Interview: Sydney Sweeney takes center stage in ‘Euphoria,’ charms in ‘The White Lotus,’ and revels in her passion for classic car restoration
Sydney Sweeney doesn’t want to disappoint you.
For a 24-year old who’s become something of a renaissance woman, whether it’s being a diverse actor, a burgeoning producer or a self-taught mechanic of classic cars, Sweeney is thoughtful about how and what she presents to the world, to fans but most especially, to herself.
In season two of HBO’s Emmy-winning hyper-real high school hit Euphoria, narrative and dynamic shifted, giving Sweeney’s Cassie a larger stage, literally, to further explore her talent and reach and working with co-stars Maude Apatow (who plays her sister Lexi) and Nate (played by Jacob Elordi, the volatile ex-boyfriend of her once bestie and now nemesis Maddy). She reveled in the meme-ification of Cassie (“I have never, ever been happier!”) and reveals who in the cast of the show she wants to work more closely with next.
In The White Lotus, filmed between the two seasons of Euphoria, Olivia was a welcome departure. Although initially trepidatious about doing comedy, Sweeney found the right balance of mean girl and vulnerable girl under the façade of pretending to be the smartest girl in the room. Are those books real? Are those glasses real?
In her most recent success, Sweeney took to TikTok to chronicle one of her childhood dreams; the repair and restoration of classic cars, specifically a 1969 Ford Bronco, cherry and cherry red. With the help of a friend’s father, she went from tinkering with an idea to changing the transmission, converting it from drum brakes to disc brakes and giving it a makeover outside as restorative as on the inside.
In our brief but fun chat, Sweeney and I talked about how Euphoria‘s Cassie and The White Lotus‘s Olivia might fare in each other’s worlds, her relationship to interviews and that process and manifesting what you want. And no, she does not disappoint.
Sydney Sweeney: Hi Erik.
Erik Anderson: Hi Sydney. How are you?
SS: I’m good. How you doing?
EA: I am good. I’m really thrilled to be able to talk to you today. You’ve carved out such a great career as an actress and now a producer at such a young age, I’m excited to chat.
SS: Damn. Hope I don’t disappoint.
EA: First, what’s been the more difficult role, Cassie from Euphoria or Barbie from Robot Chicken?
SS: (laughs) Barbie from Robot Chicken!
EA: I think there’s something that comes obviously with doing that.
SS: There was. I didn’t want to disappoint all the Barbie lovers out there.
EA: I don’t think you did. I think you did an awesome job.
SS: Thank you. Thank you.
EA: The scope and the storylines of Season 2 of Euphoria changed quite a bit from Season 1, and this season is more about you and your relationship with Lexi, instead of being so tethered with Maddy, and Nate is the reason for that. How did you feel about where Season 2 took Cassie for you?
SS: I was personally really excited because it allowed me to stretch my muscles as an actor and go to places that I always dreamed of going. And so being able to go on that rollercoaster with her and discover all of these spaces within herself and within her mind were really exciting for me, and I really loved and enjoyed doing it.
EA: Do you ever pull from your own experiences with a character or is it more just going from the script as it is?
SS: I try not to. I try to have a really healthy separation from my characters, and make them their own human beings with their own memories and emotions and thought process. I think that it’s a healthy separation for me to be able to go home at night. But I also think that it allows me to really honor the character and what they’re going through more.
EA: I can see that. I definitely can. This season also really brought forth the meme-ification of Cassie in a way that really took off in the best viral sense. Did you have any favorites of those?
SS: Oh, man. I don’t know any specifics, but I just remember seeing that I’ve never, ever been happier just everywhere. Oh, the one that I shared with everyone was the Postmates one, when Cassie is laying in this tub, and it says like, “When Postmates brings the doorbell and waits for you… “
EA: It was so relatable and ridiculous. It was the best.
SS: Exactly. I loved it.
EA: Did you see the Super Bowl-like ad type one, that was you and Maddy on jet skis or something? Oh my God.
Sidney: Yes! I loved it. I was like, “Wait, I want this ad to be real.”
EA: I’m telling you. Marketing teams need to hire these people because it was wild. It was so fun.
SS: They did it really well. They did.
EA: Back to sort of how this season was for you, how was working with Maude Apatow more closely than before, and the changing dynamics that you had with who else you worked with this season?
SS: I loved it because Maude and I are really close off set. So being able to work with someone who you feel very comfortable, and you’re friends with, I think allows you to go deeper into a scene, and Maude and I would find things that maybe we didn’t particularly see right away, and we would discover together. Because I really hope the next season, she and I get to work more, and just find our character dynamics a bit more as well, because I really enjoy being with her. And then working with Jacob, also, was incredible. I learned so much about casting through him. And glad to see what happens next.
EA: Yeah. You said you wanted to work a little more with Maude. Is there anyone else you might want to cross paths with next season that’ll be different than what it’s been for you before?
SS: Always wanted to do a scene with Fezco. I love Angus. Angus is such a sweetheart and oh, I love him so much. I don’t know how Cassie would cross paths, but I would. I would love that.
EA: Yeah. He really blew up this season, and I think that would be, a lot of fun. I almost want you to get to work with Martha Kelly at some point, but that doesn’t seem like a path that you’d want to cross.
SS: (laughs) Yeah. I don’t know. I feel like Cassie would definitely not get out of that situation.
EA: I think that’s possibly true. You also had The White Lotus much earlier and I loved that show. It was just so unique and fresh and fun.
