Euphoria star Hunter Schafer on taking on a more hands-on approach in the writing process to strip away the show’s visual flourishes to create a more intimate, unadulterated bridge between the first and second seasons of the acclaimed HBO series.
The pandemic forced creators across the industry to retool their work both creatively and logistically. While many shows struggled to make this a reality, Euphoria star Hunter Schafer and creator Sam Levinson took it as a challenge to make one of their most thought-provoking and cathartic episodes to date. The result was the standalone episode “Fuck Anyone Who’s Not a Sea Blob” – an hour long exploration for the first time through Jules’ point-of-view without the visual flares the show has become known for. Instead the result is a stripped down episode of just Jules, a new therapist, a camera, and nowhere to hide in an unadulterated exploration of Jules.
Collaborating for the first time as a writer and producer, the Euphoria star speaks with Awards Daily about what it was like to take a more hands-on creative approach in guiding Jules into the second season.
Awards Daily: How did Sam [Levinson] approach you to collaborate as a writer and producer on “Fuck Anyone Whose Not a Sea Blob?” How did you both eventually decide on the structure of the piece?
Hunter Schafer: The sequence of events was pretty organic in the sense that it was birthed out of us floundering for the perfect project to channel our creative energy into that we had stored up as we stewed in quarantine. Throughout quarantine I had started playing around with screenwriting and at the same time Sam and I were in constant communication whether it be sharing ideas, giving advice, or talking about music.
After Sam shot Malcom and Marie and figured out a formula as to how to make a production work he began to brainstorm ideas for these special episodes. Initially it began with Rue’s episode “Trouble Don’t Last Always,” and to this day that remains my favorite episode of the show. Just in casual conversation we were constantly talking about where Jules might be in the aftermath of leaving for the city at the end of the first season. Our process has been collaborative so it really wasn’t abnormal to be talking about where she is. From there we realized we were speaking in dialogue and that’s when he proposed we right the episode. I immediately was like “Hell yeah!”
From there it took off. I was in North Carolina and Sam was in LA. To this day I still feel brand new to all of this and Euphoria was my first acting job. That first season sparked this interest in me for the behind-the-scenes process. I’m a visual artist and watching that all unfold immediately resonated with me. We were on the phone all day every day for a week and by the end of it we had what is now “Fuck Anyone Who’s Not a Sea Blob.”
AD: Speaking of you being a visual creator and thinker, how did that affect your process as a writer for this episode? One of the most astonishing and powerful aspects of “Fuck Anyone Who’s Not a Sea Blob” is the fact that it strips away the visual flourishes that we’re used to with the show and instead it leaves the audience with nowhere to hide and instead plants us in a room with just Jules and her therapist.
HS: In a broader sense that was my favorite element of these two episodes. While I love the aesthetics and visual choices of Euphoria I do think that underneath all of that there is a rich world within the writing. Witnessing how the show was pulled into mainstream culture and absorbed by things like Tik Tok I think that the show was sometimes reduced down to an aesthetic. I really appreciated that these episodes re-grounded the show and with those embellished visual elements taken away we really get to sit with the emotional realities of these characters. Rue and Jules both get to do that from their own perspectives which was something Jules wasn’t able to do in the first season.
What I’ve come to realize is that as I delve into each of these new practices and mediums is that it almost feels like I’m falling into them as my career progresses. I realize its all the same creative vibration. It’s the same thread as to when I began drawing at the age of three, and whatever inspired me to keep loving art throughout my adolescence. Whatever is in me that inspires to release my creative thoughts is the same thing that is applicable to acting, writing, and producing. The challenging part is adjusting to how I externalize that while learning a new craft. It was almost like a sporadic college course where I’m put into these classes with my best friends who are teaching me how to channel my passion into new types of art.
AD: On top of it being rare for any actor to be given the opportunity to guide their character’s own narrative and create a bridge between seasons it’s even less common for trans actors to be able simultaneously perform and lead those conversations in the writers’ room. Although Sam is an extraordinary writer and collaborator that gave you great material to work with throughout the first season was there anything you wanted to incorporate into the writing that a cis person might have never been able to bring to Jules?
HS: From the beginning Sam has been the most deeply understanding writer and showrunner imaginable. As the singular trans actor in this ensemble I could not have been more lucky to be paired with this director because his level of empathy surpasses what we might be used to. I think a lot of that comes from his background in method acting and his qualities as an extraordinarily empathetic human being.
That being said there were definitely certain things that I would like to see and even after making the episode there is so much that I would like to see happen in media surrounding trans people that simply don’t exist yet. From what could be done within this episode there were certainly things that could be done around the therapy session. We were hesitant about Jules talking about her transness in the therapy session because we loved how ambiguous those conversations were in the first season. But because we decided for Jules’ to discuss it in therapy, we wanted to be very intentional about making sure it was something we hadn’t already seen in media.
That’s where it felt nice to channel my personal wrestlings with gender and sexuality that I myself struggled with at her age and to some level will wrestle with for the rest of my life. It was strategic to make it personal. If you try generalize who you think Jules might be it becomes automatically less interesting. I feel lucky to be on a beautiful and enlightening journey of coming into a community of people who have helped me wake up and realize there is so much more to my transness than being a girl. As we say it in the episode it was important for us to make it spiritual as opposed to political. By that I mean political being things like labels and digestible moments for audiences as opposed to a more artistic approach which is how I navigate my transness.
AD: “Fuck Anyone Who’s Not a Sea Blob” is the first time in Euphoria that the story is told through Jules’ point of view as well as the first time the story was told from anyone’s perspective besides Rue. Audiences were able to revisit the first season and reexamine major moments from Jules’ perspective. We were given more insight into Jules especially how her relationship with her mother and her mother’s battle with addiction shaped who she is and influenced her own decisions in her relationship. Were these things that you wrote specifically for this episode or were these elements of who Jules’ is that you always had with you from the inception of the show?
HS: It was interesting being able to readdress these moments. A solid amount of that backstory work fell in my hands and it’s something I began learning throughout my process as an actor. I had an idea of what might have happened between Jules and her mom which was relatively parallel to what we reveal in this episode but sitting down with Sam and writing it all down gave me a better understanding of Jules and how all of this came to be. It was a massive learning experience being able to explore who she is on a deeper level, and I found it to be absolutely magical getting to know her every time I inhabit her whether that be through acting or writing. I discover new things not only about her but also about myself. Hopefully I will be able to be playing her for a little while longer.