In last night’s episode of Sweet/Vicious, we went back in time, seeing how Jules became the Jules she is today. We saw everything, from what happened before her rape, to the actual rape, to the aftereffects.
We got the chance to talk to Eliza Bennett (Jules) about this emotional rollercoaster of an episode and her thoughts on what could happen next.
Let’s talk about Episode 7. Overall I thought it was a really important episode, not just for the show itself but for the audiences watching. I think the roughest scene was the rape scene. What were your thoughts about it?
Eliza Bennett (EB): It was hard. It was hard to watch – even though I shot the scene, it was difficult to play it back. But I feel like it’s so necessary to be able to tell the story properly, and I think it’s good that we can evoke an emotional reaction. Especially people who didn’t necessarily know about what happens after sexual assault and what trauma looks like. We show Jules’ journey immediately after what happens and the weeks coming after that. And it’s not always in that scene: we also have Opharris Day, which is Ophelia and Harris’ anniversary and a celebration of their friendship. We kind of jump in between those two time frames. It’s definitely the most difficult episode to watch, but I think people will respond to it.
I didn’t know that you guys were going to show the full rape scene. I thought they were going to cut away and we were just going to assume the rape had happened.
EB: Yeah, neither did I until I read the episode.
So were you surprised or like, “This is necessary”?
EB: I had talked to Jenn (Kaytin-Robinson, the creator of Sweet/Vicious) about it before because you know, obviously in order to tell Jules’ story, I needed to know what happened. She let me read that scene early before it had been pre-edited. Especially before I did any of the scenes in Episode 6, I made sure that I read that scene in Episode 7 so I knew really what happened. I think it’s brave that we’re showing it, but I do think that it’s necessary in order to tell Jules’ story fully and to do the story justice.
The rape scene is incredibly uncomfortable to watch. You know, I shot it and I don’t know if it made it easier for me to watch or harder for me to watch. The thing is, I think it needs to be uncomfortable and I think people need to be uncomfortable watching it because it’s horrific and horrible and it shouldn’t be anything other than that. It is shown and I’m very proud of our show for telling the story in that way and, very importantly, the aftermath of what happens.
“The rape scene is incredibly uncomfortable to watch. You know, I shot it and I don’t know if it made it easier for me to watch or harder for me to watch. The thing is, I think it needs to be uncomfortable and I think people need to be uncomfortable watching it because it’s horrific and horrible and it shouldn’t be anything other than that.”
A thing that stuck out to me was after the rape, Jules walks by Kennedy’s room and Kennedy calls out to her. If Jules had gone in to Kennedy’s room that night and told her what happened, would we still have our show or do you think it would completely change?
EB: No, I think it would be a different story a hundred percent. I think what happens in your life is a series of decisions you make. But it’s so soon – it’s literally ten, fifteen minutes after what’s happened to Jules – and I think so often when something is as violent as rape, it takes a period of time for you to even be able to function, let alone work out exactly what happened to you. So often I think that people who haven’t been through it can be like, Why didn’t you go and tell her straight away? and Why didn’t you report this to the police? and it’s very easy to say those things if you haven’t been through it. It can be very paralyzing, and we show that through the show, Jules is still paralyzed by Nate’s presence even though she beat up many other sexual predators on campus.
It was important to show what trauma looks like so that we can hopefully work towards getting rid of some of these false ideas of what trauma should look like. It was heartbreaking to walk by Kennedy’s room and not open that door. It was hard. I found her scenes most emotionally harrowing, especially that scene at the end of Episode 6 where she doesn’t believe Jules. It was a really draining scene for both Aisha (Dee) and I.
Let’s talk about Kennedy. It was hard to watch that scene in last week’s episode because you want Kennedy to believe Jules, but it’s understandable as to why Kennedy wouldn’t believe her.
EB: Yeah, Kennedy’s going through all her own stuff – she’s just lost the boy that she’s loved for two years, and she felt like she lost her best friend. Her best friend’s been lying to her consistently. So it’s difficult for her to function. I think something that Sweet/Vicious does really well is tell how sexual assault affects so many different people – not just the victim of the crime, but also what it’s like to be the girlfriend of someone who does that, and what it’s like to be the step-brother of someone that does that. So I’m really proud that Sweet/Vicious does try to tell all of those points of view of how this one horrible act can affect so many different people.
Speaking of Tyler… He figured out that Carter’s picture had been Photoshopped!! And obviously there’s going to be fallout. What can we expect going forward?
EB: Tyler knows Carter’s not a good guy. So it’s like, what do you do when your brother is not a good person and you don’t agree with any of the things he’s doing, but he is still your brother? Do you just leave him for dead, or do you want to find out what happened to him? I think that Tyler is such a wonderful man in the show and it’s understandable that he wants to know what happened to [Carter] – he’s definitely not going to let that go.
What about the fallout that comes with him finding out that Ophelia and Jules were involved with killing his brother?
