"Euphoria" star Hunter Schafer spoke at Penn’s Irvine Auditorium on Tuesday as a part of SPEC Connaissance’s 2022 Spring Speaker event exclusively for members of the Penn community.
Schafer entered the stage in an orange and blue dress and was met with roaring applause. In front of a sold-out crowd of Penn students, faculty, and staff, she sat down with Malik Muhammad, associate director at the LGBT Center, to discuss her life and answer the audience's questions. Schafer, a model-turned-actress, is best known for playing the character Jules Vaughn on HBO's teen drama "Euphoria," which wrapped up its second season earlier this year.
"Euphoria" premiered in 2019 and has since garnered a viewership rivaling that of "Game of Thrones." Its second season averaged 16.3 million viewers, making it HBO's second most-viewed show since 2004. Although the show is led by world-renowned musician and actor Zendaya, Schafer has established herself as its definitive "breakout star" and fan favorite, according to The New York Times.
When Schafer entered, she smiled at the crowd, remarking that she had never spoken in front of so many people before. She said that she was honored to come to Penn — adding the fact that she had just barely graduated high school not so long ago.
Schafer and Muhammad discussed a number of topics throughout the evening, starting with Schafer’s transition from modeling to acting. Schafer said she often faced imposter syndrome, which Muhammad added was common for Penn students.
Schafer said she felt insecure while developing her craft in her debut role, as she was surrounded by experienced actors. She recalled befriending Barbie Ferreira — who plays Kat Hernandez in "Euphoria" — during the rigorous audition process for "Euphoria." Schafer also spoke about how Zendaya — who plays the protagonist, Rue Bennett, in "Euphoria" — has become a close friend and helped her navigate Hollywood.
The 23-year old is also an advocate for LGBTQ rights and trans representation in the media. As a trans woman, she said she felt an immense responsibility to properly portray the character of Jules, a trans person, because the transgender community is often an underrepresented group in film and television.
Many Penn students have become "Euphoria" fans over its two-season run, including Nursing junior Tara Teipel, who said she was thrilled Schafer came to speak at Penn.
“I was so surprised that Penn [SPEC Connaissance] was able to get such an influential person. There’s so many things that are 'Euphoria' themed, and [Schafer] is super current right now with the season just ending,” Teipel told the The Daily Pennsylvanian.
Schafer said that she has often had to get out of her comfort zone, from acting to writing an episode of "Euphoria." She co-wrote a special episode for the series with the show's creator, Sam Levinson, called “Fuck Anyone Who’s Not a Sea Blob,” which ran between the show's first and second seasons. The episode centered around her character, Jules Vaughn.
Schafer concluded the conversation by answering an audience question about advice she would give to her younger self. She replied by telling students to be “messier now” in their twenties and college days, so that they can be more experienced later in life when they then need to act more professionally.