Euphoria star Sydney Sweeney explains why she hopes Cassie 'still has a lot of demons' in season 3
WARNING: This post contains spoilers for the Euphoria season 2 finale.
While Euphoria fans spent a week with the image of Cassie menacingly peering out of East Highland High's auditorium doors burned into their brains, star Sydney Sweeney says the memorable frame "was actually a fairly quick shot." She jokes, "I don't know if that's a good thing or bad thing, that I can pull that off quickly."
The actress has done such a good job playing the capricious teen, who fell out with her best friend Maddy (Alexa Demie) after falling in love with Maddy's toxic ex Nate (Jacob Elordi), that she feels the need to remind some people "she's a character. I play a character."
Here, Sweeney talks to EW about people gaining more appreciation for her performance on Euphoria, the HBO drama's explosive season 2 finale, and how she benefits from Cassie's downfall.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: At the start of the season, you had talked about critics overlooking your performance on the first season of Euphoria. Do you feel like that changed this season, with Cassie moving to the forefront?
SYDNEY SWEENEY: I do. I do feel like it has changed.
In what ways? What reactions to Cassie have you been seeing this season?
I think that people are looking deeper into her character. They're looking deeper into her thoughts, her feelings, her flaws, her emotions — just her as an individual and not just her body.
Do you feel like people have a better understanding of her now?
It's hard, because I think everyone has their own love/hate relationship with Cassie. A lot of people don't agree with the decisions that she's made, but I hope that people do have empathy for those decisions and those parts of her life.
Did it feel for a second like people forgot the context that has Cassie reacting this way? She did have a really intense first season.
I do. I think some people could have overlooked her journey from season 1, especially because season 2 storytime-wise started so close and so soon after her abortion and her loss of McKay, and just everything that happens revolving [around] that. And that's a lot for a teen girl to have to deal with and process. And she didn't tell her friends. Maddy still doesn't know about any of that. So if you look back, I mean, it's so hard because you don't wanna f--- over your friend, and that's what Cassie did, and it's hard to forgive the character after you do that, but she also has been dealing with a lot of stuff personally.
Another thing about this season is that Cassie has been a part of so many scenes that have taken a life of their own on social media. What scene were you most surprised to see resonated with people?
Oh my goodness. You know, I love the "I've never, ever been happier" [scene]. And I think I was most surprised by seeing that basically go viral to everyone because it was the first scene we filmed coming back to season 2. After the long wait, that was the first scene that we filmed, and so I kind of forgot about it as the nine months of filming went by. So when I saw it go everywhere I went, "Oh s---!"
What's unique about that scene is it was highlighted in the season 2 trailer, so it feels like people were waiting for it, and it delivered.
They were! It was so fun because I was waiting for it as well, to see the whole piece put together. I like to watch as a fan and as a viewer and separate myself from it. So it's fun being able to watch it with everyone as well.
How do you feel about the way the Maddy-Cassie conflict was resolved? We kind of got both the really thoughtful scene with Maddy at the door heartbroken, and the knockout, drag-out fight people were jokingly looking for.
I think it's just like what you said. We were able to give the audience and give the characters both moments of having to internalize each other's loss and physically hash and feel it out.
Did that take a lot of conversation between you, creator Sam Levinson, and Alexa to get right?
Sam definitely had a vision for how everything was going to intertwine. What he did with the two play episodes was just unbelievable, and how we intertwined the future, play, past, everything together was such a vision. And so we just believed in everything that he did and prepared ourselves for it.
To that same respect, I'd say at worst, people found the show to be maybe too punishing on Cassie. Did you ever feel the need to push back on the way Cassie was constantly fumbling?
No. As an actor, it's so much fun to play characters that are breaking down. That's the reason why I love acting, is being able to explore all of these places and characters and do things that me personally, Sydney, probably wouldn't do, or wouldn't explore, or wouldn't break down the same way. And so it wouldn't be fun to not have a character like that.
Was part of the fun, too, having Cassie be part of some of the more inventive parts of this season, like the dream sequence in the second episode, the play, things like that?
This season was a phenomenal season to be able to be a part of. At such a young age and early on in my career, to be able to be a part of 1) such a groundbreaking show, 2) have a character like Cassie to explore the places that she goes to, and 3) to be a part of such incredible art and bring [cinematographer] Marcell Rév and Sam's vision to life is a dream. It's amazing.
Were you also looking at the scripts like, "What is Cassie going to do next? How will things with her explode in the finale?"
