Hunter Schafer Says This Was the Hardest Euphoria Scene for Her to Shoot
The first-time actress discusses her hit show, the power of art that makes us uncomfortable, and what’s next.
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Before the end of the first episode of HBO’s Euphoria, I’d already looked up Hunter Schafer’s name online. Much to my surprise, I discovered her role in the series was her first acting credit — an impressive feat given the dynamism of her performance in a bleak high school melodrama that touches on rape, drug abuse, and self-harm.
In one of Schafer’s early scenes, her character Jules is cornered and threatened by football player Nate (Jacob Elordi) at a house party. Jules retaliates by pulling a butcher’s knife on him, and then cutting herself across the arm. It’s uncomfortable to watch, but Schafer’s delivery is somehow both savage and totally vulnerable.
Given her stunning performance on the show, it’s no surprise that Schafer now has an Instagram fanbase of over 400,000, or that she was greeted by enthusiastic young fans just moments before stepping inside the InStyle studios.“I don’t know how to process that,” she tells me with a grin. She arrived on set wearing raw-hem pastel Thom Browne separates, looking like Gen Z Cher Horowitz. She also brought an entourage, including her mom.
Schafer sat down with InStyle to discuss her hit show, the power of art that makes us uncomfortable, and what’s next.
InStyle: Euphoria deals with a lot of tough topics in a realistic way, which isn't always easy to watch. Do you think it's important to face art that can make us uncomfortable?
Hunter Schafer: I think art should function as something that catches you off guard or makes you feel seen in a way that you might not normally be seen, and that's an uncomfortable experience. It's kind of similar to acting in that you have to embrace the discomfort in order to go where you need to go. And so I think for it to be effective, people will have to be uncomfortable — and people don't like being uncomfortable sometimes, but that's the tricky part.
The fact that Jules is trans isn’t made verbally explicit until several episodes in. Was it important to you for Jules's depiction break the norms of trans representation?
I don't think we were even trying to break the norms. I think we just wanted to tell a good story and a story that let Jules as a character breathe and be complicated, and be messy outside of an identity, which I think it accomplishes.
Considering the nature of the show, are there any scenes that were particularly difficult for you to shoot or go to mentally?
The kitchen scene [in the first episode] was difficult for me. I had been anticipating it a lot, and maybe overthought it, and also it was just scary. It's a scary situation to be in and there were like 200 extras on set. [Scenes] with lots of extras is kind of scary because you just have everyone looking at you.
You were a model before you started acting. Did the fashion industry prepare you for this new career path at all?
I think it got me comfortable in front of the camera, which did take a minute. Having this object recording your every move or moment is a weird thing to have to get accustomed to, so in that sense I think it prepared me. But then I don't know, acting itself is a whole other beast.
As a first-time actor, have your co-stars given you any advice or helped you navigate the industry at all?
Yeah. Some of us are new [to the industry] and some of us aren't. Like in the way that families function, we were all helping each other out and I definitely received some awesome advice from my castmates and director.
You and Jules are both extremely fashionable — how does your style differ from hers?
I think, especially in the past year, going to work and not having to get dressed nicely because you're going to change into costume anyways, I like sweatpants now and that was not a thing before. And I don't know if Jules is a huge fan of sweatpants either, or just kind of wore streetwear. Maybe she will be, I don't know. But, yeah, I think I'm definitely a little more chill, sometimes a little more masc than her.
In addition to the modeling and acting, you're also a visual artist and a published writer. Are there any other creative outlets you're eager to explore?
I'd love to get in some dance classes. One of my love languages is touch and movement —and love as in like romantic or platonic. I find that a really beautiful way to connect to people. And so I think that is really fun to explore through dance. It's something I would definitely love to delve into, like FKA Twigs.
What are you looking for in future projects?
I don't know if I'm looking for anything in particular. I'm mostly just excited to keep trying acting and I think maybe for my next role I'd love to try someone who's a bit further away from who I am, whether they're cis or like an alien or something. I don't know, I just want to keep exploring.
Who was your first celebrity crush?
I was a One Direction fan. I think probably Zayn Malik.
What's one food you'll never get sick of?
Astrology, yes or no?
That's a hard one! I don't know, I don't personally look into it, but a lot of my friends do.
What's your favorite item of clothing that you own?
A sweater that's sort of been through like a Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants thing, but like with a bunch of trans women that I love.
Who have you been the most starstruck to meet in Hollywood so far?
What's an account you're obsessed with right now?
What is your biggest guilty pleasure?
I don't really feel guilty about anything that I do. If I'm doing it, I'm doing it.
What's one thing you wish people knew about you?
I feel like sometimes people are intimidated by me. Maybe because I'm tall, I don't know. But I am probably just as intimidated by you because I'm a shy person.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.