It's No Mystery Why Melanie Lynskey and Jason Ritter Are Such a Winning Couple

Yellowjackets star Melanie Lynskey and husband Jason Ritter love juicy acting roles, The Bachelor, their daughter and each other.

By Natalie Finn Mar 25, 2022 10:00 AMTags
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Here's a twist for you: Melanie Lynskey and Jason Ritter may actually be the same person.

Sure, she's a 44-year-old woman from New Zealand and he's a 42-year-old guy from Los Angeles. And they're married and parents of a 3-year-old daughter together.

OK, maybe they're not the same-same.

But they are two halves who uncannily make a whole. Lynskey's the eldest of five siblings while Ritter's the eldest of his late father John Ritter's four kids, and both of them grew up cautiously monitoring their own behavior—to varying degrees of success, but enough so that each admittedly wasted a bunch of time trying to act a certain way, while also acting on camera.

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"The way I was brought up was to not show a ton of emotion and not get angry," Lynskey told Rolling Stone in an interview published this January. "I'm trying to get better at letting the anger come out at all. There's so many years of just not knowing what to do with it. I had a therapist once say something about, 'You're scared that if you even let a little bit of it out, it'll just never stop. It'll just overwhelm you and you'll just be furious forever.' Which really resonated with me."

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Growing up, she said, "I wanted order so badly. Everyone was like, 'What a dork!' and I would say, 'Well, wouldn't it be nice to know that one thing was going to be consistent?'"

Meanwhile, Ritter demanded perfection, his own and others, and would warn his younger siblings that there were consequences to their actions. "It wasn't even something that my dad or mom instilled in me, but I did have this sense that people knew who my dad was and I could embarrass him, or I could bring shame upon the family, or whatever," he shared on the April 8, 2019, episode of the podcast Really Famous. "That I could mess up and it wouldn't just affect me, it would affect him and my mom and make them out to be bad parents. There was a level of 'I better behave' at a certain point."

As for his own familiarly human foibles, including overdoing it enough with alcohol that he was inspired to get sober more than eight years ago, "the recklessness came from being so tightly wound," he mused to Really Famous host Kara Mayer Robinson. Looking back, he said, "as I grew up I really had to not only let go of trying to be perfect but also not rail against perfection so hard that I become an awful nightmare."


Now, as adults who've found each other, he and Lynskey are both suspicious of anyone who insists that everything is fine all the time.

"That's always a huge red flag for me, when I meet someone and they're presenting this sort of thing of 'Everything's great and I'm great and I'm wonderful,'" Ritter explained to Mayer Robinson. "I'm always more put at ease when someone says, [speaking in a confiding tone] 'I don't really know what I'm doing.'"

Doing press for the romantic dramedy Togetherness, which ran on HBO for two seasons, Lynskey—who started playing a married mother of two at a time when she was divorced and not a mom—told Entertainment Weekly in 2016 of the relatably (to her, at least) messy lives of the show's characters, "When people are able to be black and white about those issues I think, 'Man, you have must have had such a perfect childhood.' I've always known that life is very complicated."

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Ritter, an Emmy nominee for his guest role on Parenthood, has been open about his own issues, in no small part because he feels it doesn't help anyone, ever, to go around pretending everything is perfect. "It's much easier to go, 'No, it's all a struggle' and you just slowly try to bend the arc towards learning more and bettering yourself and being a better human being to people," he told Mayer Robinson.

He's also been through a lot of therapy in his life, he shared, and he admittedly was still inclined to check his own behavior. "I still feel a little bit of some kind of pressure to appear a certain way and parts of my personality are to, like, hide away," the Raising Dion star said. "I've gotten better at just sort of talking about my things and then letting people judge or not judge, or do whatever. It feels nice to kind of not try to pretend I'm something else."

And Lynskey certainly wouldn't have him any other way.

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The Yellowjackets star met her partner of almost a decade when they made the 2013 film The Big Ask and, even if they hadn't clicked then, they would've had another shot at love on the set of the 2014 rom-com We'll Never Have Paris

"We get along really well," Lynskey told Screen Crush in 2016 of her real-life leading man when they co-starred in their third film together, The Intervention. "He is just such a sweet, easygoing person. It was nice, he is very easy to be around. He is such a good actor."

Complimented on yet another performance as a relatably human character in that film and asked if that was something she looked for in a part, Lynskey replied, "I think my own set of criteria is that when I am reading it, there is just something that just clicks in me. I just sort of instinctively know to do it. Maybe because I am such a mess. It tends to be those kind of characters. It's also just more to explore that kind of thing. You know, when somebody is making mistakes, and I guess I am really, really interested in people's behavior."

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Introspection runs in the relationship, Ritter saying with a laugh on Really Famous, "For me, my closest friends and the people in my life, we over-talk about our difficulties."

