The ‘Yellowjackets’ star opens up about her music career, childhood obsessions, and her desire to ‘become unrecognizable’
Behind every acclaimed actor is an 11-year-old girl holding auditions for self-authored screenplays after school. Or at least that’s the case for Sophie Thatcher, best-known for her breakout role as Natalie in Yellowjackets, a Showtime original series that details the complex dynamics of an all-girls soccer team—and what happens when they survive a plane crash, only to find themselves stranded in the Canadian wilderness.
Jumping between past and present, the show chronicles the unraveling of social norms over the next year and a half, and the emotional aftermath faced by adult survivors as they struggle to reintegrate into society some 25 years later. It’s a captivating premise, made even more so by a star-studded cast—including the likes of Christina Ricci, Melanie Lynskey, Tawney Cypress, and Juliette Lewis, who acts opposite Thatcher as the older version of Natalie, a charismatic rebel whose insouciant attitude conceals a troubled past. Once the show became a smash-hit, Thatcher’s razor-sharp performance launched her headfirst into stardom—which, though her down-to-earth attitude doesn’t show it, is what she’s been preparing for her entire life. “From the time I was four or five years old, I was doing everything: drawing, singing, writing, performing,” Thatcher recalls. “Now that I think about it, this all boils down to wanting to tell a story.”
By age 12, her artistic oeuvre included gems like 103 Dalmatians: The Musical and Propagation, a post-apocalyptic zombie drama set in the world of The Sims, which featured characters like Melonie Darth, Allison Bloom, and, at one point, an undead (“whatever, infected”) turtle named Snappy. In middle school, she spent hours looking up last names online, which she might use for her characters: Leo De Lorme, for instance, a deer who is hit by a car and transforms into a human by way of magic. (“Lying before me is a legendary wizard, and god was he handsome,” Thatcher’s protagonist swoons in one story she sent me, with the caveat that it was written in 2012, and that “most of the words were from synonym.com, if you can’t tell.”)
In retrospect, Thatcher says that the relentless focus with which she pursued her artistic vision probably “lost her some friends.” But, growing up Mormon in the suburbs of Chicago, there wasn’t much else to do—and her sisters, who are also creatives, were always game to put on a show. In an old email Thatcher forwarded to me—sent in 2012 to her twin Ellie and a handful of close friends—she describes the audition process for one of her plays, along with character descriptions and excerpts of monologues to memorize. “It gives you a little vibe of how intense I was,” she laughs. The email—which I now consider a prized cultural artifact—is a portrait of a young playwright on a mission: one whose passion for storytelling is matched only by her desire for everyone else to find as much joy in it as she does (and, adorably, a certain fondness for italics).
Thatcher began professionally acting for TV at the age of 10, scoring a guest role in the 2016 police procedural Chicago P.D., and later that year, another in Fox’s supernatural horror series The Exorcist. In 2018, she made her big screen debut in the sci-fi thriller Prospect, co-starring opposite Pedro Pascal. Natalie was her next big role, which she acquired with a self-taped audition she sent to producers after hearing that one of her idols, Karyn Kusama, was attached to the project. Her performance in Yellowjackets landed Thatcher a starring role in upcoming horror-mystery The Boogeyman, based on Stephen King’s short story of the same name.
Though Thatcher’s current focus is on acting, she’s a talented multihyphenate, with creative pursuits that span from fiction writing to visual art to producing her own music, some of which can be found floating around Bandcamp under her middle name, Bathsheba. (At my urging, she shares a collection of in-progress demos with none-too-serious file names, like “2000s rock on radio idk” and “nnew song tripbopbppbp”—which, though described by Thatcher as “really rough,” are actually quite good.)
“From the time I was four years old, I was always singing, writing, performing. Now that I think about it, this all boils down to wanting to tell a story.”
If you haven’t caught on by now, Thatcher doesn’t take herself too seriously—perhaps why she comes across as surprisingly grounded for her 22 years. “It’s a classic child-actor story. Growing up on set, you’re 12 going on 30,” she says, describing afternoons spent speaking with adults and finding education in everything around her. Her childhood was also defined by an early obsession with death, which she thought about all the time from as early as seven or eight years old. “I was just so concerned about going to heaven. It totally was overriding my mind,” she recalls. “I’m already pretty introspective, and growing up Mormon instilled a lot of anxiety in me, as most religions do. But it also forced me to rebel to some extent; it forced me to be different, to go all the way in the other direction.”
For Thatcher, learning to let go of her self-consciousness has been a process. It’s one of the things she likes about the role of Natalie, who she describes as exhibiting both a deep interiority and a confident nature that’s embodied on a physical level. “As Natalie, I had to let myself be completely vulnerable,” she says. “People my age are very aware of how they’re perceived; growing up on social media, you know exactly how you’re presenting yourself and how you want the world to see you. I’m trying to get outside of that.”
Going into the second season of Yellowjackets, Thatcher felt some trepidation; while the first seemed “almost like filming a really intimate indie film,” the stakes were now much higher, causing a palpable atmospheric shift among the cast. “There was definitely more pressure, but it all subsides once you’re in the character,” she says. “Luckily, we were able to help each other stay grounded, and it took no time to get that spark back. We’re like family. I know everybody says that, but we really are.”
At first, watching herself on-screen presented an emotional challenge for Thatcher—one she’s overcome as her career has progressed. “Now that I’m more accustomed to watching myself, I’m better at distancing,” she says, describing how The Boogeyman required her to take on a completely different persona—something she worried she wouldn’t succeed in, until she watched the scene in which her character attempts to smoke weed for the first time. “It’s like an anti-smoking ad,” she laughs. “In that movie, I’m a total loser. But there’s something special about channeling something entirely different, and playing somebody like that. My goal as an actor is to not be recognized. I want to be fully immersed in character. I don’t want people to be like, ‘That’s Sophie Thatcher.’”
While this approach might be successful on-screen, Thatcher has gotten used to being recognized in real life—sometimes by people she considers creative idols, like Argentine filmmaker Gaspar Noé. (“We were, like, on the dance floor, and we started talking. I told him about my Mormon upbringing,” she says, hiding her face in her hands.) Equally impactful was the experience of meeting Kim Gordon, whose book Girl in a Band changed Thatcher’s perspective on music growing up. “It’s surreal meeting someone, and being like, As a child, I wanted to be you,” she says. “Thinking about it makes me want to cry. I always felt I had to do something big with my life—but younger me never would have expected this.”
Talent Sophie Thatcher. Hair Maranda Widlund at Home Agency. Make-up Zaheer Sukhnandan. Set Design by James Rene. Photography Assistant Alexandre Jaras. Fashion Assistant Grace Dougherty. Shot at Stone Studio.