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How Sammi Hanratty Became Misty Quigley, Yellowjackets’ Lovable Sociopath

Sammi Hanratty had just lost out on yet another part—this time, for the Showtime series Your Honor. So, she recorded a video. With tears streaming down her face, she looked directly into the camera and addressed her future self: “Hey, future me, we were up for another role and we didn’t get it…”

“People just see the ups, but they don’t see all the rejection and the struggling to get the next job,” says Hanratty.

The 26-year-old knows a thing or twenty about rejection. She’s been acting since the age of six, popping up in mostly direct-to-video films or brief arcs on shows like The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, Shameless, and a memorable cameo on Mad Men as Sally’s chain-smoking roommate. While she’s been working fairly steadily over her twenty years in the biz, the juicier roles have largely eluded her. But that all changed with Yellowjackets. The Showtime series, about a high school girls’ soccer team who, after their plane crash-lands in the mountains, turns to the occult and cannibalism—and finds themselves wrestling with the trauma of what happened in the woods 25 years later—has become not only a critical smash but a cult phenomenon.

As the needy, sociopathic-yet-sympathetic equipment manager Misty Quigley, Hanratty is the marooned team’s resident wild card—someone who will save your life one moment and drug you with mushrooms the next. And Hanratty, who plays the younger Misty to Christina Ricci’s older version, is positively elated by the show’s success.

“I’ve never been a series regular on a show, and I gotta tell you, I feel like the luckiest person in the world,” she tells me, beaming.

You originally auditioned for the Natalie character, right?

I did! I auditioned for Natalie, then for Misty, then they called me back in for Misty, and then my last call was for Misty and Natalie. So, I had a wig on for Natalie; then I took it off, put my bangs down, put my hair up, and had a totally different vibe for Misty. I don’t know if it was them being able to tell that I could have a split personality or something, but that was the one that sealed the deal for Misty.

What scene did you have to act out in the Misty audition?

It was a mock audition, so it was a scene that they wrote up that wasn’t in the show. Basically, Misty had gotten in trouble with a teacher for cheating, and to get out of it, Misty breaks down in front of the teacher sobbing and says, “You have no idea how hard it’s been at home because my dad’s been drinking a lot…” and the teacher goes, “I had no idea. It’s fine.” Then I’m like, “Thank you so much! You’re my favorite teacher and I look up to you and want to be just like you,” and then the teacher walks away, and I flip her off and call her the C-word. It’s a pretty intense scene.

That’s interesting, because that scene gave some backstory into Misty’s home life and we haven’t been given that in the show.

I’ve talked to them about what it actually might have been like and I don’t think Misty has any siblings. I think her parents, from what I’ve talked about, are both doctors, and on the show she’s a lot more antisocial and not as good at manipulating as the scene that they had written up for the audition.

Misty does have incredible survival skills, and it does seem like she learned these somewhere other than the Red Cross Babysitter Training Course. I imagine you don’t learn how to chop off a leg during a Babysitter Training Course.

[Laughs] That’s why when we were talking a bit about Misty, that was one thing I wanted to say about the parents—that they probably were in the medical field, so I grew up looking at all of these books of how to do all the things. How to cut people open and stuff like that.

Steven Krueger as Ben Scott and Samantha Hanratty as Misty in Yellowjackets

Kailey Schwerman/Showtime

Misty is a sociopath, but you still feel for her. There are those early scenes where the other girls on the team call her up just to tell her she’s ugly. And you have to play her as the sociopath who still remains somewhat endearing and a person people root for.

It’s one of many reasons I’m so grateful to be playing the character with Christina, because I think we both have that empathy and compassion for her. I just don’t think you can play a character that you hate. I don’t in any world hate Misty. I think she’s fascinating. If I were her friend, I’d tell her to go to therapy…

…Or to maybe not mess with your car.

[Laughs] Exactly. But one of the reasons I think people do care about her is that Christina and I are able to find those parts of her that are endearing and loving, and it may be a façade or a manipulation, but I do think there are parts of her that really are broken, and it’s hard not to feel for her.

How did you and Christina sync up your performances? Did you discuss how the character would, say, have similar expressions?

