By now you surely know all about Euphoria, the highly anticipated new HBO series debuting this Sunday night, post-Big Little Lies. You know it stars Zendaya in what’s being positioned as her first major adult role. You know it’s been pegged as a controversial and very real look at the lives of teenagers, a la Skins (the original U.K. version, not the watered down MTV reboot). And soon enough, you’ll know the name Alexa Demie.
Based on an Israeli series of the same name, Euphoria, which was executive produced by Drake, follows a group of high schoolers in California as they navigate teen-dom through a haze of sex, drugs, social media, identity, love, and, yes, drama. It features an all-star cast, led by Zendaya, that includes The Kissing Booth‘s Jacob Elordi, Hollywood scion Maude Apatow, Sydney Sweeney, Barbie Ferreira, and Storm Reid. Posing altogether at last week’s world premiere, the group cast shot doubled as a true who’s who of the Young Hollywood class of 2019—that is, if you could take your eyes off of Demie and her truly show-stopping premiere dress: a skin-tight, floor-length snakeskin print dress by Mexican brand AKNA , complete with an exposed thong that prompted Zendaya to repost a photo of on her Instagram stories with the caption: “Damn.”
“That was actually really last minute,” Demie explained. “I was working with a stylist, and I never really worked with a stylist before and they were amazing, I just wasn’t connecting to anything they were presenting to me, so last minute I decided to style myself and luckily my friend is an emerging Latin designer and had that dress. Kim Kardashian had actually pulled it. She had it for awhile and didn’t end up wearing it, and i was like, ‘I need to wear that dress.’” It’s a look that the actress says was inspired by her character Maddy, the show’s bad girl cheerleader who is involved in a destructive relationship with Elordi’s Nate. “I think it’s fun when you can dress to your character,” she continued. “Every project has a different energy to it and I’ve been keeping it pretty Maddy.”
Raised in Los Angeles, Demie has been involved in the arts since she was a kid, dabbling in acting, music, and even fashion as a teenager, starting her own sunglasses line in high school and even custom-making a costume for one of Nicki Minaj’s first music videos. “I’ve always known from a young age that I was meant to have multiple careers,” she said. It wasn’t until just under three years ago, however, after starring in a friend’s short film, that she began to take acting seriously, and got cast in her first major role. “It was this film called The Godmother and it was a true story about Griselda Blanco,” she said. “I booked the role, but that movie never ended up getting made. I think now J.Lo’s making a movie playing her. If anyone’s going to steal that role, go off, J.Lo.” Still, it led to her landing representation, and from there she booked a steady stream of roles in some of Hollywood’s coolest projects, including guest-starring gigs on Love and The OA, and parts in indie films Brigsby Bear and last year’s Mid90s. “It’s weird because I’m still like, “‘Has it hit me?'” she said.
Surely, if it hasn’t yet, it’s about to come Sunday. Ironically, Demie scored her role on Euphoria through another missed opportunity. “I auditioned for [director] Augustine Frizell’s film Never Goin’ Back a year before the Euphoria audition, and I was about to get the role and I didn’t,” Demie said. “But she e-mailed me and said, ‘i love you, we are going to work together.’ A year from that date, she e-mailed me about Euphoria. At the time, I was so discouraged about acting because I wasn’t getting any scripts that I loved. I am very particular about the scripts I chose to do, because you are giving so much personal energy that you have to be careful. I thought I would take a break from acting and make music, and then I got the Euphoria script and I knew I had to be a part of this.”
It was a role that, to hear Demie explain it, was destined by fate. “When I was driving to the audition, I saw Jacob walking and thought, ‘That’s Nate.’ I just knew,” she said. “And then they had told me Zendaya was up for Rue, and I saw a license plate that said “ZISRUE”—and we all call her Z. All this crazy shit. I even went to a deli and was getting a sandwich and the cheese was called Euphoria. All this synchronicity around the show started happening when I was in the process of getting it.” From episode one, Demie perfectly embodies the role of Maddy, a cheerleader with a wild streak—so wild, in fact, that by halfway through the episode, she’s having sex with a stranger in the middle of a pool at a crowded party. “[That scene] was literally maybe the first day,” she said. “That has been one of the craziest parts for me. Maddy pulls me out of my comfort zone. Even the way I dress, I don’t really wear skirts—I’m more tomboy. She wears whatever the hell she wants, and I love that. I got to explore this other side. But with all the sex and volatile relationships, that’s so not me, and that was one of the hardest parts, to be vulnerable in that way. Even with the nudity—I don’t know if you’ve seen my Instagram, but it’s mostly portrait shots. I don’t post bikini pictures. I’m just not that way. I don’t judge anyone that is—sometimes I wish I was more free in that way—but it was a challenge.”
Luckily, Demie had a cast of her peers to rely on, and for all the on-screen drama, behind-the-scenes couldn’t be any different. “I’m so grateful for this cast. Not only are they so talented and so dedicated and so professional, but we all instantly connected and became a family,” she said. “It could go wrong with a young cast, with competitiveness and jealousy, and there’s not an ounce of that. A lot of the stuff we shot was really hard, but it became easier because of that support system.
“For any actor, the work you wish to get is the work that challenges you,” she continued. “And that’s exactly what we all got.”