After Hollywood, you have The King of Staten Island, which is written and directed by your father. This isn’t the first time you’ve worked with him. How would you say the director-actor dynamic is different now that you are older?
So obviously, it’s really different because the last time I worked with my dad, I was 12, and the first time I worked with him, I was 6 or 7. Both times, I don’t think I took acting as seriously. Whereas now, I did theater all through high school and went to a minor acting program, and I really care about acting. I think my dad really knows what I’m capable of and pushes me to do an amazing job. And I think we have a really good mentor-mentee relationship. I feel really lucky to work with him because he really knows how to talk to me and push me. I don’t want to say this because it’s really cringy, but he pushes me to my full potential. I didn’t know what to expect [going into this film], but it was great, and I love working with my dad. He really has taught me everything I know about acting, so I feel very lucky to be able to work with him.
The King of Staten Island stars Pete Davidson and is loosely based on his life. Having worked together in this film, what do you think it is about him that is so interesting to audiences?
Let me think about this. I mean, first, he is super funny, and I think he is very honest, and you feel that when you talk to him. He is just right there with you when you are talking to him and raw, and he’s a very kind, authentic person. He is obviously going through some stuff, and everyone wants to know what’s going on, but he’s very honest and open about it.
I want to talk about Euphoria, which was such a big hit. When did you first realize we have something unique and big here?
I don’t know if I ever realized that. I worked with Sam [Levinson] on Assassination Nation, and so I knew he was incredible at what he does. But then when you are reading scripts and working on it, it’s hard to visualize what it’s going to look like. It felt pretty good, but we were just hoping for the best. We didn’t see any of the rest of the show until the premiere, and we had just finished shooting a week before that, so it all happened really quickly. I’m just really glad people like it because when you are working on something that is sort of controversial like that, you are just praying that people like it and it does well. I’m so relieved and happy. We are just about to start season two, but I don’t know what’s happening now.
What do you think it is about Sam Levinson’s storytelling that really resonates with audiences? There is definitely a lot of shock value to his work.
He really researches. He’s super involved in every aspect of it, but I think he just does a lot of research in writing thoughtful teenage characters. It’s tricky when older people are writing from the perspective of a teenager, and sometimes it sounds false or doesn’t sound authentic, and I think Sam really cares about whether we sound authentic. He will ask us questions, and he is very collaborative. I’ve never seen anything that feels that true to how teenagers are growing up right now with social media, the pressure we’re all put under at this time right now, and I think he really captured it. While sometimes the show is over the top, there is a lot of truth to it. He’s not taking any teenage experiences lightly or making them into a joke. I know for me as a teenager, I always felt like people would say to me, Oh, you’re just emotional and crazy because you are a teenager. This is just hormones. And I’d be like, well, I’m still going through it. Take me seriously. I think Sam does a really good job of taking teenagers seriously.