Warning: Spoilers ahead for Handmaid’s Tale episode “Postpartum.”
As The Handmaid’s Tale season 2 comes to a close, a clear theme has emerged: Things can always get so much worse. There is no depth too bleak for the Hulu series. Yes, June Osborne (Elisabeth Moss) had television’s most brutal birth scene last week with “Holly,” but Wednesday’s penultimate instalment, “Postpartum,” proves there is still a form of darkness we had yet to consider.
This time, that darkness is the horrific, and lengthy, murder of a teen girl. The girl is Eden (Everything Sucks! alum Sydney Sweeney), the 15-year-old girl forced to marry an adult man, guardian Nick Blaine (Max Minghella). The teenager is sentenced to death after she runs away with Isaac (Rohan Mead), the far more age-appropriate guardian she’s head-over-heels for, and drowned in a pool, weighted down by an actual ball and chain.
It’s the kind of scene you know will set Twitter on fire, and, maybe, the hearts of some of the characters in Handmaid’s Tale. Even Serena Joy Waterford (Yvonne Strahovski), someone who is mothering a baby she stole from a woman whose rape she orchestrated, is horrified by such a display of Gilead’s savagery.
After such a shocking, tragic exit, we had to talk to Eden herself. So, we called up the very busy actress behind the ill-fated character, Sydney Sweeney, to talk about preparing for her Hulu death scene, what it means for the season 2 finale next week, and her next big project, HBO’s very buzzy, very good Amy Adams-led miniseries, Sharp Objects, which premieres Sunday, July 8. Get ready for some answers you would never expect (like, why Sweeney had a “blast” filming Eden’s watery demise).
Refinery29: When you joined The Handmaid’s Tale did you know Eden was going to have such a tragic end?
Sydney Sweeney: “I knew she was going to have an ending. I wasn’t exactly sure how it was going to end. There was [the idea of], ‘Oh, she could end up running away.’ They weren’t quite sure what direction they were going in. I just knew there was going to be an ending. When I read episode 12 I was completely shocked.”
So you were just as surprised as we were?
“Yes. I was screaming at the page [while] reading.”
Was it worse than you could have expected? It’s such an upsetting end for a young teen.
“I was glad that it went so dark for an ending. Because it’s going to hit a lot of people and have a huge impact.”
It certainly affected June and Serena, almost more than any of the other horrible moments that have happened over the series.
“And even Nick, too. None of them will be able to be the same. It’s definitely going to carry them throughout the next season.”
What was filming like that day? How do you prepare to jump off of a diving board to your fictional death?
“The actor who plays Isaac, Rohan Mead, he and I went through a couple days of training with a scuba divers. We went to this giant pool, we put on wetsuits, and we had to perfect our dive. We tried diving with weights, we tried diving with chains, and then we worked on how long we could hold our breath under water and how different signs under water [work] for scuba divers and what they meant.
“So when we got to the actual day of filming, we were 100% prepared, and I was really excited to finally jump in.”
That’s so much better than how it looks, where you’re like, ‘This poor girl.’
“I was having a blast. I was having such a great time. I wanted to keep doing it over and over again.
“My mom was in that day too. I wanted her to see it in person instead of just watching it on TV so it wasn’t as shocking or scary for her.”
And, do you think Eden and Isaac are The Handmaid Tale’s own doomed Romeo and Juliet?
“Yes. 100%. You’re the first person to actually have said that.”
Do you agree there’s an entire episode or spin-off of these two teens in this dystopian hellscape trying to run away together to be in love?
“I would love that. Let’s write it and let’s do it. I’ll send it to [creator Bruce Miller]. We’ll see what we can do.”
You mentioned Eden's death will have a huge impact. Can you elaborate on what that means?
“That’s the most I can tease it with, saying it’ll affect the rest of the season and the following season as well.”
Especially since Serena Joy is a brand-new mum.
“No, she definitely doesn’t want to see her own daughter up there [on the plank like Eden].”
Speaking of the next week, when the Handmaid's finale debuts, Gillian Flynn adaptation Sharp Objects will also premiere this upcoming Sunday. What can you tell us about your character, Alice?
“Alice is definitely darker than [my Everything Sucks character] Emaline or Eden. She has a little bit harder of a[n inner] life. She’s a bit of a spoiler, so I can’t say much about her. But, she is Camille’s (Amy Adams) roommate, and she doesn’t like it. They start bonding, and I can’t really say much else about it…”
It doesn’t go well…
“No, it does not go well. Life is a little hard for [Alice].”
Do you think viewers are going to have to get used to the style of Sharp Objects, which involves lots of time jumps and near-dreamlike visuals, or do you think they’re savvy enough to get it immediately?
“I think the story itself is a puzzle, and the visual aspect of the show is a puzzle as well. There’s a lot of putting things together, and I think that’s fun. It’s a game that you have to play.
“Some [viewers] maybe will get it right away, and some may have to rewatch things. But that’s fun, too.”
How has it been starring in such big, women-led shows back-to-back?
“I’ve looked up to Amy Adams, Patricia Clarkson, and Elisabeth Moss for years and years … Being able to work with all of them in one year has been phenomenal. Also, being able to be a part of shows that mean so much and are changing Hollywood has been really cool, too.”
So, what’s next?
“And then I also just joined Pete Davidson and Machine Gun Kelly in our next movie, Big Time Adolescence. It’s a coming-of-age story. My character is quite fun. She has pink hair. She is quite the life of the party.”
Do you think you’re summer’s hardest working young actress?
“I’m trying to be!”
This interview has been edited and condensed.