SS: Thank you.
EA: What did you feel that you could bring to your character Olivia?
SS: I was scared going into it at first because I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t going to disappoint people.
EA: I don’t think that happened.
SS: I think that with all of the… Yeah, thank you. I think with all my character’s… even though she was a… A lot of people labeled her as a “mean girl” and might not have always made or said the right things and decisions. But I always try to find something within my character that brings out this humanity level. And I, especially at the end for Olivia, when you see her break a little bit, I wanted to make sure that, whether or not people see where she’s coming from… It’s just if you do, then I did something right with Olivia.
EA: Yeah, because for most of the season, she has such a steely exterior, which sort of is disguised as confidence.
EA: I kept wondering if the glasses that she wears, as a character, are real or fake, to sort of keep that air of intelligence about her.
SS: (laughs) You know what’s funny? Those are my actual glasses.
EA: Oh my God. See?
SS: I actually… I personally wear glasses.
EA: I love that.
SS: So there were moments where I was like, “Can I wear my glasses?” And they’re like, “Yeah.” I was like, “Okay. It’ll throw people off.” I just wanted to throw everyone off.
EA: That’s exactly what it did. That’s why it’s logged into my brain.
SS: I just, I wanted to throw people off just because the book she’s reading, everything she’s doing is such… It’s such a show and such a play. And I was like, “What more can I do?”
EA: Exactly. One fun thing about The White Lotus is that it’s a little more intergenerational of an ensemble than Euphoria in terms of how everybody interacts, although you do work closest with Brittany O’Grady and Fred Hechinger. But what was it like working off of them as well as the more Gen X cast?
SS: I think that it had a really great balance. I think that Mike White did a beautiful job at creating just characters that we all know and we all have seen in our lives. And he brought together such an amazing cast. So being able to work with Brittany or Fred or Jennifer and Connie, it was just… I truly felt like I was immersed in a Mike White world, and it was incredible.
EA: Yeah. He’s amazing.
SS: He is.
EA: How do you think Cassie would do in The White Lotus and Olivia in Euphoria? Who would survive?
SS: (laughs) I don’t even know if they would be able to enter each other’s world. I feel like number one, Cassie could not afford to go to the Four Seasons, and Olivia… I think Olivia, her parents would drop her off to school for one day and then somehow get an Uber ride home. It’s like, “What is this?”
EA: That tracks. Something I definitely want to ask you about is the amazing TikTok journey of restoring and repairing your ’69 Bronco. I am in love with it. It’s been so much fun.
SS: Oh my God.
EA: Oh my God. So much fun. My son’s a mechanic and he owns his own garage, and I’ve changed a few break systems in my day as well, but…
SS: That is so awesome. That is so awesome.
EA: What inspired this interest in you?
SS: I’ve always had it. I’ve always wanted to have really cool classic cars, and work on them myself, because I’m one of those people where, in school, if it was a group project, I absolutely hated it. And if I could just take everyone’s job, I would, and just put everyone else’s name on it just so that they wouldn’t have to do anything. So I was like, “Wow, I could learn how to build a car. That would be really cool.” And I never really had the opportunity to do so, growing up. I definitely did not have the resources. And then I had some time off during the pandemic. My best friend’s dad builds and restores classic Porsches. And I called him up and I was like, “Would you help me?” And he was kind enough to clear out a part of his shop for me. And we started working on, and he started teaching me the whole way. And it was incredible. I love it. I’m going to keep doing it.
EA: I can’t wait to see what the next one is going to be, because it’s been really fun, and it’s a gorgeous truck.
SS: Thank you. I’m very excited for everyone to see my next one.
EA: What gives you the most joy in your ‘work’ work that you do?
SS: Ooh. Most joy. I honestly think it’s being able to connect with so many people. I think that just meeting and learning so much about the world and about different types of people, I think that’s what I’ve really loved and enjoyed.
EA: That’s nice. I read the Teen Vogue profile and interview with you, and it was incredible. Something that really stood out for me was how you were looking at interviews, and what these are, and what the relationships and narratives are. I don’t even know if I have a question. I just want to say it was fascinating and so refreshing, because nobody talks about what we’re doing right now, and it’s… I just thought it was fantastic.
SS: Thank you. I was really nervous to talk about it, and so you’re the first person to bring it up. So I appreciate that. Thank you.
EA: There’s a thing that happens where we know it’s a transactional thing, and we’re each doing part of our jobs, but at the same time you can also develop rapport and respect, and then it’s something else entirely.
SS: Yeah, definitely an interesting industry.
EA: Yes, for sure. I heard that you want to further venture into the horror realm, and it got me thinking, I think you would be a really perfect addition to the Scream family.
SS: That would be fun.
EA: I think so.
SS: That would definitely be fun. I think I would enjoy it.
EA: I think you would too. I think everybody would. I think it would be fun.
SS: I think that if I got the call, maybe I’d do something with it.
EA: Maybe we will have to manifest that.
SS: I love manifesting.
SS: I love manifesting.
EA: I love it. Sydney, thank you so much. I really appreciate just the little bit of time we got together today.
SS: No, thank you. And I hope we get to talk to each other again soon.
EA: I hope so too, and can’t wait to see what your next car project is.
SS: All right. Thank you.
Sydney Sweeney is Emmy eligible for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series for Euphoria and Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited or Anthology Series or Movie for The White Lotus.
Photos: Eddy Chen/HBO; Mario Perez/HBO