If you’ve been worried about Coach Ben’s safety, you’re not alone. HL spoke EXCLUSIVELY with Steven Krueger about Misty’s reaction to Ben’s reveal, Ben and Natalie’s bond, and the finale.
No one has had it easy on Yellowjackets, especially Coach Ben Scott. When the plane went down in the wilderness, Ben found himself on death’s door right away. Misty Quigley did save his life by chopping off part of his leg, but that’s brought more complications than just his health. Misty’s obsession with Ben has grown over the course of the season, and he finally admitted to her in the penultimate episode that he’s gay.
HollywoodLife spoke EXCLUSIVELY with Steven Krueger about Ben’s big reveal to Misty. He noted that we’ll get to see her reaction in the season finale, set to air January 16 on Showtime. He also discussed Ben and Natalie’s connection, Ben’s waning authority amongst the girls, who should play the older Ben if he survives, and “cliffhangers” in the finale. Read our Q&A below:
Coach Ben tells Misty that he’s gay after she tries coming on to him. I feel like this was another coming out moment after his conversation with Natalie. Do you think this is the first time he’s really ever said it out loud?
Steven Krueger: He had the moment in episode 8 where he kind of privately came out to Natalie, more because she kind of forced him. He’s completely caught off guard by her bringing it up. I know a lot of what went into this character when I was thinking about it for this first season is the time period’s really important here. We’re talking about the mid-90s, and we’re talking about a high school teacher, a high school coach. So this is a time when being gay is… this is still the height of the AIDS epidemic in New York City. So being gay is not something that’s just accepted, especially for somebody in a position who is working with high school kids. So I think this has been a very, very closely guarded secret for Ben. The fact that Natalie in episode 8 kind of brings it up so casually is very jarring for him, so he’s already got that in the back of his mind. I think he’s worried about the fact that, even though he trusts Natalie, I think he’s worried about if she picked up on it are other people picking up on it. He’s spent his entire life essentially guarding the secret and not revealing anything, not letting people find out. And now all of a sudden, somebody knows and high schoolers get, regardless of how much you might trust them, they can get very gossipy. I think that this episode is a fun follow-up because they’re on mushrooms, they’re not really thinking about any of that. They have no inhibitions. You just kind of say what comes to your mind anytime you’re on a sort of hallucinogenic drug like that. I think it’s this fun moment where it just spills out of Ben, all this stuff that he’s been suppressing for years and years and years. Ben’s 30 years old at this point, so this is something that he’s probably been dealing with for 10, 12, 15 years. I think it’s a really fun moment, and then to see Misty’s reaction to it. And then, of course, without giving away any spoilers, we’re going to see in the finale just what her reaction is. It was really, really fun shooting it. It was a big release moment.
With Misty, do you think there was a part of him that was scared of how she might react if he told her right at the beginning?
Steven Krueger: Oh, for sure. I think he was scared of her in particular, but I really think it was much broader than that. I think for anybody to find out the secret, it literally would have meant… I did a lot of research because I was too young to really understand what the world was like at that point. But everything that I read, Ben would no longer have a job if anybody found this out back home. This has been a really closely guarded secret. I think he’s terrified of literally anybody finding out, but then you throw Misty and all of her craziness on top of that, she is like public enemy number one as far as that goes.
Because you absolutely have no idea what she’ll do.
Steven Krueger: No, and she’s not going to be discreet about it. I mean, if a secret like that spills to her, everybody will find out very, very quickly, I’m sure.
And she was planning on just poisoning Ben…
Steven Krueger: That was her goal. We’re seeing this pattern with Misty where she does things where she has one outcome in mind, and it never quite works out like that.
When it comes to Natalie and Coach, I’ve loved this bond that they’ve formed. They’re like kindred spirits, in a sense. I feel like a lot of people don’t take Natalie seriously, but I think they should. And I think Coach Ben does. We’ve seen the fractures in the group, but I feel like these two really see eye-to-eye on a lot of things.