Lynskey has a fairly unusual challenge, in that she has a condition called misophonia in which common bodily noises, particularly the sounds people make when they're eating, gross her out to no end.

"My dad was very, very fussy about never making any noise so I don't know if it's nature or nurture," she told The Guardian in 2016. "But it's horrible, I feel like a terrible person. Last night, my boyfriend and I had this noodle soup and it's really hard to eat quietly. He's paralyzed with self-consciousness because I'm sitting there, like losing my mind. But he's a lovely eater—I wouldn't be with him if he wasn't!"

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Ritter's totally cool about it, though, explaining that Lynskey can have a tough time at restaurants ("She'll freeze and her eyes will go big and she'll be like, 'Across the room, back corner!'") or in a movie theater when people are chomping loudly on their popcorn, but also that it's really sharpened his own senses. (Let's just say, he won't get sick over it, but if you're chewing gum near him, Ritter will hear you.)

Besides, he firmly rejects the idea that the person you're meant to be with should be any different from how they are.

"One of the big sort of red flags for me, again," Ritter said on Really Famous, is that "unless I've been a completely ridiculous person, if someone is ever embarrassed by me, that makes me nervous.' Cause then it's like, you wanted me to be something in order to make strangers [more comfortable]."

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Talking about the term "irreconcilable differences," he said, "When I first heard this phrase I thought it was people not wanting to tell the truth about their divorce. But that's a real thing and that can also happen with friends, like, 'Oh wow, we're just actually different and I think you need something more than I need.'"

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Lynskey was previously married to actor Jimmi Simpson for five years before they split up in 2012. But they remained friends, and she even suggested that he would be "amazing" in the role of her husband, which Mark Duplass ultimately played, in Togetherness. "We're still very close," she explained to Entertainment Weekly in 2016. "And he'd be so right for it and the dynamic would be so interesting cause we have this history together." Ritter dated GLOW actress Marianna Palka for more than a decade and they stayed close enough for her to direct him in 2015's Always Worthy and 2017's Bitch.

Ritter quipped that it made "a certain amount of sense" that he both watched a lot of true crime TV and everything that Bachelor Nation has to offer, Lynskey having first turned him onto The Bachelor. Firmly established as super-fans, they've been on the Do You Accept This Rose? podcast together, and Ritter has made multiple solo appearances on franchise alum Nick Viall's The Viall Files to recap The Bachelorette, most recently in November.  

"They're both filled with extremely emotional people," Ritter observed on Really Famous of both crime shows and The Bachelor. On the latter specifically, "they get these people to go to these beautiful places and they really do get their emotions involved...Their adrenaline and oxytocin is pumping, then it all just slowly falls apart and people are weeping...It's like a weird social experiment."

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He and Lynskey have managed to lead a fairly private life, despite his famous pedigree and impressive list of credits and her she's-always-great acting track record, from her breakout performance as a disturbed teen in Heavenly Creatures to her recurring gig as stalker neighbor Rose on Two and a Half Men. But her latest layered character, stay-at-home mom Shauna who's living a lie (but aren't they all?), on Showtime's grisly, who-did-it-25-years-ago murder mystery Yellowjackets has turned up their spotlight.


When she won Best Actress in a Drama Series at the 2022 Critics' Choice Awards earlier this month, Lynskey gave a shout-out to Ritter, "the love of my life, the greatest support," but charmed even more when she concluded her speech by thanking their nanny, Sally.

"I love her," the honoree said. "She's an absolute angel. She's with my child, and my child is safe and taken care of, and she allows me to go and do my work."

Lynskey and Ritter welcomed their daughter in December 2018. While there a few pictures of her on Mom's Instagram, the couple have kept the child's name private, and they didn't announce her birth to the world so much as confirm it the following month.

"We feel lucky to have been able to have our news just be for friends and family for a while, but I guess the story got out," Lynskey tweeted Jan. 31, 2019, adding, "We love her so much; she's perfect. Thanks to everyone for your sweet messages."


Among the details she shared: "I did NOT welcome the baby 'quietly', I was blasting A$AP Rocky and yelling a lot," and, "The good thing about our news being put out there is that now I do get to publicly thank the wonderful doctors and the amazing heroic caring brilliant nurses of @NSH_Maternity in Atlanta. From labor & delivery to post partum, every one was an angel and I'm eternally grateful."

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Lynskey shared on the podcast Talk Easy With Sam Fragoso in November that she did one day of work, shooting an episode of the Netflix series Easy, during her pregnancy and then took seven months off. The historical miniseries Mrs. America was her first postpartum project and the shoot was "very, very hard with an infant."

