“Honestly, no one would believe this but I was a loner in high school. I had a couple friends, but as I went through high school I just liked being to myself,” Euphoria actress Alexa Demie tells CR. This is a stark contrast to her character, Maddy Perez, the head cheerleader with a pension for drama. Understanding the nuances of her character, as well as how it differs from her real life, helps the newcomer actress navigate the world of Euphoria in a way that speaks to viewers.
The HBO series, now in the midst of its first season and recently confirmed for a second, has struck viewers with its reeling and raw portrayal of teenage drug use, sex, and family tension in the era of social media. Starring Zendaya as Rue Bennett, a recovering 17-year-old drug addict fresh out of rehab, the show explores Rue's relationships and gives an inside-look into the personal lives of her classmates, including Demie's Maddy Perez. The dark yet playful teen drama casts a light on the realities surrounding high school and coming of age for Gen Z.
Maddy's plot line begins with the cheerleader trying to make her boyfriend, the hot-headed football star Nate Jacobs played by Jacob Elordi, jealous. As the series progresses, viewers begin to see the toxic nature of their relationship unravel. Within the first half of the season, there have been a number of harrowing moments for the young couple. By the end of Episode 4, Maddy breaks down in the mirror when she sees the bruises Nate left on her neck after almost choking her for wearing a not-so-family friendly ensemble to the carnival, where his parents were present. The purple two-piece look showed a lot of skin—a major problem for Nate's pseudo-all-American family. “That look actually had to be crazy because in the script it says ‘Maddy shows up in the most ridiculous outfit you’ve ever seen,’ so it had to be ridiculous," Demie recalls. "And I think we accomplished that with this piece.”
The fashion in Euphoria is a vital way for the character's to express themselves. The distinct looks from each of the teens, not just Demie's character, gives insight into their personalities as well as their struggles. For Demie and the show’s creator, Sam Levinson, giving Maddy a wardrobe that felt authentic to today’s youth was a way for both the audience and Demie to understand the character.
“Before we even shot the show, Sam and I, we had a 30 minute conversation just about my makeup look. And his goal was that girls would be really interested to know where I got my outfits,” says Demie. “I think my outfits and the nails and everything really put me right into that world.” She’s right—her Instagram comments are full of people asking where to find her latest look.
Demie’s personal wardrobe, however, takes a steep departure from that of Maddy’s. The actress describes her style as “a cross between feminine and tomboy” while her character is more rooted in the popular girl aesthetic. "[Maddy is] more trendy and girly and matches everything," Demie says. "I don't match really anything. I love to mix things together.”
Despite their opposing tastes, Demie sees a part of herself in Maddy. With each episode centered around one of the main characters, the most recent episode highlighted Maddy’s home life and childhood. Although she and her character have different high school experiences, Demie believes their family lives have more in common than their clothes. “With some of the more traumatic experiences about Maddy and her home life, I didn’t have the best home life and family situation growing up, so I did tap into that a little bit,” she recalls. "For me working on Maddy as a character, I took away compassion and understanding." By delving into the mental state of Maddy, through her wardrobe and acting out her life and adventures, Demie learned to sympathize with her not-so-likeable character.
As to what the future holds for Maddy, that's left up to Levinson and the Euphoria writers. "Sam is insane," Demie laughs. "He’ll come up with the craziest shit, so we’ll see."
Responding to the controversy surrounding the show and its explicit content, Demie sees the bigger picture. "We do show a lot of really tragic things and we do have drugs and sex, but we always show the consequences," the actress says. As the season moves into its second half, there is sure to be a significant amount of tragedy for Maddy Perez just around the corner.