Sydney Sweeney says her favorite meme from Season 2 of “Euphoria” is the one from Cassie’s bathroom meltdown scene in episode three. “I would have to say it’s the ‘I’ve never ever been happier’ meme. I love that meme,” she told Variety on Saturday at the Canneseries TV festival, being held on France’s Côte d’Azur.
Asked what part of Cassie’s personality or backstory she would like to see explored in the next season of the show, she mentions a trait that was exposed in episode four of Season 2. “There was a bit of Cassie that I got to play with when she started saying that she’s crazier than Maddy in a scene with Nate. And she kind of got a little more evil and dark and serious, and not so frantic. I would love to play with more of that streak within herself.”
So does she like playing dark roles? “I like playing characters that are complex and have multiple layers,” she says. “And people wonder if they’re evil or good, and pure or not. I like playing characters that make people think and make me think.”
Some reviews of “Euphoria” and “The White Lotus” suggest that her characters — Cassie and Olivia, respectively — are dangerous or scary. Is that how she saw them when she took the roles? “No, I didn’t. Olivia, a little bit. I knew she was a little scary, just because of how she thought, her thought process. It did scare me. But Cassie, especially in the beginning, I never thought of her as scary. I just think of her as a really fragile, damaged girl.”
In some of the press about Sweeney, journalists have suggested that her characters in “Euphoria” and “The White Lotus” represent her generation in a way. Is she comfortable with that or even see it as valid? “I get where they’re coming from. But at the same time, I think there’s so much more to the generation than just like one or two characters. I think that there’s so much more than Cassie or Olivia.”
Media attention around Sweeney has been intense, especially recently, and some of the coverage seems to conflate her personality with that of her characters in “Euphoria” and “The White Lotus.” How does she deal with that? “You can’t really because there’s always going to be multiple narratives. And I can’t control the narratives,” Sweeney says. “I can’t control what you write, and I can’t control how people perceive it. And so I just know my own story and other people get to hear it or listen. That’s life. How it is now.”
The end of a season of a series like “Euphoria” brings forth mixed emotions for the actor. “It is very bittersweet, because everyone has worked so hard in creating this project, and so are really happy that it’s done, and people are going to get to see it soon. But then, you’re also sad because it is a family. And you don’t want to say goodbye. And it’s a long journey. And you miss everybody.”
Given the momentum of her career, Sweeney gets to pick from the roles offered to her. How does she choose? “I like to try and find characters that are challenging for me in multiple different ways, and are completely different from one another. I want to continue to shock people with the characters that I play when they don’t expect that I would choose that next.”
One of the roles she has lined up is in “Madame Web,” a comic-book tentpole set in Sony’s Universe of Marvel Characters. Is she reading the comic books the movie is based on? “I am. I’ve been ordering a bunch of comic books,” she says. “There’s a lot to learn. I’ve always been a really big fan of all of the Marvel and Sony Universe movies. I’ve grown up watching them all and I’ve been engulfed in the entire world my entire life, so being able to be a part of that is such an incredible, incredible thing.”
Sweeney is also set to star in Tony Tost’s film “National Anthem,” playing Penny Jo Poplin. “She’s a small town girl who dreams of being like her idol Dolly Parton and running away to Nashville and being a country singer,” she explains. “And she doesn’t know how she’s going to do it. But she meets a fellow cowboy who is going to help chase her dreams.”
Apart from her life as an actor, she has also embarked on a career as a producer. She is producing nine projects through her production company Fifty-Fifty Films. Four of those have been greenlit, she says. One of these is “The Players Table,” which was sold to HBO Max, with Annabelle Attanasio set as the lead writer.
“We are in the process of writing the episodes. So it’s quite a long process. Everything that you see, before anyone ever gets cast in a project, is years and years of work. It’s years of packaging a project. It’s years of developing a pitch. It’s years of convincing people that they should believe in you, put money into your show or movie, and then you have to develop the entire series. And so we’ve been writing multiple episodes right now,” she says.
Why does she want to produce? “I’ve always loved building my characters. And I love doing more than just one thing. I’ve always wanted to try as many possibilities as I possibly could,” she says. “And I realized that I could build entire worlds in movies and TV shows. And I love reading books and bringing them to life. I wanted to bring my voice to all of these stories that I saw in my brain.”
She says she is “excited” to share information on the other projects her company has sold but “I have not talked about them yet,” she says. When will she share? “I don’t know yet. I don’t know. It’s hard, because I feel like people are used to actors talking about projects that are already getting made or making them next month,” she says. “And so they’re not used to the years of work it takes to put into a project. So I’m kind of a little timid about announcing anything until it’s right before we’re going to start filming.”
Before wrapping the interview, Sweeney confirms one unusual fact about her: she trained as an MMA [mixed martial arts] fighter when she was a teenager.
“It is correct. I started training when I was about 13. I would do competitions and fight. And I really enjoyed it… I was in first place. And I fought a guy,” she says.
She hasn’t employed this skill in her acting career… so far. “I would love to. It might be something that I’m producing…” she says with a wry smile.