It was really important to me that in the woods Taissa is still maintaining her haircare routine to the best she can," she said. "She wraps it every night because she's serious about her edges and her curls, when she goes in the water for a swim or for a midnight rendezvous with Van, she keeps her hair wrapped or keeps it up. Taissa's hair is a big part of her identity and we also see that reflected in older Taissa's hair."
"It was important that it be taken away at a certain point and that Taissa goes, 'OK, we're really stuck out here,'" she continued. "I'm just holding onto this. This is just one extra thing to do. I'm gonna cut it off. I need that energy elsewhere. We were trying to find the right place for it and so it made sense that she would cut it off right before the excursion."
If you can imagine, "Scream" and "Yellowjackets" aren't the only stories Brown is telling. Netflix also just announced she will be co-hosting a podcast for the streaming giant titled "The Gay Agenda" with her "Yellowjackets" co-star Liv Hewson, which will look at the lives of LGBTQ creatives at the top of their fields across different industries.
"It’s funny because none of this actually is all of a sudden," Brown said when asked about everything happening seemingly at the same time for her. "This is all years in the making and it’s just COVID delays, random timing and random things making it all happen at once. I never could have predicted this happening.
"Also, we're still in COVID. It’s kind of happening just online so it doesn’t feel entirely real, if that makes sense. But it does feel good.”