Steven Krueger: I think they do. I think you’re absolutely right. When we first read episode 8, I remember when it came out and Sophie Thatcher and I kind of looked at each other and said, “This is great.” We didn’t really get to work a whole lot together in the first part of the season, and she and I just personally off-camera get along so well. We were both really excited that they carved out this little storyline for us to have our characters bond a little bit, and I think you’re absolutely right. She and I discussed that. Natalie’s much more open about her outcast status, but in a way, they’re both outcasts. They both don’t quite fit into the lives that they’re ostensibly leading. I think that kind of naturally forms this bond between them, where they’re able to say things to each other that they really don’t feel like they could say to anybody else. I think that bond grows as the season comes to a close. And then, hopefully, next season, I have no idea what’s going to happen next season. I don’t think anybody does, but I’m guessing that that’s going to be a plot point in the future as well, which I think both of us are really excited about.
There’s a lot of trust between them, especially in a situation where the trust is waning on a lot of levels for a lot of people. When it comes to Laura Lee, when she defied Coach Ben and decided to fly the plane, that was a major moment. That was the first time someone really defied him. I think from the beginning, he’s been seen as this authority figure who’s their coach and the voice of reason. Do you think that moment, even though he ended up being right, changes things? Will it make the girls question him more?
Steven Krueger: I think that was one of the big inflection points of the season where we start to see the one adult, I think I even say that in the scene, that I’m the only adult out here. Up until this point, that’s carried some weight. I think we see that as we kind of devolve into more and more chaos, and the situation becomes more and more dire, all of a sudden authority figures don’t mean a whole lot. Authority in this situation is not what authority is back in the real world. I think this is the first taste that we got of that where, if it really came down to it, all of these girls outnumber me. I only have one leg, and they can kind of do whatever they want. There’s not a whole lot holding them back from just running right through me. I don’t know if that’s foreshadowing for the future, but I do know that it’s been a really interesting part of Ben’s overall character arc this season. He’s going from trying to maintain a status as kind of the leader of the group and the authority figure and the one who’s kind of guiding them and helping the team to, all of a sudden, he really doesn’t have a whole lot of power in this situation when it really comes down to it. That’s a scary thing for him. The other thing I thought about is Ben’s going to have a lot of questions to answer if he does survive this and gets back to the real world. I think that’s constantly going through his mind of, hey, I’m going to have to explain some things if we get back and there’s a lot of questions about what happened out there, who was in charge, and all this stuff. People are going to look to me as the leader of the team and the adult in the room. If I lose control of this situation, it comes back to me. Ultimately, people aren’t going to blame the teenage girls. They’re going to blame the one adult. There’s a lot going on in his mind and, as you can see, it starts to wear on him.
I feel like episode 9 is very much a turning point for the group. We have seen that one brief flash-forward to the middle of winter where the girl is killed by the trap. We’ve only seen Misty’s face so far among that group. How does the mushrooms trip and what happened in episode 9, especially when it comes to the girls and Travis, change things for the group? Some of the girls are starting to believe there’s a supernatural element, while others are not.
Steven Krueger: Right. To be honest with you, referring to the supernatural stuff, I think that was part of the idea the whole time. I remember talking with Ashley [Lyle] and Bart [Nickerson], the creators, about it at the very beginning of the season. I said, “What role is this going to play?” I think the idea was they always wanted it to ride that very fine line of: is this real? Is there actually some sort of supernatural element going on in this wilderness? Is there something special about where they crashed? Are they meant to be here? Like, a little bit of that Lost vibe. Or are we just kind of witnessing through these characters’ eyes their own descent into madness, given the circumstances and the situation? I think that they did a really good job of really walking that line and allowing the audience to guess a little bit about what this actually is, and we’ll see where it goes from here. But I do think that what happens in episode 9, and you’ll see as we get into the finale, and then the cliffhangers that they leave for season 2… People have been, since the beginning, wondering about how do they get to that point that we saw in the very first episode, right? How do we get to the point where they’re dressed in these crazy outfits? And they seem to be part of a clan or a tribe, and they’re actually hunting and killing and eating each other. How do they go from where they are at the beginning of season 1 to that? Which is, in theory, several seasons down the road. We started to see that at the end of episode 9, and then into the finale as well you can see just the very early trickles of they’ve held it together this long, but after this crazy mushroom trip experience, and some of the things that resulted from that, you start to see some of the fault lines forming in the group. That’s kind of where season 1 will end up leaving us, and then it’s anybody’s guess where we go from here.
