Hunter Schafer on Her Special Episode, Collaborating with Zendaya, & Season 2 Delays
Plus, Schafer opens up about Jules and trans representation in ‘Euphoria.’
From show creator Sam Levinson, the second special episode of the HBO series Euphoria, titled “F*ck Anyone Who’s Not A Sea Blob,” (or, “Part 2: Jules”) follows Jules (played by Hunter Schafer, who also serves as co-writer and co-executive producer) as she allows herself to open up and become vulnerable about the events of the last year. While reflecting on her feelings and exploring how intense her relationship with Rue (Zendaya) became, Jules looks to her past and present to figure out what she wants next.
During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, Schafer spoke with us about how much it stung to have to put Season 2 on hold because of the pandemic, how thrilled she was to return to this character, what it’s been like to have Euphoria be her first acting experience, becoming so involved with this special episode, the challenge in shooting so much dialogue, the beauty and sadness of the relationship between Jules and Rue, and what it’s been like to collaborate with Zendaya.
COLLIDER: After such an acclaimed and well received first season, it must have been difficult to not be able to shoot Season 2 because of the pandemic. Even though there was an unavoidable reason to not be able to shoot, was it still hard not to go back and get to dig deeper into this character and all of these things that you set up with the first season?
HUNTER SCHAFER: Yeah, absolutely. It was also the timing that stung a little bit. We were literally three days from beginning production when we got shut down. We had our table reads and our fittings and we were starting to memorize lines. We were really prepared to go in to Season 2 for basically the whole year, and then we got cut off. It was definitely a little painful.
With the events of the first season and where things were left, what were your biggest questions, when it came to your character, and the relationship between Jules and Rue?
SCHAFER: I think I wanted to know, how long Jules was planning on running away for? Is she severing ties with everyone and just running free? Is this all gonna collapse in on itself and she’s gonna come back? Is she okay? I definitely had a multitude of questions and wondered what that meant for Rue and Jules. Can their relationship, whatever it is, withstand something more dramatic and intense like that? Also, how will Rue’s relapse affect them? That’s where my mind was.
This was your first acting job, which seems crazy with how good you are in the show.
SCHAFER: Thank you!
What was it like to have this be the show that you had your first experience on?
SCHAFER: I don’t have anything else to compare it to, but I was just thrilled to be getting to try acting and have people trust me to give it a shot with this character and this show. Frankly, I wouldn’t have had it any other way. This has been the most beautiful set with the most beautiful people to learn how to act with and share space with and be vulnerable with. I’m really thankful it was a safe space because I imagine it maybe isn’t like that on every set. I really felt so supported, and it really taught me how to love acting and making a show.
When you have an experience like that on the first season, did it make going into doing this special episode feel different? Did you feel like a different person, when it came to the acting side of things?
SCHAFER: Yes, definitely. Something that caught me by surprise, between Season 1 and shooting these episodes, was that I don’t think I had realized how much I had begun to rely on acting, as a source of catharsis and output, as far as emotions and artistic energy goes. I don’t think I had realized how much I missed it. I worried, over the break, whether I’d be rusty or if I’d forget any sense of technique that I’d built up over Season 1 and if I was gonna have to learn how to act all over again. And then, once we started shooting, I fell head first into it and, thanks to brain muscle memory, I was able to really get back into it. I just really needed it, which was really lovely to realize. It works as a form of making art. in the same way that I need to draw or be making things with my hands. It serves a similar purpose, which just means that I like it and I should keep doing it. I think it’s a good sign.
How did you find out about these special episodes and that you wouldn’t have to actually wait until Season 2 to play this character again?
SCHAFER: I was thrilled. [Showrunner] Sam [Levinson] had been talking about making episodes that were feasible to shoot within the confines of the pandemic. I was just really anxious to find out if we were actually gonna be able to do it. And then, he made it happen. It was just really exciting because we had to change the frequency of the show. It’s usually so fast paced and there’s lots of people, and we couldn’t do that, so it forced us to come at the show from a different perspective and sit with two of the characters and spend more time with them. I really love both of these episodes. I think it was a really nice alternative to the train engine that Season 1 was, regarding its pace and how much is going on. I think it made the show stronger too, which was cool.
How did you also then come to co-write, co-produce, and storyboard this episode?
SCHAFER: Sam and I keep up with each other pretty frequently and are always tossing around ideas and whatnot. We had started writing a movie earlier in quarantine together, just for fun. And then, that got put aside, as he started working on these episodes. After he wrote the Rue episode, we started tossing around ideas, just on the phone, about what this could hold. I ended up reading a poem that I had written in my first year out of high school, and we started to integrate. And then, he was like, “Do you wanna write this with me?,” and we just dove in, head first. We had the first draft done in a week.
Did it feel scarier to have your first experience acting, or was it scarier to make that leap to writing and producing?
SCHAFER: I would say, despite having literally no experience with either, the acting was definitely scarier, just because performing feels much further away from what I grew up doing, which was visual arts. In a way, the co-producing and co-writing felt a lot more natural to me because it was behind the scenes and artistic in a different way, working with my hands and writing stuff down, which feels more parallel to growing up making art. So, in a way it felt really natural, but I’m not trained in those areas, so I had to learn a lot from Sam. But Sam also just made it such a comfortable space that I never felt like scared or like I was an imposter, the way I might have felt in Season 1, as far as being a brand new actor.
