“Yellowjackets” Actress Samantha Hanratty’s Dogs Remind Her of the Show’s Characters · The Wildest

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“Yellowjackets” Actress Samantha Hanratty’s Dogs Remind Her of the Show’s Characters

At least when it comes to their personalities. Not, uh, the other thing.

by Kari Paul
July 3, 2023
Samantha Hanratty with her dog
Photo: Felisha Tolentino
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When The Wildest catches up with Samantha Hanratty, who plays Misty Quigley in the wildly popular Showtime teen thriller series Yellowjackets, she has just wrestled her bouncy puppy, Olive, into her lap, where the dog flops back in a state of bliss.

Hanratty’s experience on Yellowjackets, which she describes as “the roller coaster that never stops going,” has moved at a breakneck, at times emotionally taxing, pace. But, when we talk, she is enjoying a relatively calm day with Olive and her other dog, Dakota — known affectionately as Kota — who is 10 years old. 

Yellowjackets, a dark drama about a high school girls soccer team whose plane crashes in the wilderness, the drastic measures they take to survive (if you’re thinking Donner Party, you’re on the money) and their struggle to reckon with the experience 25 years later, has been a runaway success. The show has attracted millions of viewers and garnered multiple Emmy award nominations. The plot follows two timelines, with accomplished actors Christina Ricci, Juliette Lewis, Tawny Cypress, and Melanie Lynskey playing older versions of the Yellowjackets soccer team, and newcomers Sophie Thatcher, Sophie Nélisse, and Liv Hewson playing younger versions. Hanratty plays the younger version of Ricci’s Misty and says working with the actor on their shared character has been “a very unique experience.” 

“We both bring different elements [to Misty], but when I watch it, it’s very cohesive,” she says of her collaboration with Ricci. “It’s kind of scary how much we are the same, and I think that it comes from us both really enjoying the character and understanding who Misty is.”

Samantha Hanratty with her small dog on a couch
Photo: Felisha Tolentino

Playing the enigmatic teen, who oscillates between most loved and most hated on the show, has been a “wild journey,” Hanratty says. Kota, a Mini Australian Shepherd, has been along every step of the way, coming with her to shoots and staying in her trailer on set. In March, Hanratty and her fiancé adopted Olive, a German Shepherd mix, who she says is fitting right in with the family and is likely to be on set for season three of Yellowjackets, which has a speculated late 2024 or early 2025 release.

Hanratty says the show — and playing such a complex character — has brought her to a new phase of her acting journey. “It’s something I’ve been hoping for and praying for in my career for a long time: to find such a gem like this, and I feel very, very lucky,” she says.

Aside from its critical success, Yellowjackets has a rabid fandom, including a dedicated community on Reddit, where more than 100,000 “citizen detectives” and “fellowjackets” post nonstop, sharing memes, fan art, and theories about the show and its characters. Hanratty, who admits to lurking in the Reddit threads in the past (maybe something Misty would do, too), says she is thrilled with the meteoric rise of the show and the intense following. But she’s not surprised. 

“I knew that if I could enjoy it the way that I have, there had to be other people out there that feel the same way,” she says. “But the growing audience and the people who are the true diehard fans, it’s very validating to the fact that I knew this was going to be great.”

She tells The Wildest all about the pet-friendly set of the show, how her dogs keep her mental health on track during her grueling work schedule for a show that explores dark themes, and what skills her pups would bring to the wilderness in their own Yellowjackets saga.

Samantha Hanratty lying on a couch with her dog
Photo: Felisha Tolentino

You’ve had Kota for 10 years and just adopted Olive. How did you decide you wanted another pet?

I had been wanting another pet for a long time, but it was really just about logistics. We lost one of my pets last year, and then my fiancé also lost his family dog, a month apart from each other, and that’s always really hard. I’ve always had a two-dog household, and then went to just having one. I love Kota so much, but I always enjoyed having a younger dog and an older dog. I feel like it makes [the older dog] more youthful. But I was also worried because Kota’s temperament is not always the best, so we had to do what was best not only for the new dog but also for Kota. 

And how did you and Olive find each other?

I found Olive at Big Love Animal Rescue. I had fallen in love with her sister, but unfortunately the litter had distemper, and the dog we were interested in ended up being very sick. Whoever dropped them off in a milk crate dropped them off very sick and to fend for themselves as puppies. Then they said they had another dog named Arizona available and we were like, “Oh my god, she’s so cute.” I thought “OK, I can meet her, but I can’t get my hopes up.” 

