‘Euphoria’ Star Hunter Schafer Fought Anti-Trans Bathroom Laws As a Teenager

HBO’s hit show Euphoria is an R-rated look into high school as a Gen-Z student. Euphoria has been a career highlight for leading lady Zendaya, earning her her first Emmy Award in 2020. The show has launched the careers of several actors, including 21-year-old Hunter Schafer.

Hunter Schafer as Jules in 'Euphoria' on HBO
Hunter Schafer as Jules in HBO’s ‘Euphoria’ | Eddy Chen/HBO

Hunter Schafer didn’t dream of being an actor growing up

Though Schafer now lives the life of an actor, it wasn’t what she always saw for herself. After graduating high school in 2017, Schafer moved to New York and started modeling. She had plans to study fashion design at Central Saint Martins in London when her agent said she’d been asked to audition for an HBO show called Euphoria.

Schafer said she was “mildly interested” in acting but hadn’t thought she would pursue it seriously. “I gave it a shot,” she said, “then I just kept going back in and getting more of the scripts and eventually started to fall in love with my character.”

Actress Hunter Schafer during an interview on January 20, 2021 | Andrew Lipovsky/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images
Actress Hunter Schafer during an interview on January 20, 2021 | Andrew Lipovsky/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Hunter Schafer is one of the breakout stars of ‘Euphoria’

On Euphoria, Schafer plays Jules, a trans teenage girl who quickly becomes friends with Zendaya’s character Rue after she moves to town.

Throughout Euphoria‘s first season, Jules had several gripping storylines, not the least of which was her whirlwind romance with Rue. One episode also explores her childhood and her reckoning with her gender identity.

The role of Jules is also unique in that it follows a recent sea change in Hollywood as trans actors are increasingly cast in trans roles. In this case, Schafer brings more than just her experience as a trans girl to the role of Jules.

Hunter Schafer on the special episode of Euphoria
Hunter Schafer | Cindy Ord/Getty Images for FIJI Water

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Hunter Schafer’s teen years were difficult

Much how Jules faces some hardship at school on Euphoria, Schafer herself had a rough time at school growing up.

Schafer’s parents moved around the United States while she was young before they settled in Raleigh, North Carolina. Schafer came out as trans while in high school and has described transitioning at a public school as “a pretty intense experience.”

North Carolina in recent years has been the focus of trans rights after the passing of an anti-trans bathroom law in 2016. It was this that led to her to sign on as a plaintiff in the ACLU’s lawsuit against North Carolina’s bathroom bill.

Schafer described her experience at the time in an op-ed for i-D. “As a transgender teenager who grew up in North Carolina, navigating bathrooms on my own was an extremely difficult journey, particularly at public school,” Schafer recounted.

“In early high school (during a more primary stage in my transition), I felt safer using the women’s restroom and locker room. But I was often met with compromises, like being told to use a staff bathroom or the men’s room, which was basically a sentence to eternally hold it in,” she continued. “I felt like an outlaw every time I had to pee, as if I this natural bodily function were some unforgivable act.”

Ultimately, Schafer and the ACLU were successful, as North Carolina’s anti-trans bathroom bill was partially repealed in 2017, allowing trans citizens to use the bathrooms that align with their gender identity.