You’ve had a modeling career, you’re starring in a TV show that’s gotten a lot of attention, you’re branching out to work behind the scenes, and you’re only 22. Do you feel accomplished, with what you’ve already been able to do?
SCHAFER: Yeah, sure. I think I feel accomplished. The biggest accomplishment is that I feel so happy to be making things that I’m excited about. I feel so lucky that these things are my job and that I really love doing all of them. I’m learning so much, every time I delve into something new, which is also a lot of fun. In a way, it still feels like school almost. I’m learning new things about the industry and the specific trades within making a show, every day. I just feel lucky and excited.
One of the things that I was struck by with this episode was the fact that because this is a therapy session, you have to do a lot of talking. What were the biggest challenges of shooting this, from an acting perspective? Have you developed any tricks for yourself, that you’ve found useful when it comes to doing that much dialogue and also having to explore so much emotion, at the same time?
SCHAFER: Yeah. This is the most dialogue that I’ve ever done. We jumped from Season 1, which had a couple minute scenes, to basically 30 to 40 minutes worth of dialogue straight. And we shot the therapist session in two days, so it wasn’t cut up or anything. I really just had to know the whole session, in my head. Thankfully, with the most dialogue that I’ve ever had, came the fact that I co-wrote it, so I was really familiar with a lot of the words and the intention behind them. It was perfect, in that way. A lot of that work was already started, for me. If you’re just handed a script, you have to really analyze it and think about like why the character is saying this and how to say it.
A lot of that process was done already in writing. Having written it helped a lot, as far as my familiarity with the script. I still just read the script, out loud to myself and back and forth with some friends, pretty much every night, leading up to shooting the episode. I was terrified that I was not gonna be able to know my lines, and that is the worst feeling. But thankfully, by the day we shot, I was really familiar with everything. Knowing the lines that well also made it easier to do the proper work that it required, to channel the right emotion for what I was saying. As far as triggers that I needed to pull in my head, as I was saying things or moving through a sequence of dialogue, it felt like I had the space to do that because I wasn’t trying to remember what I was supposed to say next.
After doing this episode, where you get to revisit events of the first season and look forward to the second season, has it changed what you’re now most looking forward to, with doing Season 2?
SCHAFER: I don’t know if it’s changed the way I’m looking forward to Season 2 too significantly, in that I’m mostly just really fucking excited to get back to work and be on set and to be around my friends from Euphoria again and be making this thing that I love with them. That’s still very there. I feel lucky, in that I got to work and learn a little more about my practice, as an actor and as a creative person, more over quarantine. I feel like this episode made me better and I’m excited to like bring those skills to Season 2. More than anything else, I’m just excited to fuck around on set again and have fun and just go head first into Season 2. I miss it so much.
Do you know when you get to do Season 2?
SCHAFER: There are dates flying around, but no confirmation, really.
When it comes to trans representation, what do you feel Euphoria gets most accurately and most truthfully?
SCHAFER: As far as Jules goes, we tried to treat her identity as just one facet of her. It’s not what her narrative concentrates on, really. A lot of that has already resolved, which I really appreciate. I feel it’s reflective of my experience, which is not to say that I feel resolved about anything towards myself, but I’m thinking about a lot of other things, aside from being trans, most of the time, and that feels really accurate. It’s something that I really appreciate about the character. As a queer trans person, I’m really excited to be exploring queerness as a trans person with Jules, as well.
I thought it was really interesting to hear Jules describe being trans as spiritual.
SCHAFER: With this episode, because we got to spend more time with Jules, we got a little bit more insight, as to how she feels about like her trans-ness and her gender, and just gender as a whole. I really like her approaching it from an emotional and philosophical standpoint, rather than something political or binary, like the gender binaries of political constructs. That’s not a fun way for humans to think about gender.
There’s such a beauty and a sadness to the relationship between Jules and Rue. Do you personally find yourself rooting for them to find that light and to find their way out of the tragedy and more into the beauty of their relationship?
SCHAFER: I definitely want that for them, as someone who loves them both so much. They’re both like dealing with a lot of shit. More than the nature of their relationship, it’s just that all of the shit they’re dealing is what makes their relationship so tragic sometimes. I definitely hope that they can find a happy frequency together, but I also think there’s hope in it now. Even in the last scene of this episode, while it might not be some glorious, romantic reunion there is a level of hope that they’re still the emotionally vulnerable and sweet characters with each other that we know them to be.
What’s it been like to share this experience with Zendaya, and to have her to work with and learn from? How does she most challenge you, as a scene partner?
SCHAFER: I feel so lucky to be working next to her and to be developing these characters’ relationship with her because I know she loves them just as much as I do, if not more. As a scene partner, she is just so good about, when the camera’s on me, doing whatever she needs to do to help me be where I need to be for the scene. It makes it that much easier for me to reciprocate and give that back to her. Just as one of my best friends too, it’s something that we can take from, with our real-life friendship. We trust each other. It’s ever-evolving and it makes the evolution of the characters that much more fun and deep to dive into. We’re always just pushing each other to go deeper.