HBO’s hottest new series, Euphoria, debuted just over one month ago, and already one of its characters, Jules, is being recognized as one of the most interesting portrayals of a trans person on television to date. But the blond-haired, blue-eyed model behind the character, Hunter Schafer, won’t neglect to acknowledge her privilege when being recognized as such.
“It’s really cool to be here as a trans person but I think it also doesn’t go without saying I’m white and I’m skinny and I pass,” Schafer told Yahoo Lifestyle on the BUILD series stage. “Those are all factors, whether we like it or not, that got me here in this place.”
For the 20-year-old from Raleigh, N.C. portraying a trans-feminine teen on television wasn’t necessarily the goal. However, it was something that panned out after she saw an open casting for a trans girl on an upcoming show and was later contacted to audition.
“It kind of just kept going, and then a month or two later I’m in the final audition with a bunch of HBO execs in L.A.,” Schafer explained, “and I found out later that day that I was gonna be playing Jules.”
The first-time actress went on to say that the scenes she auditioned with were some of the most intense — including a love scene that takes place between her and an older man, played by Eric Dane, in a motel room — and saw Jules being somewhat oversexualized. But, to her surprise, once she was attached to the project, the show’s creator, Sam Levinson, leaned on Schafer to help fill in some of the pieces of the trans character he was creating.
According to Schafer, Levinson had demonstrated an impressive amount of understanding of who Jules was and how she should be portrayed.
“Sam was incredibly talented and empathetic, and had an understanding of all of his characters, in a way that I wouldn’t have necessarily expected from a white cis guy,” she said. “And then, once I got the role, the first thing we did, they kept me in L.A. a few extra days just so that Sam and I could have a meeting that went hours long.”
There, the two discussed some of the nuances of Jules’s character and her storyline, which fortunately doesn’t solely focus on her gender identity.
“It is a worry that we can fall into the same storylines sometimes because a lot of the times it’s, like, cis people in the writing rooms and cis people making the decisions and I think a lot of minorities can agree that oftentimes their systematic oppressors might only see them being able to tell a specific kind of story,” Schafer said of the unique opportunity to portray a trans character whose identity as a trans person isn’t her identifying quality. “Just being allowed to move beyond that and bring some truth in that trans people deal with everyday things ... that cis people deal with. And while trans-ness may affect the way you move throughout the world, we’re more complex than that.”
Still, Schafer isn’t shy to admit that her own story as a trans woman and her portrayal of a trans teen named Jules is far from the only narrative that needs to be told. But, she hopes that her performance will normalize conversations about LGBTQ people and their place in the world.
“In the future I hope the doors can continue to be opened for the entire community — everyone,” she said.
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