Spoiler alert: This story contains spoilers for Yellowjackets season one.
Don’t think fans of Yellowjackets are the only ones on Reddit diving into the theories and conversations around the latest television phenomenon. Canadian actor Kevin Alves, who plays Teen Travis on the hit Showtime series, has definitely gone down the Reddit rabbit hole — enjoying all the clever speculation born from the survival thriller.
“I was really loving the ‘Adam is Javi’ theory for a long time,” Alves says from Vancouver on a Zoom call. Following an epic first season of the unhinged show, Slice caught up with the Toronto-born actor to chat Yellowjackets theories, working on the wild series and bringing back the ‘90s.
Exploring Yellowjackets fan theories and life on set
The series, which is equally parts dramedy and mystery (lightly tossed in psychological horror), debuted in November on Crave — and has been inspiring fan theory after theory since. Who is the girl in the pit in the pilot? What’s going on with Taissa’s shrine (RIP Biscuit!)? What really happened in the Ontario wilderness for those 19 months?
Unfortunately, like the rest of us, Alves is in the dark about any major plot points to come. “I definitely have personal theories, but I just know so much now that I feel my personal theories are too close and the minute I give any inkling — people are just going to run with those things,” Alves acknowledges. Of course, being a dedicated actor and doing the work for his role, he’s reflected on his character’s path and development. With Yellowjackets showrunners Bart Nickerson and Ashley Lyle on set in Vancouver for the entire season, it was an opportunity for the actors to gut-check their portrayals to keep behaviours on track for scenes to come. A tricky act to balance in efforts to entertain, intrigue and maintain suspense.
Melanie is honestly the best leader of a show I could ever imagine.
“I remember shooting episode two, like the first scene between Travis and Natalie, and I remember we were just doing a scene and I could see Jamie Travis and Ashley were just not happy. They weren’t sure what was going on. And so I noticed that and just walked up to them,” shares Alves. “OK, well, what are we missing here? What’s happening? And we could have that conversation and go like, OK, I think we’re going to go here with this role. But then are we giving them too much of this or too much of that? And we were able to have that conversation.”
The writing of the show is strong — offering audiences quality foreshadowing, plot twists and fascinating characters they’ll invest in. It’s on purpose. During the shoot for episode seven, Alves was chatting with producer Jamie Travis about how he was happy with the way his character was growing and changing through this awkward relationship with Natalie (Sophie Thatcher). “Oh, wait until nine,” Alves remembers Travis saying. “And so it was just after that that we got the script — and I was pretty shocked at what was written — but I was excited to do the work with a professional team of people.”
The Yellowjackets industry pros range from The Blair Witch Project director Eduardo Sánchez, who directed the finale, to A-list on-screen talent including Juliette Lewis, Christina Ricci and the show’s lead actress, Melanie Lynskey.
“Melanie is honestly the best leader of a show I could ever imagine. She’s amazing and the nicest human ever. I got the nicest email from her when we chatted back and forth in an exchange that I will keep forever, because she’s fantastic,” shares Alves. “But I believe she made a huge effort to get to know everyone — and she’s a fantastic leader.”
With strong leadership in acting and smart considerations during production, the show was thoughtfully brought together — and done so responsibly. The Yellowjackets team was very professional and — if you’ve seen the show — it’s clear why that was so important.
Resources like intimate coordinators were provided for the cast to support their work. “Luckily, I had already worked with the intimacy coordinator on a few scenes already with Sophie. And so, I was really aware of the protocols and how to deal with these kind of things,” says Alves. “I felt super comfortable in knowing that we were going to try and tackle these scenes as honest and yet as safe as possible. I was really lucky that all the actors and actresses on the show were really great in terms of, you know, being open with communication and making sure that everyone felt good while we did this stuff and to make sure that it was a really nice environment to create it. But, you know, I think watching episode two or three, you kind of anticipate that at some point something like this was going to happen, right?”
He’s not wrong. He also has no idea where his on-screen little brother Javi is following the finale. “What I’ve told everyone is there was a vision for what was happening with Javi — maybe that vision has changed,” explains Alves. “But there were two things that happened that didn’t end up happening in the finale that originally were written. And so I don’t know if we just don’t want to give them away too soon or if they just changed. And so, it’s really like, I honestly have no idea.”
Nat and Travis, according to the actor behind Travis
Thatcher calls it an obsession. Juliette Lewis talks about her character’s “toxic bravado,” as much of her Adult Nat storyline centres around solving the mystery around Travis. Alves also recognizes the shadow in the connection — but offers perspective.
“Oh, absolutely toxic, co-dependent. It’s a co-dependent relationship. You know, they bring out in many ways the worst of each other. And yet, somehow the best at times, which I think is just so telling to so many relationships that people go through, because it’s so hard to accept that someone who brings out the worst in you — when they also feel like the person who brings out the best. And I think we see that multiple times,” says Alves, who was grateful to work with his favourite scene partner when bringing this important relationship to life. “I feel so privileged to have done this season with Sophie Thatcher working on this, because she also had a very, like, similar approach to when we were dealing with the role.”
