Sydney Sweeney pops on to our Zoom with perfectly curled hair and freshly winged eyes. Joking around for a moment about the muted floral- and crane-littered wallpaper behind her (she purchased it on Etsy and put it up herself), she seems chill—Zoomer-speak for comfortable, at peace, and easygoing, someone who is in touch with themselves. As the queen of Gen Z characters, Hollywood’s newest It Girl has chill down. It’s incredible that, at age 25, she so expertly maintains her composure, even as her life increasingly pushes against normalcy.
When we talk, she’s been on a series of night shoots, filming until 6 or 7 a.m., for a confidential project, and she spends her days off shooting ad campaigns for the likes of Armani, Laneige, and Tory Burch. She’s also getting ready for awards season, having earned two Emmy nominations for her roles: Cassie Howard, a self-destructive high schooler who’s still very much coming into her own, on HBO’s Euphoria; and Olivia Mossbacher, the epitome of a teenage Twitter troll, in Mike White’s The White Lotus.
Coat, Fendi. Bra, La Perla, $490. Ring, Piaget.
These days, there are seldom moments when she gets to be “normal Syd,” as she calls it, working on vintage cars, baking, and going on hikes. But the pace is what keeps the Spokane, Washington, native going. She shot her first two big series, Netflix’s Everything Sucks! in Oregon and Hulu’s Sharp Objects in California, at the same time, flying from set to set as needed. “I learned that I thrived on hectic craziness,” she remembers. “I knew that this was my dream, that my dream was coming true—and I was going to work even harder to make sure that I kept building the career that I wanted.”
Coat, Fendi. Bra, La Perla, $490. Ring, Piaget. Sandals, Gianvito Rossi, $1,245.
Now, after over 13 years in the business, she’s forged a career where her name is on everyone’s lips, her face often plastered around the internet. But it’s clear she prefers viral moments be reserved for her characters. “I have terrible stage fright, so I wish someone would’ve told me how much, as Sydney, I would have to speak, because I feel safer in my characters,” she says. Whenever she talks about one of them, whether it be Olivia or Cassie, her eyes light up. It’s evident she pours her soul into her roles, and while her outward demeanor may be chill, her work ethic is anything but. Next up? Marvel’s Madame Web. “I fought for the character,” Sweeney says of the role. “It’s been a really incredible journey that I’m very, very excited to be a part of.”
Jacket, $1,045, trousers, $595, Emporio Armani. Bra, La Perla, $525. Pumps, Giuseppe Zanotti, $850.
On her Emmy nominations
“I wasn’t expecting it. I was in a fitting for Madame Web, and when I came out of it, my phone was blowing up. After, I posted the video of my mom and me crying on the phone. It’s been more than 10 years of work and a lot of sacrifices and people telling me no. The nominations were really meaningful because I hope that my parents are proud, because they gave up a lot of their lives and themselves to be able to help me pursue my dreams. It also means a lot that I’m playing characters that resonate with viewers, and characters that challenge me as an artist. It’s an amazing moment.”
On the night of the Emmy Awards
“To attend as a double nominee my first time was such an honor. It’s one birthday I’ll never forget. I fan-girled when Mariska Hargitay and Christopher Meloni came onstage—I didn’t get to say hi, but that’s one of the only videos on my phone from that night!”
Shirt, Miu Miu, $2,650.
On her biggest goal
“I’m in a really, really fortunate position to be able to love the job that I have, but I also know that can fall out of love with it. And I want to continue finding my love through the people I work with, the characters that I get to play, the people I get to meet through the projects that I’m fortunate to be able to be a part of. So I think it’s mainly being able to stay in love with what I do.”
I knew that if I ever gave up on my dream, I wouldn’t be able to live with myself.”
Coat, Fendi. Bra, La Perla, $490. Sandals, Gianvito Rossi, $1,245.
