“First of all, Yellowjackets-ster Liv Hewson. Yellowjackets-ster Liv Hewson,Yellowjackets-ster Liv Hewson. We’re talking about the fan response to the hit show Yellowjackets, which had its season finale air earlier this month. The survival thriller has been a huge success and has quickly created a thriving fandom online – and Van, played by the 26-year-old Australian non-binary actor, has emerged as a favourite.
“I’ve never really been on a show before that was, soos, week-to-week mystery based, so being able to watch audience theories in real time was new to me as well,” Hewson says. “I really enjoyed it. There was a lot of fun.”
One of the most joyous and entertaining trends around Yellowjackets is the proliferation of fan theories which range from the credible to the nonsensical. The show tells two stories consecutively: one set in the 90s that follows the plight of a girl’s soccer team that have crash-landed in the wilderness, and the other exploring the trauma of the survivors decades later.
The show opens with the girls in the wilderness hunting and then – presumably – eating one of their own. The identity of who gets eaten has become one of the most prevailing and hotly contested theories by fans.
The theories Hewson has seen so far run “the whole gamut, from somebody who’s spot on and is going to be thrilled when proven right, to someone who has said something that I never would have thought of in a million years.”
The cast have their own group chat where they share the best Yellowjackets memes and theories that they find online. 'Baie van die tyd, I think the audience has similar questions to us,” says Hewson, “which is really funny because when the scripts were being given to us, we didn’t necessarily know what was going to happen either.
“So we would constantly be asking each other things like, ‘do any of you have pink Converse in your costume? What do you guys think the symbol means?’ So it was funny watching fan theories develop.”
Hewson’s character, the team goalie Van Palmer, is renowned for having a pretty terrible time; having being set on fire twice and mauled by wolves, among other things, she really goes through a lot even for a show about survival and cannibalism. Throughout even the worst of it she maintains an extremely enjoyable and sardonic sense of humour, which Hewson credits as the reason for Van’s popularity.
“Van crops up a lot as a strong comedic voice in the ensemble, which I had a lot of fun with as a performer. I think people respond to that – not just about Van, but the show generally. Yellowjackets is this bleak tragedy and it’s all going to end in tears, but there’s sharp comedy in it, which I think people respond to? I respond to it. It’s my favourite thing about it.”
Hewson began acting as a teenager and has appeared in hit shows including Top of the Lake and Santa Clarita Diet. They auditioned for Yellowjackets, but not for Van; when they were offered the part, Hewson liked her immediately. “She’s funny, she’s grounded, she functions as the glue sometimes. I thought she was really interesting.”
“I did a lot on this show I’ve never done before,” they add. “They set fire to me! They put a massive contact lens in my eye. It was new. It was challenging. But I was really game and really grateful to the makeup team, who were wonderful to me throughout the whole process.
“And it was fun. Eerlik, dit was. It was physically very demanding, but it taught me a lot about patience and resilience. It taught me to be quite mindful … it was good for me in a lot of ways, I think.”
Another reason Hewson’s character is beloved, especially among queer fans, is the surprisingly sweet and sexy relationship Van has with her teammate Taissa – a situation which even ends with them “coming out” during the apocalyptic homecoming dance the girls throw in the wild, called “Doomcoming”. Among the horror and grimness, this moment – and the lack of homophobia in a show set in the nineties – is notable.
"Eerstens, they’re a women’s soccer team,” Hewson scoffs. “These girls know what lesbians are. And by the time the homecoming rolls around, they’ve been in the woods for four or five months … I think there is an element of, why would this be a problem to us here? Why would this be a problem to us when we have all of this going on? Van and Taissa’s relationship is a source of joy, safety and love among this terrible situation.”
Hewson is enjoying the response to Van and Taissa’s relationship, but also believes that fan investment in it – such as fanfiction – is really “none of my business”.
“As a teenager, I came up reading fanfic and being on online fan spaces, and I just think that’s private, that’s a sandpit that the actors have no business playing in,” they say. “That stuff’s for you guys! You go have fun. Enjoy. The stuff that I have seen is people being really lovely, but I try to keep a bit of a distance – not for any bad reason, just out of respect.”