EB: I think finding the Photoshopped photo really drives [Tyler] back into finding out what happened to Carter. Before that moment I think that he had gotten to the point where he was like, It’s just Carter, he’s gone MIA and that’s classic him. So the moment that he finds that someone’s tampering with [the photo], then he goes into overdrive to try and find out what happened. Which obviously is not great for Jules and Ophelia, but yeah – things definitely get worse before they get better.
At the end of the episode, we see that Jules returned to her support group, and something that was surprising to me was that there were a few guys in the group. Do you think that Jules and Ophelia would ever take down a girl who has committed rape?
EB: Those boys being in the support group doesn’t necessarily mean they were raped by a girl; they could’ve been raped by a boy.
True, very true.
EB: I think that as the show goes on, Jules and Ophelia want to start to fight for injustices in general on campus. For instance when they take down a sorority for hazing and sexually assaulting their pledges in Episode 4. The girls that they take down from Kappa are the toughest fight they have for the whole season, and I loved that. If Jules and Ophelia feel like injustices are being done, I don’t think there is anyone who would be off the list. I don’t think that Jules and Ophelia are driven by what gender the person is; they’re driven by the crime and what the person’s done.
While on the topic of Jules and Ophelia, we had a really great couple of Jules and Ophelia moments, with Ophelia taking Jules in and trying to make her feel better. Why do you think they became such fast friends in such a short period of time?
EB: When you first meet Jules, she feels forever changed by what’s happened to her, but still she hasn’t been able to tell anyone. She is kind of a shadow of her former self and is lying to a lot of people, and her friendships feel different to her now. On the flip side, Ophelia kind of feels like she never really belonged anywhere. So they meet each other and they’re this kind of odd couple that should not be friends and wouldn’t have met in any other context, and they find this home in one another – which is really beautiful and kind of what drives the show.
Especially in Episodes 6, 7, and 8, Ophelia is truly an unbelievable friend to Jules, especially with what happened with Kennedy and Tyler. It’s so necessary and beautiful to watch Ophelia be there for someone and support someone in a time where really there’s nothing to say other than to just be there for them. Juphelia is an important part of the show, and it’s needed for Jules to have that person.
There’s a line that comes up in Episode 8 that Ophelia says because she’s struggling with anxiety and depression, so she feels like maybe she was born with this darkness and Jules was thrust upon it. They kind of make up two messed up sides in one sort of dark hole, and it’s kind of beautiful in that way because maybe if what happened to Jules didn’t happen, then they wouldn’t have the friendship they have. I think it shows that good comes out of everything. I’m a massive fan of Taylor (Dearden) and I love her. We have an amazing friendship, and Jules and Ophelia scenes are my favorite thing to do ever.
“[Ophelia and Jules] meet each other and they’re this kind of odd couple that should not be friends and wouldn’t have met in any other context, and they find this home in one another – which is really beautiful and kind of what drives the show.”
Jules and Ophelia just feel so natural to me. Like in this episode with the sour gummy worms in Vinylton when Ophelia is like, You’re special to Jules and Jules just goes, Thank you.
EB: I know, that’s my favorite moment! Honestly we read that line together – we were reading the new scripts together and I was like, Taylor, read this line! And then later Taylor messaged me and was like, They giffed our favorite moment! We love that moment. Taylor and I get on so well and our chemistry together was literally the easiest part of the whole show – it doesn’t take much effort from either of us. It was a joy to work with someone like that, because it can so easily not go that way. You can work with someone who you get on with, but other than that it’s a work relationship. I don’t take for granted the fact that I was able to do this show with Taylor and that in real life we have a truly amazing friendship, too.
When we talked to Taylor at the premiere, she said that there was some talk of doing a musical episode, since the “Defying Gravity” scene was so amazing and iconic, and now with karaoke in this episode…. Would you want to do a musical episode?
EB: Oh my goodness, absolutely. My favorite episode of Buffy is the musical episode. I feel like people don’t do it anymore. I’d be a hundred percent down! It’d be unbelievable! And we have so many good singers on our show – Nick Fink is an amazing singer, Skyler Day is an amazing singer, Aisha Dee is a great singer… Honestly, we have amazing singers. I really think it’d be unbelievable. And we’ve said it to Jenn and been like, Yeah, this is something we should do.
It’d just be funny to see the fight scenes as musical numbers.
EB: Ugh, so good! There’s no doubt in my mind that Jenn would do an amazing job with it.
We can save that for Season 2! We still have three episodes left in this season – is there anything you can tell us?
EB: I can’t wait for you to watch 8, 9, and 10. I promise you 7 is the saddest one. 8, 9, and 10 get much better for Jules. I mean, 8 is messed up in its own way, but it’s not as terribly sad as 7.
Cool, cool, cool.
Stay tuned for more from our conversation with Eliza Bennett! We talk cooking and Meryl Streep! And be sure to tune in to Sweet/Vicious on Tuesdays at 10pm ET only on MTV!