Meet Our Summer Cover Star: Sydney Sweeney

By now, you’ve likely seen the meme in which a gloriously manic Sydney Sweeney, as her Euphoria character Cassie Howard, screams, “I HAVE NEVER, EVER BEEN HAPPIER!”

Dripping in irony, the moment has come to represent a multitude of emotions amongst fans of the show. “Honestly, it relates to so many things in my life too,” says Sweeney, laughing. The intensity of the visual is as if to say: try as we might to keep our shit together, a meltdown is never far behind. And even though this feeling is universal, it’s not something you’d usually associate with an actress whose rarefied talents have rocketed her to the upper echelons of Hollywood only a few years since arriving on the scene. Over the course of my chat with Sweeney, though, I realize she’s just like us. She laughs easily and often—both at herself, and at the comedy of the human condition. “I’ll never be able to live those [memes] down, so I just embrace it.”

Holton Mockneck Sweater by Canada Goose; earrings by Tiffany & Co.
Dress by Giambattista Valli; earrings by Van Cleef & Arpels.

The 25-year-old actor is video calling from Sydney (yes, she’s aware that she’s… Sydney in Sydney), where she’s been filming Anyone But You, a romantic comedy alongside Glen Powell. It’s seven in the morning, local time, but she is ready to seize another day down under. “I feel like a real tourist,” she tells me. On days off from shooting, Sweeney and her co-stars have been taking advantage of how far away they are from their typically demanding schedules and by enjoying amusement parks, football games, and all things Australian.

There’s a lightness to the whole picture that feels worlds away from the seriousness of Sweeney’s career trajectory. She rose to fame for her rich performances of often paradoxical characters like Olivia Mossbacher in The White Lotus (privileged, yet savage), Eden Spencer in The Handmaid’s Tale (an innocent turned martyr), and Euphoria’s Cassie, whose season two storyline was as twisted as it was revelatory, and ended in a knock-down, drag-out fight with her best friend over a sociopathic quarterback.

Full look by Miu Miu; ring by Cartier.
Jacket by Burberry; boots by Larroudé; earrings by Van Cleef & Arpels.

“I put a lot of work into the characters that I create, so the fact that they are resonating with people and evoking these crazy emotions—they hate Olivia or they love Cassie—is an amazing feeling because that’s what I work really hard to be able to accomplish,” she says. “I also think it’s really funny because if you knew me, you’d be like ‘Oh my god, how are these characters even in you?’ So, it’s pretty fun to explore and challenge myself in different ways.” Sweeney’s performances in The White Lotus and Euphoria garnered her double nominations at the 2022 Primetime Emmys for outstanding supporting actress in a limited series and drama series respectively.

The secret to Sweeney’s magic craft? Detailed scrapbooks she creates about her characters’ lives prior to filming. In her “full-blown art room,” she culls together diary entries and imagery that helps paint the picture of their lives from the day they are born to the day we meet them onscreen. “[I’m] creating all these memories and thoughts and places so that when I am in a scene, I’m not having to think of how I would act in that [moment]. I’m just in it because I have all these memories from someone else and I can just be this person,” she says. Though she doesn’t keep scrapbooks about her own life, Sweeney relishes the crafting sessions. “I loved school growing up, and I feel like it’s homework,” she says.

Full look by Prada; ring by Bvlgari.

The scrapbooks come out for fashion, too. Alongside her stylist Molly Dixon, Sweeney often sends detailed mood boards complete with runway shots, street style references, and photos from her camera roll—to fashion brands she works with. Miu Miu is a particular favourite collaborator for Sweeney. “I send them mood boards of what I want before different events, and they will come back with a bunch of sketches and we’ll work together [to] really come to something that we collectively love,” she says. “And you see that—I’m really happy when I’m wearing Miu Miu because it feels like me.” Case in point, Sweeney’s outfit at this year’s Met Gala was a custom nude chiffon gown with crystal embroidery and a black chiffon bow that was repeated in her hair. Va-va-voom with an ultra-feminine twist seems to be Sweeney’s go-to red carpet style of late. “I’m very glad that I am learning because I definitely think I’ve had some rough patches in there,” she says with a laugh. “I’m playing dress up and it’s the coolest thing ever.”

Dress by Rodarte; earrings and ring by Bvlgari.

HBO’s forthcoming film Reality features Sweeney playing another complex character: Reality Winner, a former U.S. Air Force member and National Security Agency translator who was convicted of leaking a confidential report on Russian election interference to the media and given the longest prison sentence ever imposed for her actions. Directed by Tina Satter, Reality features verbatim dialogue from the unedited transcript of an FBI audio recording, capturing a tense 90-minute interrogation. In meeting with Winner over Zoom, Sweeney was able to pick up her mannerisms for her tour de force performance. During a press conference for the film’s premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival earlier this year, Sweeney said, “When Tina connected us, I was like, ‘Oh my god, this is a dream for an actor,’ because I’m actually getting to speak to the real person; I’m getting to dive more into [her] mind and what she’s gone through in her life.”

Sweeney often refers to her performances as dream roles, like Euphoria’s Cassie, whose recent tailspin was a particular treat. “I feel like I got to have that at such a young age, and I’m so thankful because it was an amazing experience and such a challenge. I loved it,” she says. And as the cast prepares to shoot the forthcoming season, Sweeney is hopeful she can keep the chaos going, even just for a little while. “I really hope that I can continue to run with the craziness of Cassie. It’s so much fun. It’s such a crazy thing to do as an actor to go to those places and explore those things, but I also know that people do need to see Cassie love herself and be okay with herself and be in a safe situation, so I think it’s important to give the audience that, but not right away.” Last year, Sweeney’s castmate Barbie Ferreira made headlines when her rumoured feud with Euphoria creator Sam Levinson resulted in her exiting the show. When asked about the on-set dynamic, Sweeney says, “We have such an incredible cast of strong, independent, smart females, and if we didn’t feel comfortable or we don’t want to do something—you have Z (Zendaya), you have everybody who’s going say something.”

Full look by Bottega Veneta.
Dress by Rodarte; jacket by Max Mara; earrings by Cartier.

There are more dream roles in Sweeney’s future. Next year, she’ll star alongside Dakota Johnson in Madame Web, a Marvel film intended to be the sixth film in Sony’s Spider-Man Universe. “I feel like my entire life is an NDA,” she says, laughing. “The Marvel world has us under lock and key, but I’m really excited that we get to have such a badass group of females for the world to see.” Sweeney is also in the development phase of a remake of the 1968 Jane Fonda film Barbarella. “The costumes are so amazing and iconic, so I’m really excited to bring that to life and lean into how fun it could be,” she says.

Growing up in Washington before relocating to Los Angeles at age 14, Sweeney says, “I was a very active and adventurous kid, so I felt like a superhero half the time.” In high school, she played soccer and slalom skied, before zeroing in on acting. “I was on such a yo-yo of what I was into when I was growing up,” she says. She later got into period romances like The Notebook and Titanic, the kinds of films she hopes to tackle one day. “I’ve always wanted to do a period piece,” she says. “I love character pieces that people don’t see me as. I’m just looking for things in which I can kind of be unrecognizable.”

Given the impact Sweeney has already made in Hollywood, she’ll be impossible to miss.

Photography by Celeste Sloman (Copious Management)
Styling by Molly Dickson
Makeup by Melissa Hernandez (The Wall Group)
Hair by Glen Coco (PRTNRS)
Photography Assistant: Kevin McHugh
Stylist Assistants: Jenna Filingeri, Clarke Johnson
On Set Producer: Andre Shahjanian