Euphoria star Alexa Demie on Maddy's 'traumatic' scene with Nate, and being 'intuitive' about Cassie
Euphoria star Alexa Demie, who steals scenes on a weekly basis as the mesmerizing Maddy Perez, explains that going into season 2, she put a lot of trust into creator Sam Levinson, and was happy with the results.
"I'm always in, I'm always really open. I believe that there's a spiritual element to acting and to writing. And even if Sam and I aren't speaking, I feel like subconsciously all of the energies of all the cast members and Sam, it's all kind of blending. And so, I guess personally, I like what we see," the actress tells EW.
Despite arguably bleaker circumstances than before, with Nate (Jacob Elordi) not only exhibiting another violent outburst against Maddy, but sneaking around with her best friend Cassie (Sydney Sweeney), Demie says, "I like that we see more vulnerability. I like that she's a little bit more nuanced and complex this season and not so in your face every second." She adds, "I was hoping to see her evolve from the [Nate] relationship, and it seems like we're headed in that direction."
Below, Demie shares her thoughts on Maddy's heartbreaking situation with Nate and Cassie, her kindness towards Rue (Zendaya) and Jules (Hunter Schafer), and more.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: We already saw Maddy go through the wringer in season 1, but this episode is particularly tough on her. Was the Russian Roulette scene the hardest one you've had to shoot on the show?
ALEXA DEMIE: Yes, for many reasons. It was an incredibly difficult scene not only because of the gun to my head, but because it was choreographed in a really specific way. We had to move with the camera movements and it was really broken up, and so it took us two days to shoot. It was basically all we did all day on those days.
What did you all do to prepare for it, and get through it? Was it something that you all had a lot of conversations about before going into production? What was happening in between scenes? Because I know different actors have different processes.
We didn't have a lot of time. We kind of just jumped into it. We were really figuring it out as we went on and as we were shooting it. Sam was discovering new things with the camera, and Jacob and I were discovering new things with the dynamic between us. There were a couple of moments that were improvised, but not a lot of prep [or] conversation beforehand. And then during, I mean, it's such an intense scene that when you're not filming — because when they break, they're figuring out light and there's a lot going on — as an actor you just have to try to stay in your own world, and I'm definitely not the type of actor that can just break a scene like that and start laughing and joking. I have to kind of stay in my own world and tune everyone else out.
Why do you think Maddy tried to play off not having the tape at first?
You know, I love Maddy because she's incredibly tough, but she's also incredibly vulnerable, and I think we really get to see those two sides of her. The duality between having that confidence, being really tough, and then being incredibly vulnerable. Nate is somebody she was with for a very long time and is very close to, and maybe for a second she thinks he's bluffing, or she doesn't think that he would actually go as far as to shoot her, which sounds crazy to say.
Despite her feeling fear, she's trying to test how far this person she thought loved her would go. She also knows it's Jules in the tape and doesn't want to see her get hurt by giving it back to him. She's going through every possible situation in her head while in survival mode and we see this person go too far, which breaks her. It's heartbreaking to see her experience something so violent and traumatic, and it's the moment that really shifts things for her.
Had you also been anxious how the other shoe would drop in her having the video of Cal (Eric Dane) and Jules? Were you wanting to see how that comes back up?
Yeah, it was something that Sam and I spoke about a lot when we first got back for season 2. It's something that I also brought up a lot. And there were different ways it was written, many different ways of what was gonna happen with the disc. There was a moment where I was gonna give the tape to Jules with a letter saying, "I think you'd want this," and not say who was giving it to her, but give it back to her, which felt really nice for me. And there was a part of me that really wanted to see that happen, but I think the way it goes down keeps the story going, and it's drama.
It seems the show has given Maddy some plausible deniability, between her scene with Jules earlier in the season and then what Nate says to her in this episode. To clarify, Maddy already knew it was Jules on the tape?
She knew it was Jules, which is part of why she was wanting to hold on to it. Part of it was collateral for Nate, because he's just f---ed her over so many times, but I think a big part of her really did want to give it to Jules, or not see Jules hurt in any way.
Did scenes with Jacob and Sydney feel different this season? What did you all do to build that dynamic that has so much subtext?
