Ever since moving to L.A. in 2007, Ashley Lyle and Bart Nickerson have been writing at home. While they always pen episodes separately — “If I could be in a bunker deep underwater where no one in the world would know of my existence, that’s where I would go to write,” he says — the “Yellowjackets” showrunners come together in their study to talk through bigger ideas or any issues that need salvaging.
While the pair have worked sporadically in an office over the years, they’ve mostly done their writing from their home, wherever that may be. (Early on, they had a small Hollywood apartment that forced them to write in the bedroom.) “I think the first script that we wrote here, we just sat at the dining room table across from each other, which seems so insane to me,” says Nickerson.
Now, they’ve found their groove and look forward to coming together in the library: “It’s just the place where I feel like we have accumulated the most Bart and Ashley-ness in the house,” Lyle says. “We recently shifted from our original book- shelves to a desk-bookshelf situation.”
“The owl is something that Bart got for me on a trip to Italy, which was actually our very first, real trip together. It was certainly our first overseas trip together, which is funny because I think we did that in 2014, so we had been together for about nine years at that point. … Prior to [‘The Originals’], when we first moved out here, Bart was bartending and I was tutoring and walking dogs for a living. It sort of represents that first feeling of accomplishment. And then the squirrel, my best friend Allison and I moved out here together. We’ve been best friends since fourth grade. We were roommates for a really long time, and she had this little collection of brass animals that I loved. When she finally moved out, she now lives with her husband and her baby, she bought me that little squirrel as sort of a replacement figurine. So, they’re both near and dear to my heart.”
A Daily Reminder
The Polaroids are from when Bart and I moved to Los Angeles. We drove across the country together. It’s a reminder to us of those bright-eyed very innocent kids who were like, ‘We’re gonna make it in Hollywood,’” Lyle says. “To me, it’s also a great reminder of a time when we just wanted someone to read our material. It’s a reminder where we came from, what the process has been and to some extent, how far we’ve come, who we were and who we wanted to be.”
A Reconnection Device
“Often when I’m thinking, I like to have something in my hands. I find that useful — to draw or have cards that I’m playing with,” says Nickerson. “With the tarot deck, I try to pull a daily card. There’s something about the tarot deck that feels loaded with this mystical kind of energy that I find really useful to try to stay a little connected to, especially when doing something creative. Occasionally there are moments when I’m writing where I feel stuck and pull a card. I don’t know that I ever say, ‘Should this character do x?’ and then pull a card. It’s often more about me and my process. Sometimes I should move faster. Sometimes I should move slower. .. We’ll sort of use it to get reconnected to the mystical part of creativity.”
It Takes a Village
“One of our writers this year, Julia Bicknell, loves weird little creatures. She calls them ‘fancy boys.’ She sent everyone in the room a banana man and we all adore them. To us, it’s just so representative of what is so beautiful about a writers’ room — camaraderie, in jokes and being together with like- minded, creative people. So, he delights us and he sits in our office. We actually each have one,” Lyle explains. Nickerson adds, “This is really our first time as showrunners. It’s easy to, in a lot of the conversations that you have with press or whatever, to just talk about yourself, but television is such a collaborative process. You need so many smart people to do it and it’s this genuine collaboration. So, having something that is like a reminder of that process is helpful.
Bringing the Escape Inside
“I find writing really hard and it really, profoundly depletes something inside me. Being tired from writing is its own type of specific discomfort. For some reason, that depletion tends to be replenished by vivid visual stimulation. Jenny Saville is my favorite painter. There’s a lot of different stuff that I look at, but she is always particularly useful,” says Nickerson. Lyle agrees: “You often hear writers say, ‘You need to refill the well.’ Oftentimes that is going to the symphony, to a museum or on a hike — just getting outside your little writer hole and into the world where you can find inspiration.”