We got lunch to talk about the character but—and it sounds so strange whenever I say it—we both just did it. We both understand the character—have the same way that we talk, the little laughs we add in with certain words. We became this character together, and I’m so grateful for that. It’s really weird to watch it on the show, because I’m like, “Oh my gosh! We didn’t even talk about that, and she’s doing the same thing that I’m doing.” Even the little giggles that she does, I’m like, “Oh my gosh! That’s so cool to see on screen because that’s what I did for Misty too.”

Did you grow up with Christina’s movies? You two are almost starring in your own, twisted version of Now and Then.

Growing up, I was sick a lot. I had a gut condition that I didn’t realize. I was in and out of hospitals and urgent cares, and my mom would always tell me, “Be strong like Molly.” It’s a quote from a movie that I was obsessed with growing up called Gold Diggers, and Christina was one of the main characters in the movie. I grew up with that movie being my whole, “Be strong, you got this” sort of thing every time I was scared. So, it’s really special to now not only work with her but be the same character as her.

What was it like to overcome that condition at such a young age?

I didn’t really know what was wrong with me for most of my life. It’s so crazy because I’ve been working for twenty years now—I started when I was six—and any time I had a break and wasn’t filming, I was sick. It was almost like my body wouldn’t let me be sick when I had work, and the second a weekend came, I would have a fever and we didn’t really know what was going on. Thankfully, we found it it’s all linked to the foods I eat. So now, I can’t really eat anything. I’m allergic to avocados, cucumbers, broccoli, banana, cinnamon, curry, fennel, ginger. So many things. But now I’m not sick all the time, so… yay!

Now you’re just making people sick on TV.

[Laughs] Now I’m just giving people mushrooms and watching them hallucinate.

Did the marooned younger cast have any sort of bonding rituals or go through survival courses together?

I feel like just being on set was a survival course, honestly. The first day we got on set and we saw the plane and all of the debris and everything, basically they put us on the plane and for two hours had all of us rehearse—without any of us knowing that we were jumping into rehearsals. So, we all just started screaming and crying and pushing the door and doing all this stuff. I was having a hard time breathing with my asthma. We really just jumped straight into it, and I don’t know if it was the first day or during filming, but Courtney [Eaton] bruised her leg and a lot of people had cuts and bruises. I never knew what was makeup and what wasn’t makeup when it came to Courtney, because she was going for it. We all just went through it, because that first week was a lot. We were also all staying at the same hotel and it felt like we were a real soccer team. We all went up to one person’s room and Jasmine [Savoy Brown] had her guitar, and they all started playing guitar and singing and we were all laughing and drinking—I wasn’t, because I’m sober. But everyone was having such a good time, and that first week really solidified how we were each other’s family. We didn’t have anyone else up there with us during COVID.

But everyone was having such a good time, and that first week really solidified how we were each other’s family. We didn’t have anyone else up there with us during COVID.

What sort of songs were being sung? Was there a team anthem?

[Laughs] It’s so bad but while we were filming, especially me and Jane [Widdop], whenever we were filming in the woods, we would sing, “Into the thick of it! Into the thick of it!” Ugh, what’s the song? I think it’s some cartoon song, but we just did it because we were in the wilderness. [“Into the Thick of It” by The Backyardigans] But once someone started singing, we would all sing, and everyone was incredible. It just made me never want to open my mouth again because of how amazingly talented they are at singing.

There’s a lot of blood and guts on the show. What does the show use for the blood, guts, hearts, and all that?

That is a really good question. I’m not sure! Everything I’m eating is Beyond Meat, just because I’m vegan, so they just reassure me that every time blood sprays in my face, “Don’t worry! It’s vegan!” But that’s all I ever hear about it! I should probably ask more questions. But they’re amazing at their jobs, so I’m not too worried. The hardest thing was, one of the days I ended up having to hold a real rotisserie chicken, and that was my worst day on set. I threw up. It’s not that I’ve never eaten rotisserie chicken before I was vegan, but they put all this blood and guts all over it. I was like, “This poor animal is going to waste!” I just had to get out of my head. But then Sophie [Thatcher] had to eat it, so she was eating it with all this goop all over it. I was like, oh my gosh! We had bugs that we were eating and it was gnocchi, and we were also eating fondant, which was very sugary.

The cannibalism is around the corner though. Human meat is coming.

As long as it’s Beyond Human, I’m good. [Laughs]

Everything I’m eating is Beyond Meat, just because I’m vegan, so they just reassure me that every time blood sprays in my face, “Don’t worry! It’s vegan!”