"Then there was COVID and we didn't do anything for a year," she said, recalling the mixed emotions of enjoying being home with her family but worrying about pretty much everything else going on in the world. Also during that time she lost a pregnancy at 10 weeks, just a few months before she was supposed to start shooting Yellowjackets

"That was s--tty, and it was a really hard recovery," she told Fragoso. "So at first it was this dreamy bubble we were in, and then, like, 'Another baby!' And then I had to go through—also, it's not fun going to the doctor in the middle of a pandemic, and especially when you're going to two surgeries, and there was a lot of horrible stuff that happened after I'd lost the pregnancy. So it ended up being miserable." She gave a little laugh, as if at the absurd misfortune of it all. "A wonderful time, to a miserable time, and then it's gone on for so long it's circled back to a wonderful time again."

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Lynskey has talked more about her loss since, but that was the first time she'd mentioned it in an interview. "I haven't said anything, only to my friends, but I think it's a good thing," she said, assuring Fragoso it wasn't a taboo topic (and also selflessly asking him if he was OK with it). "I feel like people don't talk about it enough, and it's very common."

Asked how she made it through, she replied, "I don't know if I have, honestly. I think I'm holding onto it. I'm trying to get through it but I don't think my body has finished grieving it. You know how your body hangs onto things emotionally, like 'enough time has passed, I should be done with it,' but I'm just not."

Moreover, she added, she was still breastfeeding her daughter when she got pregnant and she was still carrying the weight she'd gained "even though it's been a year. I'm just trying to be kind about it right now." 

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Which can't have been easy when she got to work on Yellowjackets and an unnamed someone made a thinly veiled criticism about how she looked. "They were asking me, ‘What do you plan to do? I'm sure the producers will get you a trainer. They'd love to help you with this,'" Lynskey recounted the moment to Rolling Stone. (Her co-stars rallied to her defense.) So-called fans of the show also seemed to have trouble believing Shauna's affair with Adam (Peter Gadiot), of which she recalled thinking, "'Wow, really? That's where people's heads are at, that the most important thing is being thin or young?'"

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But trying to ignore that sort of feedback was nothing new for Lynskey, who's been candid about past issues with self-esteem and body image.

Asked during a 2016 appearance on Talk Easy what her then-39-year-old self would like to tell her 16-year-old self, she said, "I think it would be, 'You're fine. Like, stop it. Stop looking for the person who's going to prove to you that you're wonderful or try and make your body look a particular way.' You know, I had this idea like, 'If I ever weigh this much then I'm going to be happy.' I had a lot of eating issues, a lot of issues around relationships and trying to find my happiness from external things."

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Of course, finding that person who unconditionally loves you and thinks you're the finest thing on two legs isn't the worst

"I am sorry to do this and she will be embarrassed that I did this but my GOODNESS what an absolyute beaut my wife is!!!" Ritter tweeted March 13 alongside a red carpet photo of Lynskey at the Critics' Choice Awards. "Ok I'm sorry but I mean LOOK at this human being who is also the best person I know."

Lynskey retweeted him, adding, "I keep daring him to just tweet 'I love my curvy wife' but he won't do it (I love you, best husband ever)."

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Not ones to be splashy about their milestones, they married without public fanfare—reportedly in 2020—after a long engagement. 

Revealing that she had a fiancé in 2017, Lynskey told Hollywood Today Live that Ritter surprised her with a proposal "on the sofa."

"It was sweet," she said.

On Ritter's Feb. 17 birthday, she paid tribute to her "beautiful husband" on Instagram, captioning a photo of him hoisting their tutu-wearing daughter into the air," Thank you for making me cry with laughter daily. Thank you for giving our little daughter the safest, most joyful, most loving childhood. You are so fun. You are so kind, to everyone, even mean people. You are just the best person. And you are very very very very handsome and I love you with all my heart @jason_ritter."


This already jam-packed year also included Ritter accompanying Lynskey to the 2022 SAG Awards on Feb. 28, where she was part of the nominated cast of Don't Look Up, and the party continues March 27 at the Oscars, the existential disaster comedy a four-time nominee, including Best Picture.

Lynskey said on Talk Easy in November that, since becoming a mom, she no longer needed as much time as she used to require to summon the necessary emotions for a scene. Now, "my emotions are just on the surface," she shared. "I'm probably just exhausted, but things are very accessible. It's not like I'm thinking about my daughter and then tears will come. I just feel like a live electrical outlet."

She admitted that, being such a doting big sister all her life, she "didn't think there was any other love possible. I know it sounds like a cliché, but my heart expanded."

Yet all those new depths and the expansion are on the inside, never mind the attention that has come with being on one of the buzziest shows of the year. "My life is so small," she insisted to Rolling Stone from Atlanta, where she was shooting the Hulu true crime series Candy with Jessica Biel. "I just go to work and I go back to our little rented home."

A small life, maybe, but full.