Hunter Schafer Covers V124
Model-turned-actress Hunter Schafer fuses genres this season, leaning into the fantasy and edge of the Spring 2020 collections. The Euphoria breakout star also talks defying norms, sci-fi, and trans- inclusive creativity with musician Arca.
Arca I am so happy to be interviewing you. [But] honestly, [also] freaked out that you were into the idea…
Hunter Schafer I am so excited to talk to you!
A It feels really serendipitous, because when I watched Euphoria…Your first scene, with Jules using the syringe [for hormone injections]…I was screaming so hard because I had never seen that on TV before, with proper production and cinematography. That was so moving and beautiful.
HS Oh my god, thank you so much. I mean, I’ve literally been listening to you since high school. Your sound so specifically represents my experience… “Saunter” is one of my favorite songs!
A I love that you know that song by name. Most people don’t bring it up! [Speaking of experience], I heard Jules was based on you. Is that right?
HS Yeah, that is correct!
A How was that? Transitioning is such a personal experience. Was there something redeeming about sharing it, and maybe demystifying it?
HS Yeah, right! It didn’t feel natural at first. Part of surviving [that] experience was just, like, getting through shit. Letting it rest, and not addressing it. I think that’s what I had been [doing] up to that point: just going and going, fighting to be on the other side of my transition. There was so much that I was working towards, and I was so excited to [be out of] North Carolina that I don’t think I’d ever looked back on [that experience].
A Wow! So powerful.
HS Very. That’s what felt unnatural, I was like, “Oh shit.” And remembering things that I hadn’t thought about until [that point]. That happened throughout the entire season: As we worked through different scenes, I’d have to remember a new detail, to dig up an artifact from within myself, and hold onto that moment for the scene. I imagine you do that in your work.
A That’s one way acting and making music could be similar: No matter how personal [it is] to you, there’s always this weird, speculative aspect to it. So it’s personal but not that personal; [For example] a love song can be about one person, but it can also be about multiple people.
HS That’s a mood… I think [the process of acting] can also be like writing a letter to someone—combining experiences that have a common thread.
A That reminds me of this interview with [science fiction writer] Octavia Butler—do you know her? I think you’d be into it. I’ll send it to you—it relates to what we are talking about. Are you interested in sci-fi? What gets you off when you think of your dream project?
HS Oh, yay! I haven’t heard of her, but I love sci-fi. I really want to do something sci-fi-related
A Yas…Go off!
HS That’s what I grew up on—comic books and Teen Titans. All of that was so important to me, so I feel like I owe it to my younger self. And the aesthetics would be sickening…Who’s serving better than a superhero with armor? That’s what I wish I could look like all the time.
A Let’s see if we [can] link up for a sci-fi collab. Actually, your last post is pretty superhero.
HS Thank you! That would be so sick. It’s always lowkey what I am trying to channel, in some way or another.
A To be real, transness is pretty sci-fi…
HS Yas. Period! I think that’s why a lot of trans people can tap into a certain aesthetic that has sci-fi elements [so well].
A And commit to it, too—it’s not something you [necessarily] take on or off. I support body-mod of all kinds. The vessel that you inhabit, your body, is the only thing that’s [truly yours]: It’s not property or money. Why not share your values and your beliefs through it?
HS Yeah, true…When I hear “body-mod,” I think of people putting, like, studs under their skin. But I guess it can extend to any alteration you put your body through, huh?
A Yeah, love it! I mean, the studs, the splitting tongues…I [support] all of it! …You passed through New York, too, right? I had a pretty formative part of my life there, so I was wondering what your experience was like.
HS I was in New York for a year and a half. I feel like I grew up there. Like, I don’t know how to quantify the amount of growth I did there, but I feel like I was such a baby [before]. I came straight from North Carolina, the summer after I graduated high school. I had utilized my modeling agency so that I was already employed when I got there. I just sort of figured it all out from there. I was in a place in Bushwick for a little bit. Like, a model apartment. So many “firsts” happened there. I am curious, when were you there?
A My story is pretty similar, in that I went straight from high school. So, I was 17 when I got there, and it was like the same kind of thing [where] your mind just gets opened, in such an abrupt way, that you definitely grow quickly. If you go straight there after high school, you are brave. It’s pretty crazy.
A I wanted to ask you about your visual art, too. I think it’s so sick.
HS Thank you, thank you! My original plan was to model in order to support my visual art. At that point, I thought, Damn, I wish I could be making money off of [my art] because it’s all I want to do. But then I got swept up in [acting], which is wild: I went to an arts high school, and was always focused on visual arts; [performing] was this exciting and tantalizing activity. Now it’s the opposite; I am monetizing performing. It’s wild!
A It’s beautiful to have that, no matter what medium you work in—anything that gives you oxygen, that [relieves] the pressure of monetizing your creative practice within a capitalistic system.
HS Now I am trying to lock down my [visual] art practice again. But it is a blessing to [be able to] have both—[acting] and art.
A Variety is the spice of life, for everything. I wouldn’t even want to use the same moisturizer every day!…Watching Euphoria, I was totally transfixed with the character of Jules. It’s a really special performance.
HS Aw, thank you, thank you!
A Who’s been your closest artistic collaborator, would you say?
HS I don’t know if I’ve ever worked closer with anyone than Zendaya on Euphoria. It was such an extensive process, and a very intimate one. And also Sam Levinson, [the creator], who helped me get to those places I hadn’t been since I was a teenager…
A Is there anything you imagine for the character of Jules, like in the long- term, hypothetically?
HS Ooh…I know she has dreams, [many of] which she stated in the first episode. Which is just what I did in a way: escaping to New York, and working or interning in fashion…And that was [part of the character] before I was even cast, so it was really freaky to see that written into the script. So, I feel like that’s definitely her path.
A I don’t have a vision for Jules—I’m just a bystander, finding out what happens with everyone else. But I love watching Jules, and will cheer her on in whatever she does. [She’s] just so fucking cool!
HS [Laughs] Aww, thank you. You are like her voyeur mother.
A I am so into that! That makes me so happy.