I’m curious what you think drives Misty? She does have this burning desire to be loved, needed, and appreciated. It comes out in her relationship with Nat, where she starts messing with her in order to spend time with her, and in the relationship with Ben, which is this weird Munchausen by proxy situation where she’s trying to keep him debilitated so he depends on her.

I think that she wants so badly to be loved and cared about, and she just really wants to matter. She’s never mattered prior to this crash. That’s one of the reasons I liked building a backstory of who she was at home, and I like the idea of her parents not being around, and her having nowhere to go other than books and learning. With Ben, she’s never been that close to a man before. She’s never had somebody look at her and have to look at her. One of my favorite parts about playing her is every scene that we do, she’s constantly thinking in her head, “How am I going to matter right now? Who’s looking at me? Who can I have an inside joke with? Who can I talk to?” I think if it wasn’t for her trying so hard, nobody would know she was there. But with Ben, she’s not in love with him—she’s just obsessed with him. She doesn’t know how to love, but she knows how to obsess.

Misty does some wild stuff. As far as destroying the black box, she’s just received the biggest compliment of her life just before that, and that seems to drive her to hold everyone hostage, so to speak.

It really was a moment of opportunity. She finally feels this sense of purpose that she’s longed for her whole life, and then she sees an obstacle—and she gets rid of that obstacle. In her mind, I think it really is that simple: this is in my way, now it’s not. I don’t think she thought, “I’m going to strand them all here forever!” I think it was purely just, “I want to keep feeling this,” and she didn’t have an end plan of when it was going to stop.

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Sammi Hanratty attends the premiere of Showtime’s Yellowjackets at Hollywood American Legion on November 10, 2021, in Los Angeles, California.

Alberto E. Rodriguez/Showtime

She does seem to have fallen under the sway of Lottie.

Does she fall under the sway, or squirm her way under there? I think that Misty will find any opportunity to try to have any bit of power, and I think that even when we don’t realize it, she’s trying to use people and get in there. There’s always an angle.

You’ve been acting for twenty years, as you said, and you were on MADtv back in the day. And at the time, it had this massive cast, with Jordan Peele, Keegan Michael-Key, Ike Barinholtz, and others on it.

Oh my god, I was so young. I also wasn’t even allowed to watch MADtv at the time. I think I was around eight years old, so I don’t know who was on! But fun fact: me and Dylan Minnette were on there together when we were kids, so it’s been really cool to see him grow up and really flourish.

And now there’s the Yellowjackets finale and his Scream film dropping in the same week.

And Jasmin is in that too! There are all kinds of different personalities in this industry, but it’s so nice when you see the people who were always kind and always had a good head on their shoulders succeed, so I’m really happy for him.

And you were famously on Mad Men as Millicent, the chain-smoking roommate of Sally Draper.

And that’s with another actor-friend of mine that I grew up with, Kathryn Newton. You’re naming all the ones where I grew up with these people as friends! I love it. That was very fun. My asthma wasn’t too fond of me smoking fake cigarettes, but I’ve had to do it a bunch in my career—Mad Men, Shameless, and this other show called Chosen. They just love me smoking!

What’s it like to finally land the biggest role of your career after twenty years of acting, and then have it be this cultural phenomenon?

I feel like I have been very lucky and blessed in my career, but I’ve also had so many downs. People just see the ups, but they don’t see all the rejection and the struggling to get the next job. I’ve never been a series regular on a show, and I gotta tell you, I feel like the luckiest person in the world. And I also feel like an example of the fact that every time you’re told no, you just have to get yourself back up. Before the audition for this, I took a video of myself crying and saying, “Hey, future me, we were up for another role and we didn’t get it…” I was so devastated. It was actually for another Showtime show called Your Honor. There are so many days where I just need to quit for the day. When this came along and I got the show, I just bawled my eyes out. My mom cried so hard too, because she’s been on this journey with me. I’m gonna cry. [Begins to tear up] OK. I… just feel like the luckiest person ever.

https://www.thedailybeast.com/how-sammi-hanratty-became-misty-quigley-yellowjackets-lovable-sociopath?source=articles&via=rss How Sammi Hanratty Became Misty Quigley, Yellowjackets’ Lovable Sociopath

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