‘Euphoria’ Star Sydney Sweeney on Choosing Roles That Scare Her

Otmara Marrero, Sydney Sweeney
Otmara Marrero, Sydney Sweeney ('Clementine')

Euphoria star Sydney Sweeney is known for her challenging and complex roles. With recent parts on Everything Sucks! (Netflix), The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu) and HBO’s Sharp Objects, the 22-year-old next plays Lana in the coming-of-age psychological drama Clementine, which premiered at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival.

“If a character or storyline scares me, then that means I’m probably going to choose it,” she said. “I actually did Clementine two years ago in between Sharp Objects, Everything Sucks! and Handmaids Tale. I love the beauty Clementine had, and I just wanted to be a part of it.”

Ahead of the movie’s May 8 “virtual theater” premiere via Oscilloscope Laboratories, we caught up with Sweeney to talk about the film, the success of HBO’s Euphoria and what she wants for her character, Cassie, in Season 2.

How would you compare Lana in Clementine and Cassie on Euphoria ?

Sydney Sweeney: Lana definitely has a world that she is trying to escape, which is different from Cassie. They are both lost. I find that a lot of my characters struggle with loss and trying to find themselves, but all in different times in their lives and situations.

How do you mentally prepare for and approach these emotionally-charged scenes that often open up such vulnerability?

[With] every character, I build her entire backstory in my head. It’s a different approach I take when I do those scenes because I don’t have to really put myself in a dark place to make myself sad. I allow the character to come through. Because of her past or different situations she might have been through, it will affect her differently than me. I just let the character shine through. Yes, it can be draining. But because I’ve created such a different character from myself, I’m able to jump in and out of these scenes or emotions.

So many of your projects are on streaming and on-demand services. Clementine is available through “virtual theater,” which is really providing a new level of accessibility.

The climate of the world right now is not ideal. My heart goes out to anyone struggling or dealing with a loss or sickness. But I also think it’s amazing that we have the ability to see different content and still have a world of art to enjoy. I love that Clementine is opening with “virtual theater,” so we can support theater during this time because I know different companies are struggling. It’s important to help as many people as possible.

A lot of people can’t wait for Season 2 of Euphoria. How much were you able to film ahead of the production shutdowns?

Unfortunately, not much. But I know as soon as we’re able to get back to work we will be working nonstop, every single day, to get Euphoria Season 2 out there. We’re all very excited.

Sydney Sweeney, Maude Apatow.

Sydney Sweeney, Maude Apatow in Euphoria (Eddy Chen/HBO)

The series became a big conversation-starter in how it portrays the struggles of today’s teens with an unapologetic authenticity in many ways. What kind of reaction have you gotten?

I know in the beginning people were questioning if this was what our kids were actually going through. As more people began to watch it they thought, “Oh my God, this is really today’s society.” Going into Season 2 I think it becomes more about creating very grounded, real stories for people to relate to.

Season 1 covered topics including drug addiction, sex, depression, cyber-bullying and exploitation, to name a few. Cassie endured her share of issues, facing teen pregnancy and the decision of abortion.

We’ve gotten such love and support and outreach from the first season. [Viewers] are so thankful to have this story because they don’t feel so alone. It definitely has had way bigger an impact than I thought it would. I’ve gotten comments thanking me for bringing this character to life.

Sydney Sweeney

Euphoria (Eddy Chen/HBO)

What do you want to see for your character going into next season?

She has been through so much. I hope I can see Cassie become confident in who she is.

When it comes to the characters you play, what have you taken from the experiences they’ve gone through?

I think with Lana in Clementine it was how she wanted to grow up so fast. I remember when I was younger, even in lower school, my mom would tell me to slow down. I didn’t understand that. I think through Lana I finally understood what my mom meant. Try to stay a kid for as long as possible and don’t grow up too fast because being an adult is hard.

You’ve created a book club through your social media platform in partnership with Bustle. What kind of response have you gotten from #SydneySweetReads ? What goes into your book selection?

I’m quite a book nerd myself. I love reading. I wanted to find something [where] I can connect with people no matter where they are in the world, especially during this time. I was very surprised by how many people joined and actually stayed active reading with me. They’ve sent so many questions and comments. I was so excited to talk to the writer Amy Spalding for “We Used to Be Friends.” I try to find stories that have a lot of wish fulfillment and are about finding happiness through struggle. I’m still trying to figure it all out because we just started really, but I love having this way to connect with everyone in the world right now.

You’ve done so much recently. What are some other characters or genres you want to explore next?

I would love to do an action movie. I’m very athletic, so I’d love to use that ability and showcase that skill set. I think it would be a lot of fun.

Euphoria, Season 2, TBD, HBO

Clementine, May 8, Virtual Theater