Sydney Sweeney was leaving a fitting when she found out she was nominated for two Emmys Tuesday. Speechless, the first person she called was her mother.
“There weren’t many words,” Sweeney said. “It was more of crying and saying how proud she was.”
The 24-year-old actress earned nominations for two HBO shows: “The White Lotus,” for supporting actress in a limited series, and “Euphoria,” for supporting actress in a drama. She attributes her success in the shows to creating elaborate books for each character that include their individual back stories and emotional memories.
“I’m able to just jump into who they are, and I know how they will react to something because of what has happened in their past,” she said. “I’m able to flesh out these fully vivid characters because I’ve given them life through the work that I put into it.”
As Cassie in Season 2 of “Euphoria,” her character sacrifices her friendship with Maddy (played by Alexa Demie), and employs intensive beauty routines and country-music inspired wardrobes to win over Nate (Jacob Elordi), Maddy’s ex-boyfriend. (Zendaya, who plays the troubled Rue, was nominated again for best actress in a drama.)
Sweeney’s character Olivia on “The White Lotus” had it easier, vacationing with her friend Paula (Brittany O’Grady), and passing scathing judgments at a luxury resort. The limited series racked up 20 nominations, including five just in the best supporting actress category.
In a phone interview, Sweeney discussed the thrill of her first Emmy nominations and what she hopes viewers will gain from Cassie’s transformative arc. These are edited excerpts from that conversation.
How did you feel when you heard that you received two nominations?
I was definitely in shock, because I was not expecting to get nominated, especially not for two awards. I appreciate the characters that I get to play, so the fact that people have been touched by my character — that’s what means so much to me. It’s an amazing feeling, and I’m very appreciative.
Cassie underwent a significant transformation in “Euphoria” last season, going from a sympathetic character to a more questionable one as she complicates her friendship with Maddy by falling for Nate. What was that metamorphosis like for you?
It was a fun challenge. I was also very nervous, because I know that Maddy’s character is such a force and people love her. You don’t want to cross Maddy, and Cassie crossed Maddy. So I was a little nervous to see how people would react.
Olivia, in “The White Lotus,” was a much more comic role. Was that challenging?
I was a little scared because I’ve never done something on the more comedic side, and I was going to be surrounded by such comedic geniuses. But whenever I’m scared, that means I’m going to be challenged. I’m going to try and push myself even further. So I was really excited to be surrounded by these people.
Some viewers complained that “Euphoria” hypersexualized Cassie last season. What did you make of that criticism, and what do you hope people take away from the character?
I hope people can look deeper inside of Cassie and see the struggles and the trauma that she has gone through, and why she is who she is. Because there’s a reason behind all of it. Does she want to put herself out there all the time? No. She does it because that’s what she thinks other people want from her, and that’s the only way that she’s going to be able to get what she wants from people.
I think that shows how women feel and how they’re treated today. I hope that it raises awareness for others, and they’re more aware of how we’re being perceived, how young girls are being raised. And there’s a double side, because I also think there’s strength behind how she feels when she is naked or she’s showing her body. She communicates that way and there’s a beauty, there’s a strength and there’s a sadness with all of it. I hope people can see that.