Euphoria’s trans advisor on why the collection tells good trans tales
HBO’s Euphoria is among the most compelling tv collection of 2019, and one of many few present teen dramas that not solely will get, however respects, at this time’s teenagers. The collection stars Zendaya and Hunter Schafer as Rue and Jules, respectively: lonely teens-cum-star-crossed-lovers whose attraction to one another seems like a relentless sport of catch-up.
The collection follows Rue, Jules, and a handful of different teenagers as they wrestle with habit, sexuality, abuse, and identification. Trans actress Hunter Schafer is the collection’ breakout star: An advocate turned mannequin turned teen drama star, she infused Jules’ storyline along with her personal private experiences. Euphoria not solely options different trans actors like Quintessa Swindell (Trinkets), but in addition explores gender and sexuality in a means that feels genuine to its viewers.
In response to Scott Turner Schofield, Euphoria’s trans advisor, that’s attributable to showrunner Sam Levinson’s earnest need to take heed to trans people and pretty and precisely signify their experiences on display. Polygon spoke with Schofield about his consulting work on the collection and the “contact excessive” of engaged on Euphoria.
Polygon: You wore just a few hats through the manufacturing of Euphoria. Are you able to describe what your work seems to be like because the present’s trans advisor?
Scott Turner Schofield: I began out working with [showrunner] Sam Levenson on the script, which I learn with an eye fixed towards tropes [in trans representation] … Nevertheless, I do need to signify that I actually didn’t need to do so much in that regard. Sam did one thing that I believe is admittedly essential for artists to consider in telling the very truthful particulars of his personal private story. He was actually open and collaborative with Hunter [Schafer] in order that she might mould these particulars in a means that felt true to the story that she wished to inform for Jules.
I’m all the time very fast to say, you may’t simply discover any trans individual and assume that they’re going to inform a great trans story, as a result of we’re all utterly overwhelmed by mainstream tradition and the tropes [about trans people] it tells us — even trans folks. However the distinction with Hunter is that she was already an activist. She’s a really articulate trans lady and he or she already understands these items. I all the time say which you can’t discover any trans individual, however Hunter’s not any trans individual. She understands the significance of illustration and do it proper and effectively. Their powers mixed made my job very easy in that regard.
We then would generally then have conversations as a result of it’s not simply Sam as the author, showrunner, director, govt producer, auteur — he does reply to producers and executives at HBO. We must clarify issues to the folks a lot increased up who’ve a say in how the story will get informed. There was a push to form of actually title the labels, whether or not it was Jules’ labels or to label Jules’ and Rue’s relationship in a means that isn’t actually how we do issues anymore. So we needed to clarify that it will be way more genuine to the world that we’re representing to not try this.
So there was that piece of my position as form of being a content material subject material professional. Then, I got here on set and I labored with all people within the crew. They had been tremendous open and keen. Hunter Schafer wasn’t the one trans actor on set — we had Quintessa Swindell, who’s brazenly non-binary. I needed to work actually fastidiously with their costumes and the pinnacle of wardrobe; we wished to ensure that Quintessa felt actually seen as non-binary individual.
As an illustration, there’s an intimate scene between [Quintessa’s character, Anna] and [Schafer’s character, Jules] in episode 7 that was a collaboration with the intimacy coordinator. We wished to ensure that all people knew the writers and had been exhibiting and doing what they might and wouldn’t need to do. Additionally, for me to ensure that Hunter and Quintessa felt like their genders had been seen and represented correctly. It’s bonkers as a result of it’s a 30-second flash of scenes, however it took an hour and a half to do and much more time for us to essentially negotiate. My job was to take what I find out about being an actor and what I do know as an advocate and as a media professional, and ensure that each the actors obtained what they actually wanted and had been seen the way in which that they actually wished to be seen and heard and that the viewers obtained the advantage of the illustration.
“It was form of excessive and nitty-gritty stage work”
I imply, it took all the things: educating folks use they/them/their pronouns as a singular; ensuring folks understood that trans girls are girls; if somebody asks you the place to go to the toilet, that is the place you go. I solid round 80 trans and non-binary extras for a membership scene and made certain that they’d a gender-neutral altering house.
It was form of excessive and nitty-gritty stage work, and I simply occurred to be actually uniquely positioned to try this due to the work that I do. I used to be actually blissful to have the ability to work in a context like Euphoria the place folks had been so very prepared and keen to do it proper and effectively.
One thing that actually sort of struck me about Jules’ character is the truth that she’s not, particularly because the season progresses, locked right into a heterosexual paradigm. In episode seven, she actually digs into the connection between her sexuality and her gender — I bear in mind she says one thing about “conquering males and thus like conquering femininity.” What are your ideas concerning the therapy of her queer sexuality inside the present in addition to a trans character?
