Ahead of her breakout role in Sam Levinson’s teen drama Euphoria, Hunter Schafer talks to Rowan Blanchard about her love of fantasy and moving to California
At a time when trans rights are more under threat than ever, the spring 2019 issue of Dazed takes a stand for the global creativity of the LGBTQIA+ communities and infinite forms of identity. You can pre-order a copy of our latest issue here, and see the whole Infinite Identities campaign here.
For her role in Euphoria, a forthcoming HBO show set to update the high school drama for 2019, Hunter Schafer had to make a few life adjustments. For one, she had to reconnect with what it felt like to be a sophomore, before she became the model and artist she is known as today. Secondly, it required a move from New York to Los Angeles. In the show, Schafer plays Jules, a new-to-town trans teenager navigating the trials and triumphs of coming of age. As the brainchild of Sam Levinson, director of last year’s gonzo big-screen satire Assassination Nation, the project is both the next stage of Schafer’s multiplicitous career, and the one which has felt like the most natural fit.
Schafer, 20, has always aligned herself with iconoclastic talents. Last September, she cut a spiky figure at Rick Owens’ SS19 show, striding around the designer’s blazing, witchy pyre in the courtyard of the Palais de Tokyo. Her elven-like beauty – austere with flickers of a youthful sincerity – was the perfect foil for the designer’s meaningful severity. “Rick Owens is one of my absolute fucking favourite designers!” Schafer exclaims. “I had been wanting (to do) that show ever since I started modelling.” It was also earlier that year, at Miu Miu’s 2019 cruise show, where Schafer met kindred spirit and politically minded actress Rowan Blanchard – when they phone me while sitting next to each other one day in December, Blanchard interviewing Schafer, it’s a proper young actress summit.
“I was a fan of Hunter long before I actually met her,” says Blanchard, referencing Schafer’s work outside of fashion, which includes her stint as a contributing artist for the seminal, recently folded Rookie magazine. From the age of 15, Schafer created watercolour paintings, collages, sketches, comics, photos and essays displaying her romantic, buoyant touch for the website. It was a style in conversation with that of founder Tavi Gevinson, who has also parlayed her knack for world-building into fashion, then acting. Working for Rookie, Schafer says, introduced her to the idea of making art to a deadline and with an audience in mind.
When Schafer was 17, she was a plaintiff in the lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) against her home state of North Carolina regarding House Bill 2, which, per the ACLU, banned “transgender people from accessing restrooms and other facilities consistent with their gender identity and blocks local governments from protecting LGBT people against discrimination in a wide variety of settings.” Schafer was, notably, the youngest plaintiff in the suit and her considered, heartfelt perspective cut through the noise. At the time, she penned a widely shared piece for Teen Vogue, explaining her position, writing that she was fighting not only to reverse the law, “but also to represent other transgender youth in North Carolina who are as hurt as I am, and to raise awareness and acceptance for transgender individuals”.
Three years later, the label of ‘activist’ feels a bit baggy on Schafer. She sees the course she’s charting as primarily an artistic practice, explaining, “When I took my place as a plaintiff in the House Bill 2 lawsuit, I did that because I could. I was in a really privileged place where I wasn’t struggling with my transness in the way I had been previously. I felt like I could be of use to my community, but before that it had always been my intention to be an artist.” For now, she’s relishing the chance to focus on being an actress, and is already thinking about the worlds she could create for herself on-screen. “There’s a lot of room for us to expand into roles that are completely out of this world,” she muses to Blanchard, in typically thoughtful fashion. “I think trans people know fantasy really well.”
Where in California are you guys right now?
Hunter Schafer: I recently moved to a house by Silver Lake.
Rowan Blanchard: Yeah, she’s in this cute townhouse in Silver Lake.
And Rowan, are you nearby?
Rowan Blanchard: I’m literally right next to her… (laughs) Oh, you mean in LA. Yeah I’m really close to Hunter! Like, 15 minutes away.
Did you meet in LA, or had you met through friends elsewhere?
Rowan Blanchard: I was a fan of Hunter’s long before I actually met her. I followed her on Instagram and was just really captivated by her art. Then she followed me back and we started talking a little bit, I think.
Hunter Schafer: We kind of mutually acknowledged each other.
Rowan Blanchard: And then we were both in Paris for Miu Miu! We were walking the show and I saw her backstage and I was like, ‘I am so overwhelmed and I’m freaking out…’
Hunter Schafer: It was so nuts!
Rowan Blanchard: Then we had a fun night in Paris and got close. We’ve been friends ever since!
Amazing. So, Rowan, I think you’re supposed to take over from me and be the journalist?
Rowan Blanchard: All right! Can I go in?
Thora Siemsen: Go for it!