Everyone loved the second season of “Euphoria” — even Spider-Man. (Well, at least one of the Spider-Men.) When Andrew Garfield sees Zendaya, he can’t stop raving about her tour de force as Rue in the critically acclaimed HBO series. Garfield is both a fan and a friend. The two actors crossed paths in the multiverse of last year’s “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” in which Zendaya plays MJ opposite a set of Peter Parkers including Garfield, Tobey Maguire and Tom Holland. And he’s come prepared with a list of deeply researched questions.
Then it’s time for Garfield to accept heaps of praise from Zendaya. He’ll likely follow his latest Oscar nomination with an Emmy nod for “Under the Banner of Heaven,” the FX limited series streaming exclusively on Hulu in which he plays a detective investigating a grisly murder that’s rocked a Mormon community. These A-listers are at the pinnacle of the acting profession, but fans who are waiting for “Spider-Man” dish won’t be disappointed. As they do in each of their roles, Garfield and Zendaya deliver on Variety’s “Actors on Actors” presented by Apple TV+.
ANDREW GARFIELD: I haven’t said it to you yet, and I’ve been saving it. Having seen Season 2 of your show “Euphoria” with our friend Sam Levinson — the brilliant creator, showrunner, director extraordinaire — I do want to make you very uncomfortable and say that it is one of the most remarkable things I’ve seen an actor do in recent memory. How?
ZENDAYA: Thank you. I mean that. That means the world.
GARFIELD: I think it was Episode 5. It’s one of the most relentless episodes of television I’ve ever seen. I’m starting to get to know you better, but to have access to that kind of awfulness and the damage and pain, and to make it so human. I was like, “Are you OK?” How did you make sure you were OK while you were doing that?
ZENDAYA: It’s tough. And I thought what was actually quite sweet was when that episode did air, I did get a lot of messages from people checking in on me, which I appreciated.
GARFIELD: Makes me want to cry. I didn’t feel like there was any acting. It felt like you were living through something in such an authentic way.
ZENDAYA: It’s hard to say that there’s any specific process for that. I feel like when it comes to Rue, at least for me, my experience with her is I’ve had the privilege of playing her for a while. So I’ve had the luxury of living in her skin for a bit. And the closeness that I share with Sam is huge, because Rue is very much based on him as a teenager. Rue has become an amalgamation of my experiences, his experiences and our collective pain — and seeing through the eyes of an addict. I think the approach was to try it as human as possible without ever shying away from the devastation and the ugliness of what that can create. I had actually been very afraid to shoot that episode. It had been written for a while before the pandemic, and I was dreading having to do it.
GARFIELD: How long were the takes?
ZENDAYA: Until the mag went out.
GARFIELD: Because you shoot on film?
GARFIELD: And there’s specific film stock that you guys use?
ZENDAYA: Ektachrome. They made it for us.
GARFIELD: So beautiful.
ZENDAYA: So crazy.
GARFIELD: Did you say, “We’re doing my close-up first”?
ZENDAYA: There was no structure, because there couldn’t be. There had to be a level of volatility and unpredictability to her mood, and where it was going to go. We just started from the beginning and they said, “You can break whenever you want. We’re going to light the whole house. You can go through the whole thing.”
GARFIELD: So weirdly caring. How many takes of that sequence did you do?
ZENDAYA: Just over and over until we felt like we had it. And then we moved on to the next part, but it was a long day. I’m very protective over Rue. And also, because of all the people that she represents, I know that sometimes maybe the world won’t be as kind to her as I am. And that’s hard for me, you know?
GARFIELD: Yeah. I have a great acting teacher who is basically like: “It has to be healing. If it isn’t healing, then we are not doing it right.” And also, it does become of service. I watched that, and I got a lot of healing for the experiences I’ve had with the addicts in my life.
ZENDAYA: That’s the point of what we do.
GARFIELD: Tell me about the memes. Because I noticed this.
ZENDAYA: It was “Euphoria” Sundays. It became a sporting event. I think it’s hilarious. So many people — I was like, “Wow, you guys are so creative.” Also, I was a little concerned. Are you guys watching? How are you typing and staying on time with the episode at the same time?
GARFIELD: Pay attention.
ZENDAYA: It was cool in the sense that there was a collective. It’s people coming and being able to enjoy something together, have discourse together. But also, I got really nervous too because we were still in the middle of editing. So while Episode 5 was coming out, I was literally in the studio, writing — rewriting — a version of “I’m Tired” with Lab to put in the finale.
GARFIELD: The song is so beautiful, by the way.
ZENDAYA: Thank you. So we’re still inside of it. It wasn’t a big separation.
GARFIELD: That’s tricky. It’s like reading reviews when you’re doing a play. You don’t want it to influence. You want to remain pure. When I started out acting, it was just like, “I’ll take that.” The first thing I did was a Doritos commercial in Spain, and I thought I was done. I made two grand for two days of work. And I was like, “My life is set up.” Showing my father the pay stub, going, “I don’t need to work at Starbucks for the next week.”
ZENDAYA: I love it.
