"I cannot watch something and not know what happens. If someone else knows, they have to tell me."
Sydney Sweeney lives for spoilers, but her success has been no secret since her memorable turns in Hulu's The Handmaid's Tale (as Eden) and HBO's Sharp Objects (as Alice). Even so, her work was so skilled that many viewers didn't realize she played both parts.
"I wish I could go back to myself a few years ago and tell her that it's all going to be okay," she says. That younger self made a five-year plan and convinced her parents to let her audition for a movie that was filming in her hometown of Spokane, Washington. After landing that part, she went on to score many more, including Emaline in Netflix's Everything Sucks! and Cassie in HBO's upcoming Euphoria.
Adapted from a 2012 Israeli series by writer–executive producer Sam Levinson and starring Zendaya, Euphoria examines teens, drugs, sex, identity and violence. Sweeney calls it "a very raw and real look at growing up and what it's like to be a teenager in this world. I think it's going to be very shocking for a lot of people, because many shows — I'm not saying it's bad — have sugar-coated reality."
Sweeney creates a character journal for every role she plays. "Cassie's journal is very artsy, but in a dramatic way," she says. "Every page is different, because she hasn't really found her thing yet. So she tries on these different looks and attitudes, and tries to fit in in places that she shouldn't fit in."
Fitting in isn't Sweeney's thing, either. She likes being cast against type, never wanting to play the girl next door or be the prettiest version of herself. "I never felt like I could be the prettiest girl," she admits. "I was very self-conscious. And I also loved the meatiness that other characters had, so I dove into those."
Watching her dives so far (including one she literally takes in a shocking episode of The Handmaid's Tale), it looks like any project Sweeney lands is bound to make a splash.
This article originally appeared in emmy magazine, Issue No. 6, 2019