I had a lot more time with Jacob season 1. Honestly with him, it just felt like a natural development in the relationship and what the Maddy-Nate situation would be, because we see Maddy breaking it off at the end of season 1, and then season 2 felt like we picked right back up where you're in a breakup, but you see them out at a party, and you're kind of still talking, and it's a little on and off. It felt very natural in the way that it just picked up with Maddy and Nate.
And with Sydney, we had our big carnival moment in season 1, but I mean, season 2 we definitely had to really have our Maddy-Cassie best friend moments. And that also feels very natural. I guess we just spent a little bit more time than we did season 1, when we weren't filming, in our trailers and stuff. So that helped to develop that relationship.
Speaking to development too, how has it been filming with Minka Kelly? It seems like her character is really helping Maddy mature.
It honestly was so nice to work with her. She's so kind and grounded and smart, and she's very present and she's a good listener, which is what I think her character also needed to be for Maddy. When they're having their heart to hearts, she's really listening to Maddy and she's really guiding her. And so that just felt very serene, and Maddy hasn't had a lot of serene moments, so it felt different than anything she's ever experienced for sure. It gave her a bit of light and hope.
I love that Maddy says "I don't think my brain is wired that way" when hearing about that character's marriage, but you can see in her eyes that she thinks she might actually have to change.
When you're a teenager, and you're in relationships, and you're in love, I think we equate passion to intensity. And so if the relationship feels normal and safe, we could then think that that's not real love because there's no passion, but passion can also be very calm and safe. But yeah, she truly believes she's f---ed up. She's from a f---ed up family, and I think she's trying to believe Minka Kelly's character, and she slowly does throughout the season, but it's not easy for her to think that she can have a life like that.
Last week, people seemed to really appreciate that even when Rue is at rock bottom, Maddy still trusts her. Do you have an awareness of their history? Do they go way back? Is that moment indicative of Maddy's loyalty to people?
With all the characters, we're all from this small town and have all known each other for so long. And with that scene in particular, I don't think Maddy sees Rue as a villain ever or a liar, and she doesn't have the relationship Jules or any of the other characters have with her. She knows the history of Rue, but in that moment it feels so true to her. Rue seems so sincere in that moment.
Her instinct isn't to distrust Rue, Maddy has always liked Rue and has had empathy for her. She knows everyone's f---ed up in their own ways and she doesn't ever want to judge her, [so] in that moment it's very easy for her to trust Rue. She also knows when Cassie is lying. Maddy may ignore a lot of things in her life that she doesn't want to face, but she's intuitive and intelligent.
The other part of that moment, of course, is Maddy finding out that Cassie has been sleeping with Nate. Did you have a lot of talks about what Maddy's reaction would be? What were you all factoring in or trying to figure out? Because while it delivers on what we were expecting, part of Maddy's reaction is still surprising.
Yeah, a lot of conversations and a lot of thoughts of what Maddy would do in that moment definitely came up, and there were obvious ways Maddy could react based on what we've seen her do in this season. After Nate puts a gun to her head, I think that's the turning point for her of "OK, this is not what I can do anymore. This is so toxic and I don't deserve this." So she's thinking that, and she's thinking "God, good luck to you if you wanna sacrifice this friendship for that." But she's human. She's going through the emotions of being angry, being hurt, being revengeful. I don't wanna say too much because there's more coming, so yeah, I guess everyone will see.
Finally, do you get very particular about line readings? I feel like you especially have a way of getting viewers to hang on your every word. And to that point, is there a favorite Maddy meme or a moment you're surprised has resonated with people in that way? How has it been seeing these reactions?
I'm honestly surprised at all of it. Shooting season 1, it was never a thought to me that the things that Maddy would say would go viral or become what they've become. I'm still surprised when I see things. I love improvising and Sam is really open to that, so some of it is improvising and some of it is direct line reading, and that's the fun part. We get to just explore what works in those moments. But I did not know that anything that Maddy would say would [resonate]. I just did not expect it at all.
I think the line from this week that stayed with me was "Like a grisly murder. One that shocks the nation."
Oh my god [Laughs]. Yeah, that was a fun one to think about Maddy doing.
This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity. Two answers include a follow-up response that Demie sent via email.