We went to this rescue puppy meet-up, and we saw her. My sister always told me if you can have [the puppy] lay on their back and you can kind of rock them like a baby, then they’ll be very, very good and listen very well, and she just immediately melted in my arms. I looked at my fiancé and I was like, “OK, this is it.” I called my mom and she said, “No, don’t do it.” I think she was being protective over Kota. But I was like, “No, I think this is actually going to be a really good fit.” So, we did a meet up with Kota and Olive, and it went really well. It was a little rocky at first, but now they really are like sisters. They play all day long. 

Samantha Hanratty on a couch with her dog
Photo: Felisha Tolentino

It sounds like your connection was fate.

She was named Arizona when we got her, and Arizona is where I grew up. And it’s crazy, because she looks so much like my dog I grew up with, but she also looks like my other dog who passed away last year. If you combine the two dogs, [she] looks like her. So, I really think that they helped guide Olive to us. I feel like in puppy heaven, they got together — I’m going to cry — they got together and said, “We’re going to make sure mom gets this dog.” It was meant to be.

So, Kota and Olive hit it off pretty quickly?

I’m not going to lie, it was a rocky start. Kota loves people and gets very jealous very easily. So, in the beginning, it was a little bit rough. And then one day, I started noticing Kota’s tail starting to wag. I noticed her starting to sniff around Olive a bit at that two or three week mark of being with us. And they just started playing, and they kind of haven’t stopped. 

Samantha Hanratty with two dogs
Photo: Felisha Tolentino

Do you have any tips for dog parents getting a second dog? How do you facilitate them becoming pals?

Time was really important. Because Kota was so used to being the only dog, we wanted to make sure that we would just give Kota love and attention and one-on-one time. We would keep doing walks with just Kota and then start bringing them slowly together. 

I also think there’s no shame in seeking help, in looking up behavioral information, and seeing if there are any trainers in your area that can help you if you’re having difficulties…We were very close to doing that, but then they started getting along and I was like, “OK, we’re OK right now.” But if we ever need to, I’ll definitely be looking into people that specialize in making sure that both dogs are in a happy, healthy place.

Samantha Hanratty sitting with her dog
Photo: Felisha Tolentino

If Olive and Kota were on Yellowjackets, what characters do you think they would be?

Olive would be Akilah. Olive is just sweet and kind and all things beautiful. Kota would be Misty. She wants everyone to like her. She throws a temper tantrum if you don’t. She can be a bit of a pill at times, but you can’t help but love her — you just can’t. She’ll manipulate you into getting what she wants. And she won’t be afraid to fight for what she wants. 

Actually, I don’t know if we should say this, but Kota pulled a full-on Misty and pushed Sara — my dog that passed last year — off the stairs. Sara fell down the stairs. Kota didn’t kill her, thank God. But yes, she pulled a Misty. 

What would your dogs’ strengths be in the Yellowjackets wilderness? Would they be gathering food? 

Olive would be the therapy dog. She’d be the one making sure everyone’s OK. She’d be the one giving everybody kisses and taking care of everyone. But Kota is the gatherer; she’s the one who is gathering all the sticks and getting everyone together. She was at the shoots when I was filming, and I actually have a picture of her on Instagram sitting in the cockpit of the Yellowjackets plane. She’s in the cockpit with the windows all bloody, and she’s just smiling. So, she is really quite fearless.

Do you think Misty is a dog person? Or is she a bird person only?

I think she is bird only. I think there’s something very dangerous about somebody who doesn’t like dogs or cats. I think she likes to put out there that she likes cats, because she does wear cat sweaters. But I think that birds are really her thing. I hope we can do some things with me and birds [on the show] and start my love of birds in [the younger] timeline. 

Samantha Hanratty with two dogs
Photo: Felisha Tolentino

There is a lot of discussion online of where Caligula is in the show. Where is she while adult Misty is on Lottie’s compound in season two? 

I feel like if any bird could take care of themselves and be running the household it would be Caligula, considering how seriously she takes it. Caligula could probably answer the phone. She just hasn’t learned it yet. I don’t know how self-sufficient birds can be, but I do believe that Caligula could be totally just running her own stuff at the household, with unlimited food, water and just flying around and having a good old time. 

So, you brought Kota to the set. As a dog parent, how do you balance that with working? Will you bring Olive?

This next season, depending on where we’re filming, Kota might stay in California with my fiancé, just because she’s almost 10 years old and she doesn’t need as much care and attention as Olive. Meanwhile, Olive will need to be going out multiple times a day and will be doing a lot more. Thankfully, our set is so pet friendly and so dog friendly. I will have toys in the trailer; I’ve got food bowls and water bowls set up in the trailer. Any break I get, I just go get the dog. 

Having Kota on set was really easy, because a lot of times she would just come with me on the set, and I would have her right by my chair. I’d tell her to stay, and she’d stay by chair and then I’d go and film. She’s kind of everybody’s therapy dog, especially in the first season with the crew. I just let her off leash, and she would just go and run to each crew member and give them some love and then come back to mom. 

