Photograph by Richard Burbridge; Makeup by James Kaliardos; Hair by Ward.
Euphoria, one of the most anticipated shows of the year, promises to be the Kids of this generation. The HBO series follows a group of young suburbanites as they deal with sex, drugs, social media… you know, the everyday life of a teenager. Zendaya leads the cast as Rue, a young woman struggling with addiction, but there is someone else vying for the spotlight: Hunter Schafer, the trans model and activist turned actress who is making her screen debut with Euphoria. She plays Jules, the new girl in town who becomes fast friends with Rue, and who moves even faster with mysterious men she meets on Grindr.
To her peers, Jules and her "Sailor Moon chic" sense of style may be, in high school parlance, freakish or weird, but she also telegraphs a sense of experience beyond her years. Bewildered to learn that one of her summer school acquaintances is still a virgin, she quips, "Bitch, this isn't the ’80s—you need to catch a dick!" (Later, in that same episode, there is a graphic motel sex scene between Jules and a much older married man.) Her identity as a trans girl is further explored later in the series, when she is given her own breakout episode told from her point of view. Schafer's performance is a vast showcase of her natural talents as an actress. Expect to see plenty more of her in the future.
You moved to L.A. to film Euphoria. Are you sold on West Coast life?
If I like work, I’m a happy camper, and I love my job here. So I’m sold in that sense! I do find myself missing the energy of New York more and more often as my time away from the city progresses.
What do you miss about New York?
My friends and loved ones, the energy, how productive I was, the subway, and walking everywhere when I wasn’t on the subway.
How does working in television compare to working in the fashion world?
In the entertainment world, you can have more of a personality, and be yourself. You don’t have to look like a standard of beauty. You can have something provocative to say.
Did you take acting classes to prep for your role?
I went to an arts high school, and was surrounded by drama students who dreamed of working in the industry. I almost feel a sense of guilt, because I didn’t go to acting school. I think I got the role because I was perhaps the best contender for telling Jules’s story.
What is the best part about playing Jules?
Revisiting psychological landscapes I was in as a high schooler in order to fill her storyline with the correct motives. It’s been therapeutic to readdress that part of my life, using Jules as a pathway, and building a beautifully complicated relationship with Rue, Zendaya’s character. We’ve formed a really special bond over the past eight months that I’m so thankful for.
Do you identify with her experiences?
While Jules and I have some similar experiences, my life is not completely parallel to hers. What I do identify with is the driving force behind her decision-making throughout much of the show. Additionally, I identify with the way she begins to reframe her perspective as she becomes more aware of the roots of her motives.
You walked the Rick Owens show recently. Would you like to continue working in fashion? What kind of projects would entice you to do so?
Since it’s no longer my singular source of income, I’ve withdrawn from fashion spaces a bit. However, I still have a deep love for fashion and want to continue to work with designers and houses that inspire me—like Rick Owens, whose show I would no doubt walk in again if the opportunity arose. But long term, I would love to collaborate with my fashion idols more than anything else.
You mentioned loving fantasy. What kind of characters would you like to take on next? What does your fantasy role look like?
I would love to move into a fantasy realm of Hollywood! I think I could play a really solid femme-mythical-humanoid creature. Maybe something a little more scary-aggressive than Jules would be fun. And honestly, I’d live for a superhero moment. I grew up on comic books, so I feel like I owe that to my younger self.
Is film acting something you’re interested in?
It’s captured my attention 100 percent! I wasn’t looking to be an actor, but could not be more grateful to have (more or less) fallen into this art practice. It’s been life-changing as an artist and as a human being. Pretty sure I’m hooked, and have not yet found a reason to stop.
Has your move affected your style?
I definitely have scaled down my commitment to attempting to pull looks as often. Partially because I don’t really go out here [in L.A.], partially because I don’t have to dress up for castings anymore, and also because I have become accustomed to wearing sweatpants on a daily basis, mostly when going to work. (I have to change into costume when I get to work—what’s the point!) But don’t get me wrong, I still love to dress up.
Do you wear makeup in daily life?
I don’t usually wear makeup or nail polish, although sometimes I use a brow brush. When people put makeup on me to make me look beautiful, it feels strange. I used to wear makeup earlier in my transition. I worked really hard to like my body and face, and now I’m at a point where I don’t need makeup in order to feel good about myself. That said, it can be fun to approach it from a face-painting perspective, and use it to flesh out a character.
How do you keep healthy and happy with your busy schedule?
I’m definitely still working on this. Allowing myself to decompress and be low frequency when I’m at home has felt good. Making myself go hang out with people when 90 percent of the time my instinct is to stay at home alone has felt good. Eating the Brazilian burrito from Sage Vegan Bistro on a nearly daily basis has also felt good. I have a fantasy of forming some sort of exercise routine. Making dance classes a thing I do every other day or something. We’ll see...