On Cassie’s Euphoria season 2 storyline
“It was like, ‘Cassie, no. Why?’ Oh man, it was rough for Cassie . There was a moment when I was like, How fast can this girl unwind? But, as an actor, that’s so fun to play. I love going to these insane places. So I kind of hope that next season I might be able to find some more insanity.”
On the sexualization of Cassie
“I was highly sexualized in high school because I had boobs. It’s kind of funny: What was being said about Cassie in Euphoria, the public then decided to do to me in real life. Which I thought was so crazy, because we were trying to show a character who was so hypersexualized, and what could have been the cause and effects for her. And they just continue to do it.”
On sex scenes and safety on set
“I’ve always said that if it’s important for the character in the story line and what they are going through, then my job is to bring this character to life. I’m not gonna do a disservice to my character and take away from a moment that might change and sculpt who she is later on. That’s how I’ve always looked at it. So if there is a scene and a project that doesn’t make sense, and it feels like it’s just thrown in, then I might say something.”
“We are in such a great time right now in the industry where we have intimacy coordinators, and I’ve always felt comfortable with mine. They’re very collaborative and very supportive. I think it’s important for every set to have one.”
Bra, La Perla, $480. Skirt, Miu Miu, $4,200. Earrings, Ring, Bulgari.
On having a family
“Ever since I was little, I’ve always wanted to be a mom, and I love kids. I love their imaginations and think they’re a beautiful source of light. And I think that it’s the most normalcy that I’ll be able to achieve in my lifetime.”
Pumps, Giuseppe zanotti, $850.
On her comments to the Hollywood Reporter about taking a break
“I was asked if I wanted to have a family and I said yes. And then I was asked why I didn’t have one yet, and I was like, I don’t have time to take even, like, a six-month break. Like, I don’t have time to be able to start this family. I’m working so much and I’m focusing on that right now. And so it was kind of skewed with the public and taken out of context, which was insane to watch and kind of disappointing, too, because I think that being a mother, and a working mother, is really important. I really want to achieve that one day. So I was disappointed that people took my words and changed them [to serve] their own agenda.”
Jacket, Ralph Lauren Collection, $3,990. Bra, La Perla, $480. Ring, Piaget.
On her family’s support
“People like to say they support you and they want to see you succeed. But I find that a lot of them are actually just waiting for your downfall. My family is who was there for me before I was anybody. And when I see them, I’m still Syd, and that is what’s important to me. They’ll always be there for me, no matter if I want to act tomorrow or quit.”
On her relationship with Tory Burch
“My mom always wanted a Tory Burch purse—it was her dream purse when I was growing up. I remember my dad wanting to save up for so long to get this purse for her and we never did. And so when I met with Tory, I told her this, and she sent my mom the purse and it was the sweetest thing ever.”
Coat, Fendi. Bra, La Perla, $490. Ring, Piaget.
On defying expectations
“In high school, whenever I’d go home [between filming], I would feel so insecure and judged. People would be like, ‘So have you done anything? When are you gonna get a real job?’ Or ‘When are you just gonna come home and get married and have a real life?’ And I knew that if I ever gave up on my dream, I wouldn’t be able to live with myself. I wasn’t going to allow myself to quit, and allow people to tell me that I’m not good enough or I wasn’t going to make it. I was just going to keep working as hard as I possibly could to achieve my dreams.”
Camisole, Fendi. Bra, $525, brief, $185, La Perla. Necklace, Bulgari. Pumps, Giuseppe Zanotti, $850.
Hair by Hos Hounkpatin at the Wall Group; Makeup by Melissa Hernandez for Armani Beauty; Manicure by Zola Ganzorigt at the Wall Group; Produced by Paul Preiss at Preiss Creative.
This article appears in the November 2022 issue of ELLE.
Samuel is the Assistant to the Editor-in-Chief at ELLE Magazine. His interests include music, theater, books, video games, and anything to do with Taylor Swift. He famously broke both his arms at the same time in fourth grade.