The number of celebrities—let alone people in general—who will willingly talk money are few and far between. And as her latest interview makes abundantly clear, Sydney Sweeney is among them. When speaking with the Hollywood Reporter, the 24-year-old Euphoria star didn’t hold back in opening up about the financial struggles she’s dealt with since her youth. Yep: Even after becoming successful enough to currently be up for two Emmy Awards (both Supporting Actress, for her roles in Euphoria and The White Lotus), Sweeney is still grappling with paying the bills.
To help make Sweeney’s dream of becoming an actor a reality, her family left behind their home on the Washington-Idaho border and moved into a motel in Los Angeles when she was 13. “We had one room,” she recalled. “My mom and I shared a bed and my dad and little brother shared a couch.” She worked constantly, hoping to make enough money to buy back the Sweeneys’ house and thereby reunite her parents. But by the time she was 18, she still had only $800 to her name. After breaking out in Sharp Objects and The Handmaid’s Tale, Sweeney booked enough back-to-back projects to become a proud home owner. It took not only working nonstop, but also making deals with brands like Miu Miu and Armani. Hopefully her employers don’t read the Hollywood Reporter, because Sweeney got strikingly candid about the reason behind those partnerships: “I take deals because I have to,” she said. “If I just acted, I wouldn’t be able to afford my life in L.A.”
At this point, Sweeney is understandably exhausted. And for now, it’s going to stay that way. “If I wanted to take a six-month break, I don’t have income to cover that,” she said. “I don’t have someone supporting me, I don’t have anyone I can turn to, to pay my bills or call for help.” As for why she would want to press pause when she’s finally on the path to becoming established? The burnout has gotten so bad that she’s started having panic attacks—enough that her family recently convinced her to spend two work-free weeks away from her phone.
By now, you’re probably having doubts that Sweeney is telling the truth: After all, she gets not one, but two regular paychecks from HBO. But according to her, the prestige channel doesn’t pay actors as much as it used to; on top of that, nor does it give them residuals for projects that stream. “The established stars still get paid, but I have to give five percent to my lawyer, 10 percent to my agents, three percent or something like that to my business manager,” she said. “I have to pay my publicist every month, and that’s more than my mortgage.” Sweeney is adamant that she’s not trying to make you feel bad for her: She’s trying to start an open conversation about the realities of the industry—one she doesn’t even have with her cast mates in Euphoria.
It’s hard for Sweeney not to feel a bit of resentment towards those who got to where she is via nepotism. “I had no idea getting into this industry how many people have connections. I started from ground zero, and I know how fucking hard it is,” she said, noting that she still feels like a Hollywood outsider. “Now I see how someone can just walk in a door, and I’m like, ‘I worked my fucking ass off for 10 years for this.’” Let’s hope the next 10 years will be a bit more chill—and that Sony, which hired Sweeney to star in their Spider-verse spinoff Madame Web, is more giving than television.