That was very a lot Sam Levinson listening to Hunter Schafer and me simply gleefully goading him on like, “Sure, please say this!” It feels genuine as a result of it’s genuine — it’s one thing that’s actually there and actually of this second as a result of it was dropped at the desk by an precise individual. That the main honor that I give to the present. They actually listened they usually actually represented versus appropriating it for the sake of being fashionable and looking out cool, and you may all the time inform when reveals try this as a result of [the representation] is rarely fairly proper.
Having that sort of communicated authenticity mixed with the truth that Jules’ narrative is just barely tied to her trans identification — what do you assume units her character arc aside from different trans narratives that we see on TV?
What we see on TV proper now could be very a lot the place our mainstream tradition is. It’s each cisgender individual coping with the “Trans Particular person Being Trans,” and the trans individual’s solely narrative is transition, which … would solely ever be exhibiting tv reveals about youngsters. And I get it — it’s dramatic and fascinating and there’s a whole lot of nice TV drama there, however come on, catch up. We have now life past this, and that’s what we’re seeing with Jules. Her narrative is difficult. It actually brings folks as much as their stuff as a result of it’s not a story that they’ve seen earlier than. That’s why it’s good. It’s as a result of that narrative was listened to.
What I see taking place in most different locations is that even when we do take heed to a trans actor and allow them to carry their very own story, it’s nonetheless mitigated by way of different folks’s management. They have a look at it and determine how they need to take care of us. What I like about [Euphoria] is that it simply broke by way of all of that. There’s no tackle us — it’s on our personal phrases.
That was the true pleasure of engaged on it. Being listened to as a trans individual is a robust factor in and of itself. There was additionally the truth that the present had such a platform and my job was simply to go in there and say, “sure, sure, sure!” It was so pleasant and so empowering, and that’s what the suggestions is from different trans folks.
I used to be going by way of your Instagram feed and observed a put up from early July the place you used the phrase “contact excessive” whereas referring to Euphoria. Are you able to clarify precisely what meaning?
“That was the true second of actual trans infiltration”
I might go on set and see this illustration that simply felt so true and so proper. I’d have these conversations with Sam and Hunter and Quintessa and Bobbi [Salvör Menuez]. After which after I solid all these people who find themselves folks from my group right here in LA and had them come on set for just a few days and simply dance in a membership, all the ADs and the PAs came visiting and had been like, “That is one of the best further crew we’ve ever had in our lives. They clap on the finish of each take. They’re so enthusiastic and heat.” That was the true second of actual trans infiltration, you realize what I imply?
That’s one instance of that sort of contact excessive — I didn’t have a grievance all day. I felt actually protecting of the [trans extras] and was apprehensive that somebody was going to misgender them and issues had been going to develop into problematic. They had been completely blissful to be there and contribute to one thing.
I mentioned to them, “Look, I’ve a protracted profession of doing this work. I don’t trans-wash issues. I don’t come and simply put my model on prime of one thing and say it’s OK. I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t assume that this was an incredible present doing one thing actually totally different for trans illustration.” I actually put myself on the road like that, and to really feel completely trusting — that was a excessive.
I additionally take into consideration after I watched episode four. Sam took me to the edit sales space and confirmed me the opening to episode four the place Jules is a toddler, and it’s actually onerous. She’s in a psychological establishment for self hurt. And the factor is, like … the self-harming isn’t about Jules being trans, besides that in fact it’s. Trans folks don’t expertise psychological sickness greater than different folks as a result of we’re trans. It’s a symptom of what you do to us as a result of we’re trans. With phrases, that was not mentioned in any means. It was simply on this pink soccer jersey that little Jules was sporting. And I burst into tears watching it, as a result of that child was me, besides in blue. And that Sam obtained that so proper with out phrases, simply obtained it utterly spot on … that was the best excessive, higher than any drug I’ve ever used.
Anything you’d like so as to add?
I felt actually honored to be chosen to take the job, and I believe that the second when it occurred was this second after we got the primary 4 episodes to learn and discuss to them about.
I mentioned [to Sam Levinson], “Jules is the one who will get herself greater than anyone else on this present. I really imagine that the factor that makes cis folks love and admire trans folks a lot is the truth that we perceive one thing actually deep about ourselves, and that’s truly actually particular. I see Rue as being in love with Jules as a result of Jules has the self-knowledge that Rue lacks, and that’s what’s actually on the base of their love for each other.”
I believe that’s when Sam sort of sat again and was like, “You need this job?”
As a result of once more, it has nothing to do with their genders. It doesn’t have something to do with sexuality. It’s a real, genuine human connection and a state of human being that they’ve managed to seize and that folks love. All people needs to really feel seen and all people needs to know themselves, and that’s what the present is admittedly about.