He thinks back to filming episode four — when the show started to build the foundation of the Natalie and Travis relationship. “There’s a very small scene where right after she shoots the deer, we walk up to it and I sit down beside it and she checks the blood and we look at each other, and we sit down,” Alves recalls, “And I remember us shooting that and going, ‘this is the most important thing, because they’re not just mourning this deer, they’re together mourning their dads. There’s a whole other side to this — and that’s what brings them together.’”
Alves believes this scene speaks to an understanding of this cycle of life and death, which they both really understand. The thought and emotion put into the characters contributed to the challenge of watching the breakup scene. “You know that he doesn’t want to do that. Like, Travis doesn’t want to just push her away — but you can see that he can’t stop himself,” says Alves, who acknowledges that Travis often says the wrong things in situations because of his hurt and pain.
“I hope people see that there is a lot of masking going on between the two of them. They mask a lot of things,” Alves explains. “There’s even a beautiful moment in episode nine where he goes up to her and he says she looks nice — and then Jackie calls them over. There’s a moment where he looks at her and he doesn’t want to leave — and he waits a second. She doesn’t turn around, and then he goes. And so, it’s this push and pull of them two of them both not wanting [to do] things to each other,” Alves reflects, noting all the love that’s there, but noting how toxic their dynamic can be.
You may also like: 25 toxic on-screen relationships we accidentally romanticize.
Fictional Teen Travis vs. actor Kevin Alves
The performer’s favourite ‘90s film is Happy Gilmore. His ‘90s TV show of choice was the Power Rangers and Alves’ favourite song on the Yellowjackets soundtrack is “Vienna” by Ultravox. He points out that Travis is a flawed guy from a different time — and though there are huge differences between who he is in real life and who he plays on TV, Alves digs to find common ground.
I still felt the mask part of Travis feels very relatable, but I think that’s everyone.
Unlike his character, the 30-year-old Toronto-born actor is more people-pleasing than defiant. The thing he shares in common with his Yellowjackets character is the ability to mask — but the two built the skill in very different ways.
“You can see that defiance with him right in the pilot with his parents. You can see that he’s clearly not calm expressing his disgust — he has a problem expressing his vulnerability, but he has no problem expressing his disgust,” says Alves. “And so, that was probably the biggest difference between us, and that I always kept in a lot of negative feelings that I felt. I still felt the mask part of Travis feels very relatable, but I think that’s everyone.”
Alves feels humans in general have some sort of mask on at different times in life — but especially during their teen years. In his own youth, Alves grew up figure skating and thrived in a community where people were very open minded. Having traveled to 25 countries for his sport, he was exposed to a lot of different cultures, mindsets, theories and philosophies early on. Unfortunately, his fictional character seemed to have spent most of his life in New Jersey. “I believe his world is a lot more small and dense, and just not very open to the worldviews that we do now.”
Yellowjackets fans visiting Toronto: Alves has some ideas for you
Though he grew up in Ontario, Canada, the actor does not like his chances of survival if he was stranded in the northern Ontario wilderness. “You know, Toronto winters don’t prepare you for nothing,” says Alves with a laugh. “Toronto winters — you just throw on a big coat and you run inside. What — in Toronto now, we have an entire walking system that’s all underground indoors that you can get through the whole city without ever going outside.”
There’s nothing more electrifying than the inside of the ACC during a Raptors or Leafs game
It’s true, sweet urban designs have helped Canadians avoid the harsh winter weather. Alves also notes that likely none of the cast would be actually ready for a survival situation. “I’ve seen us all ask for blankets when it’s nine degrees out. So, I think we all would need a craft truck in the wilderness for us to be able to survive,” says Alves.
Though Alves doesn’t think winter in Toronto could prepare you for any survival situation, the actor offers his recommendations for Yellowjacket fans visiting the Six.
“For me, there’s nothing more electrifying than the inside of the ACC during a Raptors or Leafs game,” says Alves. “If you’re Toronto and you can get to a game — go.”
The actor is also a big fan of the restaurant scene in the GTA. Recognizing the plethora of options, he suggests Googling to help narrow down the choices. “[You’ve] got to find your best style and just go and try everything, ‘cause I would go everywhere I could possibly go,” says Alves, who switches it up so often, he can’t remember most of the names.
When with friends, he plays a game to help narrow down the destination for delicious eats. “The way that [we’d] like to do things when I was with friends is… we would honestly just walk around and then would pick a place that we saw,” Alves explains. “The only way to try new places is if you just walk around Toronto and go, hmmm, this looks good and you walk in. We call it dinner roulette.”
He explains how the game works. You walk around, each person selects a place they see — the restaurants get written down. “Then we pick a name out of either a hat or we do a phone randomizer,” says Alves.
As for Yellowjackets season two, the reveal Alves is most looking forward to? “I cannot wait to find out how this — I don’t know if it’s a cult or what it is — ties in with Lottie Matthews,” says Alves. “And then trying to understand and know what happened to Travis exactly. We just know about the bank account. But the big question, I guess, is why.”
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