With an impending Euphoria season three on the horizon, the show’s breakout star opens up on how she handles anxiety, a new series season, and online accusations of nepotism
Since its launch in 2019, Euphoria has rocketed from a zeitgeisty series to a global phenomenon. Millions of indoctrinated viewers are gripped by the heady mix of sex, style and violence, as suburban Californian teens navigate their chaotic high-school years. Apatow has experienced almost-instant fame. “After season one came out, it was kind of crazy. Then season two comes and it gets even crazier, I can’t get my head around it… but I’m so glad that people like it.”
In season one, Apatow’s character, Lexi, took a back seat to older sister Cassie (played by Sydney Sweeney). But the second season explored the inner life of the softer, more introverted sister waiting in the wings. In the frantic season finale, she transformed into a domineering director, hellbent on perfection. It’s a tipping-point moment that Apatow had a lot of input in.
“[Showrunner] Sam [Levinson] and I would talk on the phone for hours [about] the storyline. I talked to him about my experience doing theatre in high school and I remember us saying, ‘OK, she should definitely be a tyrant!’ Sam isn’t precious about dialogue – if you make suggestions or say, ‘I don’t think my character would do that’, he is super-open to having that conversation,” Apatow says.
Apatow was a student at Northwestern University in Illinois when she first auditioned for the role of Lexi, having recently played a small part in Levinson’s 2018 movie Assassination Nation. “I always felt like he got me. He has a lot of similar anxieties to me and has been so supportive. I think he knows what I’m capable of and how to push me.”
Despite having the director onside, Apatow explains that the Euphoria audition process was gruelling. “The final one was with the network; it’s you in a room, performing in front of 15 people in suits. I was so anxious I just blacked out.”
Anxiety has been a long-time struggle for Apatow and is one of the ways she connected to her Euphoria character. “In high school, I was nervous all the time, I never stood up for myself and I felt like people would take advantage of the fact I wouldn’t ever argue. I just never felt confident.”
At school, Apatow channelled her anxiety into acting and dealt with the issues of being a perfectionist. Despite the high-pressure industry, Apatow never wanted to quit. “I get so nervous about everything it feels normal to me, and the pay-off is always worth it: I never want to let the fear get in the way.”
Having comedy royalty for parents – screenwriter Judd Apatow and actor Leslie Mann – means Apatow has been cited as an example of a recent internet obsession: nepotism babies.
Entire subsections of Twitter and TikTok are dedicated to “outing” children of celebrities, particularly in Hollywood. It’s a somewhat uncomfortable topic for Apatow. “At first I was sad…,” she revealed. “I try not to let it get to me because I obviously understand that I’m in such a lucky position. A lot of people [in a similar position] have proven themselves over the years, so I’ve got to keep going and make good work. It’s so early in my career.”
Apatow has lots of “off-the-record” projects in the pipeline and soon will star in Pantheon, an animated sci-fi series exploring what happens when human consciousness is uploaded online. Then there’s a dark comedy being developed with Netflix that she will write and star in, although that’s all she can say at this point.
“My dad always told me acting is tough because you never know what’s going to come next,” Apatow said. “He always encouraged me to write. You can shoot a movie and really hope it will work, but you don’t know how they’re gonna edit it. To not have any control of that is scary sometimes, so I try to do other things.”
But she can always count on sage advice from her parents about the industry’s cut-throat nature, especially from her father. “Dad always reads what I write, but I have to be at a certain point. I’ll wait until I’m almost done and then get notes from him. I get annoyed because he’ll come up with a better idea, but he’s super helpful.”
This is an excerpt from Porter’s cover feature. To see the full interview read Porter.