Few shows have tackled sexual assault on college campuses, even fewer have successfully done it with as much grace and respect as MTV’s freshman series Sweet/ Vicious. The powerful and thoughtful series created by Jennifer Kaytin Robinson centers on Jules, portrayed fiercely by Eliza Bennett and Ophelia, hilariously portrayed by Taylor Dearden. Together the duo seeks vengeance against perpetrators of sexual assault on their campus.
Bennett has been a force on the show since its premiere in November and has continued to grow as the season progresses. Last week Jules delivered a gut wrenching monologue as she confronted her attacker, Nate (Dylan McTee) and left viewers awestruck as she stood her ground. She let him know exactly what happened that night and how it has made her feel everyday since. In such a short amount of time Sweet/ Vicious has made an impact that many long airing shows fail to achieve. It beautifully displays healthy female friendships and how truly strong and brazen women can be.
Make no mistake, Jules is not broken, she is rising up from what happened to her and Bennett ravenously displays proof of that. She adds a depth to Jules that meshes perfectly with Dearden’s compassionate and sardonic Ophelia, leaving us unable to get enough. The TV Junkies spoke with the immensely talented Bennett about her fierce and resilient character, Jules, Tyler and Jules’ future, and the enormous impact Sweet/ Vicious is making in such a short amount of time .
The TV Junkies: What was your initial reaction to Jules when you first read for her? Did you know a lot about her background? Did you and Jenn develop a lot of who she is as a person as the season progressed?
Eliza Bennett: When I first read the script I literally just got the pilot, which when we first made it was a half hour show. I fell in love with it instantly, but it was difficult to know exactly what Jules’ background was and that was something that was definitely in Jenn’s head. The “how” then built up as the show got picked up for a season. I mean, Jenn probably has the plots and backstories for the next six seasons in her head somewhere, so she was definitely my source of all knowledge. Then we all obviously did a lot of research about survivors of sexual assault and watched a lot of documentaries and read a lot of books, most of all we spoke to a lot of survivors and that was definitely a huge part of the journey–to know where Jules came from and her upbringing and everything, and having a peak into Jenn’s imagination. I think especially this half of the season, from Episode 6 onward the audience gets to delve into Jules’ backstory. I’m excited for everyone to see where she came from.
TTVJ: Fans have had such positive reactions to the show since it’s premiered. How has this whole experience been for you?
EB: Twitter is such a direct way of speaking to people, especially when they are watching the show at the same time as you and writing to you at the same time as watching some of the more pivotal scenes. Some of the stories and the people that I’ve spoken to leave me speechless, and so proud that we have made this show that we are able to talk about this with people. Most of all we’ve made Sweet/ Vicious so that survivors can feel less alone and that they are not in this struggle and this fight by themselves. There are thousands and thousands of people who have gone through the same things and we hope by making a show about it that we show that this is happening, and we’re acknowledging it and we want to represent you on television and talk about this topic so that people are finally going to be held accountable for what is happening. Truly when you’re filming you are in this crazy bubble and it’s strange having a show come out when you feel like its been in this private world and it is this kind of vulnerable and humbling experience. It has just been the most incredible part of making Sweet/ Vicious, being able to see survivor’s reactions to this.
TTVJ: Jules delivered an incredibly powerful monologue on last week’s episode. What were your initial thoughts after reading that scene? How was it performing that scene with Dylan?
EB: That scene was written by our amazing writer Jared Frieder and I read it for the first time when I was by myself in my flat and I cried. About a week before I shot it, the Brock Turner case was massively in the news and Brock Turner’s victim had released her words that she said in the courtroom, and I remember reading them and feeling like this speech coming up was representing what so many survivors wish that they could say to their perpetrator, and so there was a level of responsibility. I also just felt like the words were just so raw and so necessary and so brilliantly written, I think I learned the monologue in a minute because everything just seemed like exactly what needed to be said.
It was an incredibly difficult scene to film, but Dylan McTee, who plays Nate, is just the most amazing partner in all of Nate and Jules’ scenes. It’s very difficult for him obviously because he’s having to get into the head space and into the world of someone that lives in a world that is incredibly dark and twisted and wrong. So his job in some ways is harder than mine. That scene was difficult and I remember feeling very very drained afterwards. The reaction to it has been the most rewarding part of the show airing, I’ve had truly incredible conversations with survivors since this episode has come out. It’s truly been life changing for me to be a part of a show that can do more than just be entertaining. I’ve never really done a project that could speak to people and give a voice to people that have been abandoned for so long. I’m incredibly proud of that episode and that scene and I was really excited for people to finally see it.
TTVJ: Nate got to Kennedy before Jules could tell her the truth. How will that affect their friendship moving forward?
