Lauren Ambrose Looks Back at Servant and Ahead to Yellowjackets

As the ultimate sighs of winter blow through Latest England, Lauren Ambrose is suddenly surrounded by snow—thankfully, it’s only that and never a crashed airplane or highschool soccer players stranded within the wilderness. That’s more territory for Showtime’s Yellowjackets, which Ambrose has joined for its upcoming second season.

“It’s a snow day,” Ambrose says over Zoom, apologizing for the drum sounds within the background coming from her kids in the subsequent room over. Nestled in a semi-quiet corner of her home, she has all of the essentials for a restful day in: a fuzzy lavender sweater and a large mug of tea. But Ambrose has more on the agenda than sipping a hot drink because the flakes fall: “Once I hang up with you, I’m going to return to helping construct the Cherokee corn crib for the fourth grade diorama.”

Beyond this one-off gig as school project architect, Ambrose is in a period of transition. Today, her Apple TV drama Servant draws to an in depth after 4 seasons. Then one week later, viewers can see her don the varsity jacket of Yellowjackets’ Van—one in every of the ill-fated high schoolers stranded within the forest for 18 months following a plane accident.


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“I used to be on the market foraging,” she says, quite seriously. It’s unclear at first if she’s talking about Van the character or Lauren the mom. “You understand…for stuff for this diorama,” she says with fun. “For me, it’s normally like: work is over. Jump on the plane, go home, make dinner. That’s the phase of life that I’m in.”

ambrose as dorothy in servant

Ambrose as Dorothy in Apple TV+’s Servant.

Jessica Kourkounis//Apple

Ambrose brings up phases of her life greater than once. After a string of TV and film roles within the late ’90s, her breakout role as Claire Fisher in Six Feet Under earned her two Screen Actors Guild Awards and two Emmy nominations. After the series resulted in 2005, she dabbled in film, TV, and stage work before her Tony-nominated turn as Eliza Doolittle within the 2018 revival of My Fair Lady.

“I do consider—not in a witchy way…well, possibly in slightly little bit of a witchy way—that the work that I want to do comes my way for whatever reason,” she says. “Today’s my dad’s birthday. He died right once I was going off to do Servant and ending My Fair Lady. There’s a lot dad stuff in My Fair Lady, after which there’s a lot loss and grieving and never wanting to grieve and never wanting to face the truth of mortality in Servant.”

Unless you’ve seen each, it’s unimaginable to emphasize how incredibly different the 2 projects are. My Fair Lady is that this timeless, romantic musical that allowed Ambrose to point out off her formal vocal training, and Servant—that’s a dark one. Starring alongside Toby Kebbell, Nell Tiger Free, and Rupert Grint, Ambrose plays Dorothy: a perfectionist news anchor whose newborn dies from hyperthermia after she mistakenly leaves him within the automotive. Dorothy’s husband and brother get her a therapy doll, designed to assist Dorothy grieve, however the haunting plan goes ever further awry when the infant’s nanny, Leanne, seems to have some connections to the supernatural. Oh, yeah, did we mention that the doll involves life?

The M. Night Shyamalan series is haunting, tonally and visually, however it also has these moments of levity and twisted humor, which Ambrose finds a touch of comfort in. Though Ambrose’s loss doesn’t directly mirror Dorothy’s, she admits that there’s a similarity in those pangs of grief, in addition to lessons learned from inhabiting Dorothy’s mind-set. “I believe that it’s sensible if we search for the alternative in the whole lot,” she explains. “If it’s a broad comedy, surely there’s some tragedy there. And if it’s this tragedy about this family, surely, there’s moments of giggling. It’s like, like laughing on the funeral sort of thing.”

lauren ambrose in servant

Jessica Kourkounis//Apple

The show kicked off at an advanced time for the world as well. After the primary season, the Covid-19 pandemic swept the globe; it also halted production for the burgeoning series. Thanks partially to the small core forged and the insular setting, Servant was within the early wave of series to return to filming.

Most episodes are filmed inside a house in Philadelphia that has this eerily suffocating quality. After 4 seasons and a world-wide health crisis, Ambrose says that saying goodbye to Dorothy and Servant is a difficult process. “It was pretty intense by way of long form storytelling…to actually be working with those souls. There have been marriages, births, deaths. They’re really carved into my heart.” She isn’t bidding the whole lot concerning the show goodbye though. “They were having an auction of all of the stuff in the home, and I just couldn’t even I couldn’t even bear it…but I didn’t say goodbye to all those clothes,” she says, before quickly covering her tracks. “A lot of them were tailored for me! It’s true! [Costume designer] Caroline Duncan is sensible. I feel like she’s half of my character.”

With the show’s March 17 conclusion, Dorothy finds her own version of peace after a radical battle with denial, grief, and sadness. For context, all the series takes place across a yr, give or take a month or so. That’s wildly slow pacing for a TV show. In that point, the series has featured swarms of bed bugs and basement sinkholes and human sacrifices that take the story to eerily Biblical places. At the top of season 3, Dorothy takes a fall that leaves her paraplegic, rendering her more vulnerable than ever. It’s not until the series finale that Dorothy is capable of get up, each physically and emotionally, and address her reality. On the surface, all of that’s full horror, but between the lines, Ambrose finds something very apt about Dorothy surviving what truthfully looks like the top of the world.

