Schafer, 20, never considered a career in acting until HBO approached her with the chance to play a lead on Sam Levinson’s buzzy new series. “I was working as a full-time model in New York when the casting team for Euphoria reached out to my modeling agency,” she tells EW. “I gave it a shot and it snowballed from there.”
The novice actress drew on her own experience as a transgender teen to inform her performance: “I felt more capable of playing her because [of the] parallels between us,” she says. “I envisioned her when I was reading the scripts and in some ways, saw myself in my teen years. I felt like I had experiences to pull from, to bring her to life.” Still, even with a familiar-feeling character, the experience of having her first acting role on a large production with a starry cast and huge budget, was more than a little daunting. “Seeing how massive a Hollywood production it was, I was like, ‘Oh my God, there’s a lot of people involved with this! I can’t mess up because a lot of people are putting a lot of love and time into this,’” she says. “It was definitely an eye opener.” Schafer was grateful her first scene was a smaller, “tender” moment with costar Zendaya (Spider-Man: Homecoming, The Greatest Showman). “It was just us being goofy,” she says. “Zendaya was, in some ways, like a mentor. She was there with me helping me move through a lot of my first-time acting experiences, like when I had to get emotional or when we had to fight. It was so wonderful to share all those landmarks with a new emotion with her.”
Since the show’s launch, fans have flocked to the series, grateful to finally see someone like themselves portrayed on the screen. “It’s been really sweet to have some close moments with people who are excited about seeing a trans person on TV,” she says. For Schafer, a recent holiday really exemplified the show’s far-reaching appeal. “I’ve been tagged in a lot of costume pictures — I can’t believe there were so many little versions of Jules walking around on Halloween!”
Up next, the actress is looking forward to getting back into Jules’ mind — and glittery eye makeup — for Euphoria’s second season, but she’s also excited to explore roles further away from her own identity. “I put a lot of myself into Jules,” she says. “So I’m really curious about what it feels like to have to do a lot of research for a character, to not have the character map readily available.”
To read more from the latest issue of Entertainment Weekly featuring The Rise of Skywalker and other untold stories from the Star Wars universe on the cover, pick up the new issue at Barnes & Noble on Friday — or buy your choice of covers now featuring stars of the prequels, original trilogy, or current saga. (The issue will be on newsstands starting Nov. 28.) Don’t forget to subscribe for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.
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