To touch on what you said about the supernatural element, the show does an incredible job of walking that line in terms of how different people process trauma and trying to create an explanation of something that is unexplainable. They find themselves in a situation where they literally can’t explain what happened, so they try to find a reason for it all. The psychological elements of this show are fascinating to me.
Steven Krueger: I agree. I mean, you start to think about what this does to a person’s mind when you’re in this situation. The story is that we’re trapped out there for 19 months. What does that do to somebody’s brain? Just the actual chemistry of their brain and the way they think and the way they process information? I think it’s anybody’s guess, and I think that’s kind of what we’re really exploring with. This is dark. This is really, really very difficult for the human brain to process the situation, so who knows what it ends up doing to people.
We know a certain number of people initially survived like Natalie, Misty, Shauna, Tai, and Travis. There have been references to others that survived. Do you know if Coach Ben lives?
Steven Krueger: To be totally honest, I don’t. I have been told different things at different times. So I think at this point, it’s anybody’s guess. I’ve had conversations with Ashley and Bart about this and going into the series, they had an idea of the starting point, the ending point, and some of the plot points in between. But I think the beautiful thing about a show like this is it’s constantly evolving. Ideas can change, storylines can change based on what’s working, what’s not working. Ashley and Bart I know for a fact are very invested in the audience’s response to this show. Ashley’s on Twitter constantly. It cracks me up. They’re paying attention to what people are saying and what people are thinking. So I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re reading some of that stuff and thinking like, “Oh, well, what if we did this? What if we did this?” So the short answer is no, I honestly have no idea what the endgame is for Coach Ben. But I know that it could be anything at this point. If there was an idea at the beginning, that may have changed. I really don’t know, which is part of the excitement of the show.
If Coach Ben were to survive, have you ever thought about who could play older you? The casting of the younger and older versions of the characters is incredible.
Steven Krueger: It is. But here’s the thing, I think if there was an older me, I think I’d want to play it. They had to cast older versions for all the girls because they’re younger. I’m older than them in real life. I remember telling Ashley and Bart at some point, “If there is an older version of me, I want to do like a Mandy Moore for This Is Us. Give me the old makeup. Make me look like I’m in my 60s or whatever it is. Let me come out in a wheelchair or a Segway or something.”
I know that you can’t say much, but is there anything you can tease about the finale?
Steven Krueger: What I can say is that there will be some answers. I think that’s kind of what people have been looking for since the beginning. I know that the danger with a show like this is that it kind of runs away a little bit, and it tends to forget what happened and what they’ve set up from the beginning. People get very upset because they say, “Well, we’ve been waiting for answers about this, this, and this from the beginning.” And then they don’t get them and all of a sudden you start to not trust and think, okay, do the writers actually remember even what they did at the beginning? Are they tying all this stuff together? Are they just kind of doing this by the seat of their pants? And I can say without a doubt that the writers know exactly what they’re doing. Obviously, because there’s going to be another season, not everything gets tied up with a nice bow. There are some great cliffhangers, but we do start to get some answers. Like I said, you do start to get that little bit of a glimpse of how things go from a soccer team that gets along for the most part to these people are killing each other however many months later. So it is a very, very fun episode for a finale.
Laura Lee was the first big death in a while. I was genuinely scared for Van because the wolf attack could easily have been deadly. I feel like there have to be more deaths coming…
Steven Krueger: I won’t comment that there are any deaths in the finale. But, look, that’s going to be a part of our show going forward for however long it lasts. That’s going to be one of the big elements of surprise — who’s dying and when are they dying? And how are they dying? That’s going to be what everybody wants to figure out.