“Poor Dorothy has had the whole lot taken away,” Ambrose says. “She now has to relinquish complete physical control as well. She’s broken physically along with being fractured mentally…ultimately, it’s [about] literally having the ability to cobble her body together and find a way to walk for herself again.”

I indicate to Ambrose that she seems to have a thing for survival stories. Six Feet Under centered around a family running a funeral home, and Ambrose’s character famously outlived all the family. Servant’s Dorothy has been clinging to life after tragedy for 4 seasons. Now, Ambrose is taking over a survival story that was, no less than until recently, all buttoned up. When viewers last saw Yellowjackets’ Van Palmer, she was starting to be evangelized within the blood of teammate Lottie’s perceived supernatural powers. Unseen in the longer term, the fan base theorized that Van may not have survived the ordeal within the woods, but Ambrose’s involvement confirms that’s not the case. In accordance with Ambrose, Van was doing well. Keyword: was.

lauren ambrose as adult van in yellowjackets

Ambrose joins Yellowjackets’ second season as adult Van.

Showtime / Kailey Schwerman

“That form of light and faith in her is, to me, clearly dimmed and something’s occurring,” Ambrose says of adult Van. “That query of religion is definitely on the forefront of the character and wherever this character will go.” By way of the connection she and her classmate Tai share within the woods, Ambrose says, “Tai and Van have this very intense relationship that’s life changing, so…” She pauses and makes an expression that seems to point a yikes moment. “That can…I might imagine…be explored. I do not know if I’m purported to say!” Last week’s Yellowjackets season 2 trailer, confirmed as much, giving viewers a glimpse of Van holding Tai in her lap in present-day.

Ambrose was a large fan of the series before taking the role but says that the experience of joining the forged is unlike some other she’s had. “For me, taking a look at the decision sheet within the morning and seeing all of the people at the highest of it are women my very own age, like, made me cry. It was just such an awesome sight.” She was quickly welcomed by the forged, and Tawny Cypress, who plays adult Taissa, immediately added her to the group chat, titled “The Team.” Once I asked her who was the star of the group chat, Ambrose form of panics, such as you’re asking a high schooler who her favorite friend is. “I feel like everybody is a superstar!”

Yellowjackets is a refreshing change of pace for Hollywood. The series touts a powerful group of girls, from the forged to the administrators and writers. Ambrose remembers one moment specifically, early on, when the forged got together to look at a rough cut of an episode. Each forged member sat behind their teenage counterparts, so she sat with Liv Hewson, who plays young Van. “Liv is such a gifted actor,” Ambrose says. “It’s just so beautiful to look at them watch their work.”

Ambrose admits she was intimidated those first few days on set, adding that she’s unsure she’ll ever not feel just like the latest girl at school. “All of them took this risk on starting this show and creating these characters and this crazy story first, so I normally just defer to them and ask them a number of questions,” she says of working with the forged. “I’ve admired their work for thus long. Like, truly, since I used to be a youngster. I’ve desired to be doing this work, watching Christina [Ricci] and Melanie [Lynskey] and Juliet [Lewis], especially.”

yellowjackets cast

Lauren Ambrose as Van, Simone Kessell as Lottie, Juliette Lewis as Natalie, Melanie Lynskey as Shauna, Christina Ricci as Misty, and Tawny Cypress as Taissa in Yellowjackets season 2.

Showtime / Lorenzo Agius

I remind her that the admiration likely goes each ways. In spite of everything, she’s been on TV and film and Broadway. She was nearly Funny Girl’s Fanny Brice a decade before the present iteration. In 2011, she was set to star alongside Bobby Cannavale in a Bartlett Sher-directed revival before the plug was unceremoniously pulled. Once I ask her if she’s willing to return to the stage, she lights up. “Oh gosh, I really like to be on stage. These other acting jobs and pandemics happened, but I really like working on stage and I can’t wait to do it soon, in any form. Any roles, I’ll be there.”

Currently, though, she’s all in on Van. Though it’s unlikely that Ambrose will get to showcase her singing chops on Yellowjackets (she did say she’s pushed for Van to bust into some Tori Amos karaoke), Van has enough on her plate to maintain Ambrose busy. “I believe adult Van appears to be doing okay,” Ambrose says, coyly. “For now…” With present-day Lottie in a Swiss mental institution and Van in tow for the massive reunion, that’s surely going to vary quickly, and that sort of drama is a dream for the actress bringing her to life. “My experience with joining this show was that I watched the show and loved it and said, wait, why can’t I be on this show? After which they called me,” she says. “I’ve never watched a show and loved it after which got to be on it. I feel very grateful.”

Headshot of Justin Kirkland


Justin Kirkland is a Brooklyn-based author who covers culture, food, and the South. Together with Esquire, his work has appeared in NYLON, Vulture, and USA Today.   

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