IN CONVERSATION WITH HUNTER SCHAFER
How did you know you wanted to be an actress?
It was less of a discovery of wanting to be an actress more that I fell into it. I was a model in New York shortly after graduating high school. I did that for about a year, or a year and a half. I had plans to go to fashion school, but my agency sent me to an audition near the end of that time period. It happened to be “Euphoria”, and “Euphoria” happened to snowball in the right direction.
Acting was kind of really terrifying at first. It was not something I was anticipating for myself. I’ve ended up growing fond of it. I feel like I have a very special artistic relationship with it now, but it wasn’t always like that.
“Euphoria” is praised for its depiction of Gen Z and Gen Alpha. How closely do you think the show depicts those generations?
The cast is composed of a lot of members of Gen Z, and the writer and creator Sam Levinson worked closely with all of us, so I think there was a lot of truth infused into it. It was a close collaboration with actual members of Gen Z. But at the end of the day, I don’t think it’s supposed to be a super accurate depiction, instead it’s a dramatization of Gen Z humans.
What can you say about playing “Tigris Snow” in the “Hunger Games” prequel?
This opportunity was a surprise: I didn’t see it coming. I hadn’t heard about it until a couple days before I had to audition to play her.
I was a huge fan of the books — I read them when I was in middle school. I distinctly remember Tigris from the original Hunger Games books and the movies. When that opportunity came through, I was just floored. I tried my best in the audition and ended up getting it.
It’s a really special opportunity to help bring that world to life. Particularly to play a character that, I think if I were to be in that world, I’d probably be something like her. She’s a little fashion designer! It was very special.
Can you think of an important turning point in your career, and what it felt like?
I still feel pretty new to referring to my professional life as a career. I still feel like I’m getting started in a lot of ways, but I think there’s been a couple turning points. The obvious one is “Euphoria”—that was really my jumping off point in acting and graduating into these larger scale opportunities.
Even within the past year, I’ve been away from a lot of social media and events. I’ve kind of taken a distance from everything, but it’s because I’ve been making movies, which was not a thing before. Now I feel like I’m cresting this next little turning point, where I get to graduate from television and can show some other sides of myself with acting. I’m excited for this upcoming turning point.
You’ve had illustrations published on the iconic blog Rookie, and you then planned to study at Central Saint Martins, London. Do you still have visual art ambitions?
Yeah, absolutely. I’m enjoying riding this wave of performing at the moment but drawing and illustrating and painting are my first loves. It’s the first language I really learned how to speak artistically in. I want to return to that, for sure. I was just talking to someone the other day about maybe going back to school for it.
Last year Time named you on its list of “100 Emerging Leaders Shaping The Future”. Are you optimistic about the future?
I try to be! I think a lot of people have a shifting or tedious relationship with the future. But at the end of the day, I think hope is really powerful. It’s fun to dream about what the future can be.
I have fantasies about the future that keep me going as well. Optimism is a state of mind.
What do you think people respond to about you?
I think it doesn’t go without saying that I am in the public eye as a trans person who’s pretty young, and part of a really well received TV show. There’s not too many trans people out in the media in this position. I think Gen Z is in a sociopolitical space where we’re ready for that. I just feel really grateful to be living in a time where someone like me can have this career path, and that I get to be part of carving out space for others to take over.
I try to bring authenticity to what I do, too. I hope that my generation can see that as well, I hope people are responding to that.
How do you feel about LGBTQIA+ representation in art right now?
We’ve witnessed such a rapid change, even in the past five years. The media landscape for trans people has had a 180 degree shift looking at it now, compared to what I was looking for before I transitioned. The internet was one of the first places I turned to, and now compared to then— I’m excited about the pace in which that change has happened.
That’s not to say that we are a hundred percent represented — I don’t know what that would look like—but I can absolutely say I’ve seen a huge transformation. And it’s still happening! That’s something I feel hopeful about.
What place do you feel like fashion has in your life?
My relationship with fashion feels more dual than it did before. I’m either dressed to the nines and going to a carpet or an event where I’m going to be seen. It feels more performative now, for sure, which is fun. It reminds me of the Mugler brand identity, how the runway shows were performances. That’s how I like to think about going to an event.
It’s either that or it’s cozy, utilitarian. I’ve found myself dressing up less day to day now, but that’s kind of nice, too. Caring about comfort is its own way of caring about fashion. comfort
How does it feel to be a style icon?
I feel pretty new to be referred to as a style icon. I do try to have fun with my style. When I think of style icons, I think of people who we’ve watched have entire style arcs, people who’ve had style eras, journeys in the public eye. I don’t think I’ve been here long enough to accomplish that yet, but hopefully I’m making my own mark in my own way.
What does beauty mean to you?
It’s a broad and a kind of tough question. At the end of the day, beauty is a truth. You can’t hide it and you can’t recreate it. You can’t look away from it. It just is. It just captures you.
Where does this fragrance transport you?
The commercial that we shot materialized what the Angel Elixir world would be like, I think: the idea of being shot into outer space, but not an outer space that’s not cold and not-breathable like it is in reality. I imagine it as a warm nebula, a space that’s milky and cozy and warm.
What does this fragrance evoke in you?
I would call it a tender strength. It’s kind of the same duality I mentioned before: I want to be soft and I want to be feminine, but I want to be powerful and strong through that softness. If that was a feeling that I could articulate, I think it would be a tender strength.
When do you wear the fragrance?
I make sure I have sprayed myself before I walk out my door. It depends. There’s also this lovely little Angel lotion that I like to use as well. That’s more of an at home thing, but generally I like to make sure I’ve walked through a cloud of Angel Elixir before I have left my apartment or wherever I am, just so I can walk through the world with a bit of extra confidence, knowing that I smell good, and with that same tender strength.