GARFIELD: I think both you and I have gotten to a very privileged position where we get to decide, and we get to have agency and choose. And I find it important for myself to go, “What am I called to?” For someone like you, who got attention very young and it’s persisted, this is a really interesting thing, because obviously everyone is famous in their lives right now through social media. But where you live is very specific: You have to deal with a lot of people’s projections. You have to deal with a lot of people having an idea of who you are without actually knowing who you are. When I did my first “Spider-Man” film, I was your age — 25, 26. And I wasn’t ready, man. I was like, I need to back off, because I don’t know who I am yet. And my prefrontal cortex is still forming.
GARFIELD: It’s the same thing with Simone Biles, with people going, “How dare you not vault?” This is a good indication of how much we project onto people who are in the public eye. You are — as far as I know — a very grounded, sincere, authentic person with integrity. I’m really curious about how you are finding more of you as you go.
ZENDAYA: I was talking to Sam about this earlier. I was like I don’t know if I could ever be a pop star. It’s because as an actor, there’s a level of anonymity that I get to have, which I really like. And I get to sort my stuff, whatever that is, through a character and nobody needs to know about it. Whereas in other forms and other mediums, it’s all you all the time. I like the idea that somebody else, meaning Rue, gets to take on that stuff and I can —
ZENDAYA: Yeah, boundaries. Learning what’s for me. I am very interested in your process. Maybe my memory deceives me, but I want to say we were on the set for “Spider-Man,” and I kept forgetting that you were English, because you spoke in your American accent the whole time and I was like, “Oh shit.”
GARFIELD: With an accent for me, I just don’t want to confuse my body and I don’t want to confuse someone else’s system. It’s just simpler.
ZENDAYA: When did you have time to shoot a television show? In “Under the Banner of Heaven,” there’s a different tone and feeling in your voice. Being able to find those nuances in an accent, I’ve never had to do that before.
GARFIELD: I find it fun, because it’s kind of technical. I’m so indecisive as well. I’m redoing my kitchen right now and I’m like, “I love this tile, but this tile.” And it takes me a year to figure it out. With creative choices, they take moments for me to figure out, but I love having something solid to hold on to in a process. Actually, an accent and a voice and a physicality, that can be triggers to get back into the character. I’m looking for the forgotten aspects of myself that I can activate. The character I play, this guy Jeb Pyre, he’s a Mormon detective, father, husband, in the ’80s in Utah. There’s a distance, but that excites me as well. So where does the Mormon detective lie in me, and how can I live as him authentically, and what parts of myself need healing? What drew me into it was a somewhat step-by-step, moment-by-moment process of a psychological breakdown. A belief system crumbling. I don’t know about you, but for me, this is meaningful. My life can be meaningful outside of this, but this feels like a form of purpose. I know that you’re a passionate storyteller. I know that you want to eventually direct, maybe soon. I know you were exploring that.
ZENDAYA: I have the coolest job. I love my job so much. But sometimes you’re just like — I dress up for a living, and I don’t want to take myself too seriously because I feel like there’s people who do far more important things than we do.
GARFIELD: My brother’s a lung doctor, for crying out loud. I can pretend to be one, but I can’t actually.
ZENDAYA: I think for me being in service of other people’s healing through my work means that what I’m doing makes sense. We talk about “Spider-Man,” but the amount of joy that brought people is so cool. Like, to see you guys have that moment together was special, but then also the effect that had on so many people.
GARFIELD: Totally. Also, it’s about brotherhood. And I love the idea that maybe Tom’s Peter would’ve suffered the same fate as Andrew’s Peter if Andrew hadn’t have somehow come into that universe and learned from the mistakes of the past — and made sure that my younger brother and his love didn’t have the same fate.
ZENDAYA: I remember when I read that, it made me very happy.
GARFIELD: I loved shooting that with you so much.
ZENDAYA: And wasn’t that like our first thing?
GARFIELD: It was, absolutely.
ZENDAYA: “I met you yesterday. Thanks for catching me. You have to cry. Sorry.”
GARFIELD: It was pretty intense. And then suddenly we were kind of done.
ZENDAYA: I guess it was good to get the emotional stuff out of the way, because the rest of the time was just —
GARFIELD: Just giddy, joyful. Being so dumb. Pull those pants down, get those carts to get under the wraps —
ZENDAYA: The crazy forearms. Inside jokes!
GARFIELD: I forget what that was for.
ZENDAYA: It was the Tobey one.
GARFIELD: He had these crazy —
GARFIELD: Good joke bank you got there in that noggin of yours. That was really good.
ZENDAYA: What was really funny when I think about it is Tom was so nervous about you guys coming in. He was like, “I don’t want to step on anyone’s toes.”
GARFIELD: He never let anything on to us. Me and Tobey were like, “This is Tom’s movie. It’s your guys’ movie.” And it was like, if we can help. … But it’s so funny because you guys were like, “We’re going to come and hang out with you at rehearsal.” I’m like, “What are these guys doing?”
ZENDAYA: That’s why we were there. We were there for emotional support.
GARFIELD: Very sweet.
ZENDAYA: We were like, “I think they don’t know how much fun we like to have when we’re doing this job.”
GARFIELD: It became evident very quick.
ZENDAYA: Fell right into the crew. I’m pissing myself laughing, but I was dying. You guys had me dying — like crying laughing — in between takes all the time.
GARFIELD: My brother’s treating COVID patients as we speak, and I’m wearing a lovely jacket talking about “Spider-Man.” But then he goes home and watches “Spider-Man” with his boys. Oh no. I’m just trying to justify my existence.