Samantha Hanratty's two dogs on a stool
Photo: Felisha Tolentino

Do other actors have pets on set, too?

Courtney Eaton, who plays [teen] Lottie, has her dog. The first season, Jasmin [Savoy Brown] and Tawny [Cypress] both had their cats and Jasmin would bring her cat on set. So, yeah, everyone brings pets. One of our directors this last season had her dog on set. Everybody has their pups around.

You’ve been open on Instagram about your experiences with mental health. The show is obviously also quite dark and intense at times. Is having pets around helpful for that? 

It’s so helpful. If I was ever feeling down, I knew I could go in the trailer and just sit there, and Kota would just come and lay on my chest and help me breathe. My fiancé has sleep paralysis, but I always feel so good knowing Kota is with him when I am not. I know that if he’s having sleep paralysis, she will sense it and she’ll come over and lay on his stomach and give him kisses;  it helps him wake up and get out of that. She’s very intuitive, especially with us. She is so much so a people dog, and she takes care of us. She really does, and she is just a very affectionate dog. 

Samantha Hanratty outdoors with her small dog
Photo: Felisha Tolentino

How is co-parenting a dog with a partner?

It’s really fun. I love getting to see him be a dad, it really is so beautiful. I love the way he loves them. Like we could be out grocery shopping and he’s like, “Oh my God, do you know what’s at home?” And I’ll be like, “What?” and he’s like “Our baby.” So, yeah, he just thinks about the dogs all the time. Every time we’re away from each other, we’re FaceTiming and showing each other the dogs.

He just loves them so much, and having a partner who loves animals the way that I do is really amazing. Since we started dating, he went pescatarian and really has so much love for animals. It was very different from the guy that I met who was only eating red meat every day. 

The only problem is he has to get off the [adoption] websites. He has to stop because we cannot take on another dog right now. And every day he’s sending me another dog that needs to be adopted. And I’m like, “I can’t. I cannot do it right now, baby.” And he’s just like, “Look at this one!” He already says Olive is too grown up; he wants another baby. We are hopefully planning on getting chickens and goats in the next two years. 

You live in LA, right? Can you have goats there?

We are looking at getting a place where we can have them. Right now, we’re in an apartment, so absolutely not.

Do you think Kota and Olive will enjoy having chicken and goat pals?

Kota would love it. Though I think she would start to get into her herding behaviors; she is an Australian Shepherd.  But I think she would love it. The chickens I think I’d keep away from Kota. Olive, I think she’s young enough that if I raised her around the chickens, she’ll be more than fine with them. Olive loves other animals, whereas Kota is more tolerant of other animals. 

Samantha Hanratty outdoors playing with her two dogs
Photo: Felisha Tolentino

Did you say you had pets growing up? Have you always been a dog person? 

I had a German Shepherd since I was four years old, I think, so I always grew up with big dogs. And we had a cat named Maxie and a fish named Hermione. Our German Shepherd [Lexi] was my first real best friend. I wanted a little dog so, so, so bad, and I literally would beg for one of them. Finally, my mom took me to this place that had dogs and this girl was holding the dog. My mom said, “OK, tell her ‘thank you,’” and I’m like, “Thank you for letting me play with the dog.” My mom’s like, “No, say thank you for taking care of my dog.” And I just started crying. That was Sara.

So, Kota I got at age 18. Kota was my first adult decision. Every dog to me is so special in its own way, but Olive was my first rescue, and if I’m being honest, it makes it so much more rewarding and special. Like I said, I love all my dogs so much, but there is something so much more rewarding about adopting and really getting to have that dog where you feel like you have both saved each other. 

I always hear that about adopted dogs; they have a sense of appreciation and understanding.

Yeah, they do. Like I feel like whenever we look at each other, I just feel like she knows we’re her parents. She knows we’re her family, and she appreciates us just as much as we appreciate her. And it’s just really sweet. 

Meanwhile, Kota is like, “Yeah, yeah. You don’t really deserve me, but I’m here.” I’m joking. I’m really painting her in a bad light, but she’s a really good dog.

Finally, do your pups have the acting gene in them like you?

They are superstars. Get ready to see them all over. Kota and [my family’s dog] Phoenix and Sara have all been in things that I’ve worked on. They were actually were extras in a movie I did a couple of years ago. So, just get ready, because Olive, I’m sure, is going to be in something I do. She’s going to be a star.

Check out the behind the scenes of Samantha Hanratty’s photoshoot:

Kari Paul holding two kittens

Kari Paul

Kari Paul is a writer whose work has been published in the Guardian, the Wall Street Journal, and New York Magazine. She has had an endless march of more than 20 foster kittens, cats, and dogs over the last few years and always cries when they leave. 

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