Sydney Sweeney, along with the rest of us, saw her character Cassie take an emotional turn in the second season of the HBO hit. Euphoria. From embarking on a secret relationship with her best friend Maddy’s ex-boyfriend Nate (Jacob Elordi) to a chaotic finale to Maddy’s birthday party, Cassie is front and center this season and as she battles her demons internals, sparked great memes. moments that took the internet by storm. Sweeney talks to THR about delving into Cassie’s darkest places and the other HBO show she starred in this season, The White Lotus.
How was this season Euphoria different for you than the first?
I was definitely given a lot more space to be able to explore Cassie, between Cassie’s relationships, her own relationship with herself, her mind, her emotion. There was just more there for me to play with.
What was your most challenging scene this season?
I feel like I personally thrive on and thoroughly enjoy Cassie’s very difficult and emotional roller coaster scenes. And the ones I had the most trouble with were in the hot tub with all the girls and Nate, because I actually had to hold this tube in my mouth that was being pumped out with fake vomit. And I had to hold it to my mouth while my mouth was getting full of God knows what and act like nothing was happening. I’m a very picky eater so there were random things being put in my mouth and I know this was the hardest.
His character finds himself in dark times this season. How do you get to this place?
I’ve created a very safe bridge to becoming my characters, where I create these character books that allow me to completely lose myself like Sydney. I don’t really have to process or think about anything other than the homework I’ve put Cassie in, because I’m able to live in the moment through her. Whatever is said to Cassie, whatever happens to Cassie, are really reactions during that moment. They’re not premeditated, it’s just how Cassie would naturally react to something. Once they call it cutting, I’m able to hop into Sydney and be completely separate from it all. It would be really heavy if I had to think about everything Cassie would have to go through because she had so many difficult and emotional scenes. Being able to get in and out easily definitely saved my sanity.
Can you talk more about these books?
Basically, it’s my character’s entire life in one book, and I fill in any gaps that maybe aren’t in the scripts. I create a whole world for her so I know how something is going to turn her on because of a moment that happened in her life. We are all who we are because of our memories and moments that have happened throughout our lives. I’m able to organically react the way that person would, because there’s a life behind it. I do this for each character.
How long does it take?
As long as I have! For Cassie, because we had to wait to find out if we were cast in season one and then we had such a long gap between season one and season two, I had an immense amount of time to be able to work on that.
Was that something that came to you organically?
Was. When I was little, I had all these friends and imaginary worlds, and I love creating things. I’m an arts and crafts type of person – Michaels is my paradise. When I was auditioning, I didn’t understand all these acting coaches wanting to rehearse a certain way and not build a person. I always felt like it wasn’t natural and organic, so I started doing my own thing. It’s so much work. I get stressed, and half the time my mom is like, “You’re doing this to yourself,” and I’m like, “But it’s the job!”
How do your co-stars support each other when you’re going through tense arcs?
We have a very strong brotherhood on set. We are all experiencing this together and we spend a lot of time together. We all became friends. It’s basically like sleepovers every day. We go back to our trailers and hang out, watch random TV or videos – really just hanging out and decompressing with each other.
A few months ago, you talked about having a voice and what you’re comfortable with filming, particularly the nude scenes. What did you learn from this experience about where your personal boundaries lie?
I always felt that there are necessary moments [in which] Cassie only knows how to communicate through her body. I always wanted to make sure that anything that was used sexually through Cassie was really moving the story forward. Sam [Levinson, showrunner] does a beautiful job at what he conveys through the public eye, and through Nate’s eyes with Cassie, or Cassie’s own mind through sexuality. And having an intimacy coordinator on set is so amazing. He’s another person who stands up for you, and he’s very technical. He’s not really sexy at all. But I never said that any scene was unnecessary – things were taken out of context. Sam is so awesome, but he would never force us or make us feel a certain way about it. I could call Sam and say, “Hey, I never want to do a scene like that again,” and he’d say, “OK.”
At the end of the previous season, there were reports about how Sam manages his set. What were his thoughts on that?
It takes many hours and people to assemble it. It’s definitely not a normal 9 to 5, and if you’re expecting it, you’re going to despair. It’s a lot of work, but we’re very lucky that Euphoria touched the lives of so many people, and the hours and hard work that everyone puts into it shows.
Is it true that you felt labeled after this role?
Cassie is a sexualized character, and that became a mold that was then [forced] to me as a human being instead of just Cassie. I was seeing people say, “Oh, she only got that because she showed her tits.” I had several shows and movies before I even made Euphoria. I look very different in everything I do because I want to become the character individually, and I don’t want people to associate Sydney Sweeney with a character – I want them to feel like they’re experiencing another world and someone else. People didn’t call this a few months ago, I did tale of the servantor before that I was in everything is shit. And a month before that I did sharp objects and when people started putting it together and then seeing white lotusI think it’s kind of turned it around for everyone. You look at some of these amazing male actors who play the coolest and most diverse characters, and people are like, “Oh cool.” Nobody ever puts any kind of stigma behind it.
How did you get attached to your role in the white lotus?
We were supposed to start filming on March 15th or 18th, 2020, but literally the day before, we were shut down due to COVID and they said, “let’s take a two week hiatus and let everything calm down”, and two weeks later, it turned in another five months, eight months and a full year later. In the midst of it, around daylight saving time, there was a show called white lotus. My team heard about it and saw that they were auditioning. I recorded my tape with my mom, got a call and met up with Mike White on Zoom. I was so blessed and honored to work through such a difficult time and in such a safe environment, and it was amazing to be surrounded by the greatest comedy cast you can be a part of. I was always afraid of comedy because I never knew if I could do it. If something scares me, it means I will challenge myself to do something that is not innate to me as a person. Being able to be there and learn from everybody and build and raise Olivia… It was a great, great experience.
Do you see any similarities between Olivia and Cassie?
No, I think Cassie would be terrified of Olivia and Olivia would hate Cassie.
What was your favorite scene to film?
Whenever we could do family dinner or breakfast scenes and everyone was sitting at the table and Murray [Bartlett] was walking around. You really felt the energy in the dynamics of what Mike was building.
What was your most challenging?
I had never smoked a pipe before. I had no idea how to do this. I was like, “I’m going to look stupid!” This is one of those moments where the whole team is like, “This is how I do it!” It was hard not to cough, but I ended up laughing and we just kept going.
You have Madame Web Arriving. What attracted you to it?
O my God. I grew up watching Marvel movies and superheroes are the coolest thing ever. So I just dreamed of being a part of something bigger than life itself. And that’s what I feel like I’ll be a part of Madame Web.
Interview edited for length and clarity.
This story first appeared in a standalone June issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.