How do you feel like Angel Elixir is different from Angel Eau de Parfum?
I think of them as sisters, and they are joined by a woody base. That’s their family tie. The eau de parfum has notes of bergamot and patchouli and vanilla, which feels more familiar and classic. It’s the Angel fragrance that we know.
Elixir takes us into this brighter and creamier world with the additions of metallic spices and this white floral explosion, sandalwood, and vanilla infusion. It feels brighter, but I think of them as sisters, nonetheless.
For the shoot you wore a custom Mugler by Casey Cadwallader. How did it feel to wear it?
I don’t think I’ve ever worked on such an active shoot before. I felt like I could have been on some huge action movie: I was running on treadmills, being hoisted up on trapeze wires, flipping around. I think Casey really took that into account when designing the custom piece for the beginning of the commercial. It was based on the Mugler silhouette, a really form fitting bodysuit, pants with high heels, all black.
There were these elements where you could unzip the bottom of the pants and there was a protrusion of layers of fabric. The fabric caught the wind and moved with me when I did these active stunts. That was really special. I had not seen something like that in Casey’s work so far. It felt really cool to activate it in a way, like when swinging my legs around in the air. It was great to drag the fabric through space with me. It felt like I was activating a piece of art.
Do you feel like that enhanced your personality?
Absolutely. It felt as if I were dancing, paying attention to how the fabric you’re wearing moves. It helps create more distance in your shapes, to be more expressive with them.
You also wore a digital jumpsuit, mapped onto your body, that was a recreation of the crystal dress designed by Manfred Thierry Mugler in 1998. What was it like to model that?
I was so excited to hear that this piece was being brought back in this way. I did get to see it with my own eyes, which was a really special experience as well. Using today’s resources to bring it to life on another level was really exciting.
The bodysuit feels alive, it feels like it’s growing off of the model already when you look back at the pictures. There’s a seamlessness you feel between the model’s body and the embellishments. It was a really good choice to try to activate it with these digital renderings. I had to get 3D scanned for it, which was a new experience for me. I had to go inside a cage of 300 cameras and stand really still and pose in different positions. I felt like a video game character.
What are some of your best memories from the shoot? What was the atmosphere with the team?
It was so fun! The shoot required a bit of imagination because the digital resources were so heavily tied into what we were making. The group kind of collectively had to use our imaginations to make sure we were all in this world together. There were a lot of blue screens, and we were in these giant blue rooms, and on this sort of flat shapes that they would then bring to life in post-production. It felt like we were in this collective imaginary world.
I don’t know in what other circumstance I would be given the opportunity to flip around 20 feet in the air on trapeze wires. I don’t think I’d ever seen some of the filmmaking techniques that Quentin [Deronzier] used. I had never seen a camera like that. Casey and Quentin were creating these intricate and detailed setups right on the spot. It felt like a giant art piece that we were making.
How else does Mugler reflect your personality?
Mugler feels formative as part of my artistic identity as well. Any fashion nerd can relate to just watching hours and hours of Mugler shows on YouTube on repeat. No one does it like Mugler as far as performance, the dedication to world-building and just the fearless creativity. That’s evident in every collection for years and years, and well into Casey’s time at Mugler as well.
How would you define a contemporary angel?
A contemporary angel is someone who moves with grace and power. Someone who is able to be soft, and use softness as a strength and as a power. Someone who harnesses the best of femininity, the best of masculinity, and everything in between, to propel their fantasies into reality.
Who is your favorite actor?
Tilda Swinton or Olivia Colman.
What is your favorite book right now?
“Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury
What is the last movie you loved?
“Bones and All” by Luca Guadagnino
What is your favorite song right now?
“Goodbye Stranger” by Supertramp.
What’s your favorite Instagram account?
Who did you want to be when you were a child?
The earliest idol I can remember is Skottie Young, a comic book illustrator.
What made you want to be an artist?
The catharsis, or the feeling you get when you can hold or experience something that you’ve made. It’s unlike anything else
What makes a good day and what makes a bad day?
Something that ensures a good day is time to, I call it, photosynthesizing. Time where you get to be in direct sunlight for at least 30 minutes. I swear it does something to me. Something that could yield a bad day is a lack of access to caffeine or coffee.
Can you tell me something that you’re especially fond of right now?
I’m watching “Game of Thrones” for the first time right now. It’s really doing a number on me. I’m deeply fond of it right now.
Where do you do your best thinking?
By the ocean, or in a car looking out the window.
What motivates you?
Seeing other good art, or good artists doing their thing.
Where would you like to travel?
I’ve never been to Japan. I would really love to.
What qualities do you find most attractive?
Humor and self-awareness and playfulness.
Tell me something you could never give up.
Is there a role from a movie or TV series that you would’ve wanted to play yourself?
Suzy Bannion in “Suspiria”
Who is a director that you’d like to work with?
He actually did the new Suspiria, and Bones and All. Wow. I’m having a Big Luca Day, but seriously: Luca Guadagnino.
What do you dream of doing besides acting?
Maybe it’s something for another life, or for a movie or something, but: dancing. I think it would be fun to delve into dance for a year. I also just want to make a body of paintings, but that’s something I want to do soon.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
“You already know what you’re going to do.” I do find that to be true.
Who was that from?
Fleabag, but I took it as advice that I’ve been given! [Laughs] The therapist says it in Fleabag. Fleabag is like, “So then what’s the point of you?” The therapist is like, “Hmm. I dunno.”
What is your favorite hideaway?