Melanie Lynskey says she came to realise her status as an LGBTQ+ icon after she appeared in But I’m a Cheerleader.
The 1999 teen rom-com starred Orange is the New Black alum Natasha Lyonne as Megan Bloomfield, a cheerleader who is sent to conversion therapy camp to “cure” her lesbianism.
Lynskey memorably played queer camper Hilary Vandermueller in one of her earliest film roles.
Additional cast members including Clea DuVall, Cathy Moriarty, RuPaul, Mink Stole, Bud Cort, Eddie Cibrian, Wesley Mann, Joel Michaely, Richard Moll, Kip Pardue, Dante Basco and Douglas Spain.
Although But I’m a Cheerleader flopped at the box office and received harsh reviews from critiques, it has since been lauded as an LGBTQ+ classic for its satirical approach to gender roles and heteronormativity.
Lynskey, who previously portrayed a queer character alongside Kate Winslet in her feature-film debut Beautiful Creatures (1994), says the LGBTQ+ community made their love for her known “after” But I’m a Cheerleader.
“I felt like it meant a lot to people that I had played two queer people early in my career. I had not really thought about it before then. I was like, ‘Oh. I guess so.’ It’s nice,” she explains.
The Yellowjackets star never thought the film would achieve cult status “because when it came out it was not very celebrated”: “The reviews were bad. People didn’t see it. I was really disappointed because I thought it was such a good movie.
“I was so proud to be in it. Then, over time, it’s nice that it’s gained such a following. And I met my best friend [Clea] on that movie.”
While Lynskey refrained from revealing stories from her time on set – “I don’t know which ones I would be able to share!” – she admits that the whole cast were a ‘bunch of crazy kids’ who would “film all night and then go back to one of our hotel rooms and have a party at like 6am and then go to sleep at 11am.”
“We were absolutely wild, it was really fun,” she adds.
On where her character Hilary Vandermueller is in the present day, Lynskey says: “Gosh, I wonder! I hope that she was able to live her truth at a certain point. What a life, otherwise. But who knows, honestly?”
Despite not identifying as queer, Lynskey was bizarrely accused of “more homosexual agenda pushing” after her two-episode arc in HBO’s post-apocalyptic drama The Last of Us.
Her response, in which she confirmed that she is, in fact, backing the aforementioned “agenda”, immediately went viral.
In her interview with GAY TIMES, Lyskey doubled down on the comments in her tweet, saying it’s her “honour” to advocate for LGBTQ+ causes and representation in mainstream media.
“So funny though, it really made me laugh out loud that tweet,” she says, before affirming that the homosexual agenda “should be pushed at all times”: “I’m big on pushing the homosexual agenda. I don’t really know how me just being cast in something does that, but I think it should be pushed. It’s a big agenda for me.”
Lynskey returns as her Emmy Award-nominated character Shauna Shipman in the second season of Yellowjackets, which is currently streaming in the UK on Paramount Plus.
Both seasons have been lauded by critics for normalising the queer experience with characters such as Taissa Turner (played by Jasmin Savoy Brown and Tawny Cypress) and Vanessa “Van” Palmer (played by Liv Hewson and Lauren Ambrose). Yellowjackets has even been hailed as the “queerest show” on television right now by fans and critics.
Lynskey says other storytellers should take note of the lack of queer trauma narratives in Yellowjackets: “I also love that about The Last of Us, that third episode. I know that living through a mushroom zombie apocalypse is its own kind of trauma, but it was just a very average love story where they got to, in a way, live happily ever after. I thought it was very romantic.”
Season two of Yellowjackets is currently airing on Paramount+, with new episodes available on Fridays.