I am always excited to see what Sam does next. I mean, after season 1, I kept trying to imagine what Sam would write, and what was gonna happen to Cassie. I was like, "Well, Cassie has her s--- together, so I don't know what she's gonna do after this." And then when I saw season 2 fall into place and come together, I was just completely thrown off because I thought Cassie had her s--- together and now she doesn't, and [it] was so much fun as an actor to be able to break down a character that was put up. And so I'm excited to see what happens for season 3.
Do you consider your performance as Cassie in season 2 comedic at all? I've talked to some of the other people this season, and they recall Sam was comparing the first season to a David Fincher film, and this season was more Coen Brothers. Did Cassie fall in line with that at all?
I hope so, because that's what Sam wanted. I would hope I achieved it.
Did scenes feel funny in the moment? Or was it in watching them back?
There were definitely moments where all of us were laughing. The crew was laughing, actors, all of us were laughing and then we'd be like, "I hope everyone else thinks this is funny too."
One scene that seemed like a high point was Rue's intervention. How did you all figure out how to maintain conflicting tones during the intervention scene? Because we're seeing Rue at rock bottom coming into conflict with Cassie having this tragicomic moment in her life. And even though they were on two separate paths, the way you all collided created this moment we're still talking about. Was that a challenge? What went into that scene?
Well, Sam has beautifully created such distinct characters and we each have our own style, tone, and vibe that is brought to a scene. So it was so much fun when we all are able to do scenes all together. We all come from such different places with our characters, that it brings all the different feelings and moments from each character into that one scene. And I think that's where and how you're able to achieve what you were just speaking on.
Talking to them, I love that Jacob described you two having this Bonnie and Clyde dynamic, and Maude Apatow, who plays Cassie's sister Lexi, talked about you two amplifying each other's performances. Does all that seem true to your working with those two?
Oh, completely. I love working with Jacob. It was such this beautiful dance that we found between our characters. And Maude is one of my best friends, so being able to play sisters and dive into such a crazy sister dynamic that I think we both misunderstand each other, but we understand each other as sisters in ways that we don't know how to vocalize to each other, and so being able to push each other to do our best, is amazing. I'm so proud of her in this season. She was incredible.
And how was it working with Alexa, where you're simultaneously building on Maddy and Cassie being best friends, but also building on this hidden rift between them?
You know, it's actually a lot of fun. I think that whenever you go from being best friends with characters to, well, Maddy hating Cassie, Cassie hoping Maddy doesn't find out, is a lot of fun because there are so many layers to play with.
Have you found that your intensive process of making detailed character bibles and things like that works particularly well on a show like Euphoria, where it sounds like the characters are pliable, and Sam takes in suggestions on what you all think your characters would do in a scene? The last time I talked to you, you were already talking about Sam taking suggestions on what you all think your characters would do in a scene if something felt maybe off.
Yeah, it just allows me to be free with my character. I know Cassie's thought process so well, so I'm not having to really think in the moment as an actor or as Sydney, how Cassie would be. I'm allowing myself to completely fold into my character, and to be Cassie.
How big has your bible for Cassie gotten? Is it more than one book now?
[Laughs] It's definitely more than one book.
What are you hoping to see for Cassie in season 3?
As an actor, I hope that Cassie still has a lot of demons and things to figure out within herself because that's what's fun to play.
I think there's a part of the audience that thinks she and Maddy need to team up and finally take down Nate.
Cassie loves Nate.
A little too much.
Yeah. Cassie loves Nate.
And then, what are you proud of this season? Because I think that people really appreciated this performance that you've given. How does it feel to get that reaction?
It's incredible. It's amazing. Everyone individually works so hard on this show. The crew is there every single day for like 16, 18-hour days sometimes, and we all work and give so much of ourselves to this show, so being able to collectively be praised, honored, people loving the show, getting the recognition, and then also individually, is amazing. And it's really humbling, it feels good. Everyone works really hard. They deserve it.
Finally, what's next for you? You're executive producing The Players Table, right?
Yeah. So Halsey and I will be in it together, and we're in the process of writing the episodes, and I'm producing it, and it'll also be another HBO — my family, HBO — show.
You're continuing your reign as queen of HBO.
Yeah, I call it my Sydney Sweeney Sundays.
This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.
Sign up for Entertainment Weekly's free daily newsletter to get breaking TV news, exclusive first looks, recaps, reviews, interviews with your favorite stars, and more.