Hunter Schafer’s eyes were boring a hole through her gray hotel room wall, left hand cupping her cheek as though, by wishing hard enough, she could convince the events of the day she was trying to recall to surface.
“Let’s see, I know I did the Gotham Awards … yesterday?” the 21-year-old transgender model and breakout star of HBO’s “Euphoria” said in a video call earlier this month.
Not quite — the ceremony had been the day before.
“My bad,” she said, grinning in a light blue hoodie and black Carhartt-style jacket after just returning from an outdoor photo shoot on a chilly New York afternoon. “Time is confusing right now.”
The past year and a half has been a whirlwind for Schafer since she made her acting debut as Jules opposite Zendaya’s addiction-tormented Rue on “Euphoria,” the Emmy-winning drama series about teenagers navigating the temptations of drug use at a Southern California high school. Schafer turns in a sensitive, gut-wrenching performance as a 17-year-old transgender girl who struggles with depression, bullying and gender dysphoria and has a love interest who can’t seem to stay clean.
And now she’s taking another leap — into writing. Schafer co-wrote the show’s second special episode, which premieres Sunday on HBO Max, with the “Euphoria” creator Sam Levinson. “The writing process took months,” she said. “There was a week where we spent hours on the phone every day to get the episode fleshed out.”
Schafer tracked her cultural diary while in New York for the 30th annual Gotham Independent Film Awards earlier this month, from her red-eye arrival on Jan. 10 to falling asleep to screamo music two days later. These are edited excerpts from the conversation.
I got some sleep on my red-eye flight to New York, where I’d be presenting at the Gotham Independent Film Awards on Monday night. I listened to the “Kajillionaire” soundtrack in the car on my way to my hotel in SoHo. I’m in awe of how beautiful Emile Mosseri’s songs are — I’ve been listening to them constantly.
I walked around Downtown while listening to this Aaron Cartier album that one of my L.A. friends put me onto, “Aaron Cartier Best Dog.” It’s energetic and gets my New York endorphins going. Then I sat in bed and watched the series finale of “Veneno,” which is my favorite show that I’ve been watching recently. It made me super emo, but it has some of the best portrayals of trans femmes I’ve seen on TV in a very long time — maybe ever.
I went to dinner with some friends in my pod at KazuNori, which is this sushi place with amazing hand rolls. They wrap them right there and bring them out fresh, so the seaweed is still crunchy and the rice is so soft. Definite upgrade from the packaged microwave meals I was living off of before. Then my friend and I popped into this lingerie store across the street, WANT Apothecary, and got these little stripper dresses — just for fun, because it’s important to dress up and put on a show for yourself in quarantine.
Back at my hotel, I watched the anime movie “Ghost in the Shell” to go to sleep, which was spooky and gave me simulation vibes. Being in that existential head space influenced my dreams in a weird way.
I’m really bad about hitting the snooze button in the morning, so I need something pretty jarring to wake me up — I just use the regular annoying iPhone alarm. But I’ve also been sleeping to the Kajillionaire soundtrack, so I get nice little bits of that in my five minutes before my alarm goes off again.
One thing that’s changed since the start of the pandemic is my shower routine. When I’m filming, I’ve been obsessed with this thing my friend told me you can do where, at the end of your shower, you turn the nozzle all the way cold and let yourself sit in the freezing water for 30 seconds. Its brings you to life.
I used to pick out my outfits the night before in high school, but, now that I’m living out of a suitcase, I’ve edited my wardrobe so everything kind of goes with each other, so I’m never too stressed out about whether my outfit makes sense. One of my favorite T-shirts is from the L.A. brand Come Tees, which has beautiful prints of animated characters hat are super bright and colorful.
Hair and makeup came in to get me ready for the Gotham Awards. I wore a bondage-y dress from Matthew Williams’s Givenchy collection with a belt full of gold padlocks and a necklace from my friend Darius Khonsary’s new jewelry collection, Darius Jewels. She’s made this incredible collection of gold, antique-looking pieces that are also modern and mythical.
I sat at my own table, socially distanced from the other presenters, at the Gotham Awards ceremony at Cipriani Wall Street. I gave out the short form Breakthrough Series award, which I was so happy to see “I May Destroy You” win. That show took me out when it came out last year — it was [expletive] incredible. I’m a huge Michaela Coel fan.
I got back to my hotel around 10 p.m., where I ordered some vegetable fried rice and stripped down to my underwear. Then I scrolled through my friends’ Instagram stories. Gogo Graham, who’s a fashion designer, has an amazing feed — I’m floored every time she releases new garments. And Dara Allen, a stylist and model I used to work with, is a dream — I’m entranced by the amazing looks she creates out of her wild collection of clothes.
I’ve been listening to pretty varied music lately: “Dawning,” Davia Spain’s jazzy debut album, and the rapper Quay Dash’s EP “Transphobic.” And my friend Tweaks just came out with a new EP, “Older Now,” which is this futuristic, experimental thing.
I came across this album, “Hunter Schafer’s Boyfriend,” by an artist named CHASE after someone tagged me in it on Twitter. I was like, “What is this?” Then I listened to it, and it’s actually sick. I genuinely enjoyed it — there’s something electronic and poppy about it, but also elements of rap and maybe a little screamo, too.
I walked to a Japanese restaurant, AOI Kitchen, with three themed mini houses — there were flowers on the wall, and it felt like a little fairy house. It didn’t feel like I was in New York at all. They had really good tofu, mushrooms and sake. Then I walked back to my hotel and listened to some screamo music before relaxing into something a bit more restful — some songs by Colleen, which sound like something plants would dance to.
On Her Wish List
I love drawing by the window in my hotel in New York, coffee in hand — that’s my dream of a day. I love Basquiat, Egon Schiele and Sage Adams. I go through waves where I get really into drawing for a couple of weeks, then I set it aside for a bit because I don’t feel that creative. Hopefully I’m going to go through another one soon.