EB: That was in Episode 6 and we have four more left, so I think that we definitely know that that is not the end of their story. Kennedy is an amazing woman and she truly has been an incredible friend for Jules, and Jules has kind of pushed her away for a long time. I think in some ways it’s understandable what Kennedy is going through, she’s lost her boyfriend who she’s in love with, and she’s lost her best friend in a matter of minutes. So she’s experiencing a level of devastation that I think has to be acknowledged on top of Jules’. But I think Kennedy is smart and she’s a very good person through and through. I can’t say too much but I will say that there is more of that story to tell.
TTVJ: How will we see her go forward with Tyler?
EB: Ugh, that scene broke my heart! It’s heartbreaking because I’m obviously a massive Tyler fan, he’s genuinely the best man and boyfriend. I feel sorry for boyfriends watching this show with their girlfriends because it sets the bar so high for them! It’s heartbreaking because the more Tyler and Jules fall for each other, the deeper Jules’ secrets become. I feel that Jules felt that she deserved to tell Kennedy before she told Tyler, and obviously that all erupted and didn’t go brilliantly and she sort of loses Tyler in the process. I think if Tyler ever does find out, and I’m not saying that he does, but I don’t think he is going to have a Kennedy reaction.
People were slightly suspicious because he thought that Jules liked Nate, and there’s that line when Jules breaks up with him where he says ‘Are you into Nate? Is that what this is about?’ Which is obviously horrible for Jules to hear. There is more of that story to tell, sadly we also can’t ignore the fact that Carter is still missing. For the rest of the season we dig into that because Tyler is going to keep digging into what happened to him. There’s a lot of Tyler and Jules left to tell, but I think things get worse before they get better.
TTVJ: Harris doesn’t seem to be letting go of his vigilante theory. Will we see him delve into that more?
EB: Harris is incredibly smart, he’s a law student, and once he finds a story, he wants to find out what’s behind it and that’s why he’s such a wonderful character. Sadly, he is digging into a story that we definitely don’t want him to, he doesn’t let go of it. That definitely becomes a problem for Jules and Ophelia that they have to tackle that for the rest of the show.
TTVJ: This week’s episode is a flashback. What can you tell us about what we’ll see in the episode?
EB: I can say that you’re going to need tissue boxes. It’s difficult. We felt that it was really important to tell the story of what happened to Jules because so often, especially from Nate’s side, it seems that there is a grey area. We wanted to show it for what it was, so that people stop seeing this as a grey area and know this is black and white and what consensual sex is and what sexual assault is. So we felt that it was important to tell that story and to show the aftermath of what happens and what trauma looks like after it happens.
I think so often people that haven’t been through an act of sexual violence seem to tell people who have how they should have behaved after it happened. So we wanted to in some ways educate on what trauma looks like, and that feeling of isolation and that feeling of being paralyzed and not being able to talk about what’s happened. It’s a tough episode to watch, there are moments that are uncomfortable to watch and they should be uncomfortable. When we are not in flashbacks it is Opharris Day, which is the anniversary of Ophelia and Harris’s friendship, which Jules gets dragged along to. We see Jules drink alcohol for the first time, so it’s split between those two scenes and those two scenarios. Opharris Day is fun and there is a lot of humor in the shenanigans they get into.
TTVJ:Ophelia and Jules’s friendship is one of the strongest on television right now. What are some of your favorite female friendships on TV?
EB: The show Girls I think is a really great example of female friendships. They really set a new bar for writing a show about women that are complicated and a friendship that is complicated and empowering at the same time. Girls is a big one. It sounds funny, but I loved Bridesmaids as well. The two leads in Bridesmaids are another female friendship. I remember it just being amazing and sort of wet yourself funny and it was all women. Sweet/ Vicious is all women and the creative team as well and I’m always a big fan of that. Jenn always said that she wanted to make a show where being mean wasn’t cool. I don’t experience that in my own life, my friends are all incredibly supportive and Jenn felt the same way. She wanted to write a show where we weren’t sending that message, we were sending that empowering your friends and supporting one another is cool and that’s what we should be putting out into the world.
Have you been keeping up with Sweet/ Vicious? Let us know your thoughts on the game changing MTV series in the comments below!
Sweet/Vicious airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET on MTV and MTV Canada.
Victoria loves all things TV! Whether it's binging Grey's Anatomy (for the 4th time) or talking Orphan Black plot lines with her Professors, she's fully in love with the medium. Victoria loves television so much that she is studying it at Monmouth University. If you love hearing long rants about why Luke and Lorelai are meant for each other you should follow Victoria on twitter @VictoriaNelli.