Not only does Eve Hewson inject Clive Owen’s penis with liquid cocaine in The Knick, but she also happens to be the daughter of the most famous rock star in the world.
When it comes TV debuts, it doesn’t get more rock and roll than injecting Clive Owen’s penis with liquid cocaine. (With Steven Soderbergh directing you, no less).
And while it might seem strange to describe anything about The Knick as “rock and roll”—the brutal and beautiful Cinemax series takes place in New York City in 1900, chronicling the wild and bold medical discoveries at a Manhattan hospital—it’s hard to extricate said penis-injector, young actress Eve Hewson, from that phrase.
Hewson plays a wide-eyed nurse from West Virginia named Lucy, who is taken under the wing of Clive Owen’s cantankerous, but genius surgeon Dr. John Thackery. (At least in the first couple of episodes of The Knick, “under the wing” is not a euphemism for anything more unsavory. Lucy’s involvement in the cocaine-penis horror show is purely medical—Thackery needs the, um, jolt of energy in order to function at work and Lucy is simply doing her nursely duties.)
But nailing a scene in which she wields a syringe near Clive Owen’s dong while Steven Soderbergh shouts direction still isn’t the most rock and roll thing about Hewson. That would be her very existence. The actress, you see, is Bono’s daughter.
The 23-year-old Irish starlet has done an admirable job carving her own career in the entertainment industry independent of her father’s mega-celebrity status. (When your dad goes by one name only—Bono—there’s not a whole lot of name recognition when casting agents look at your last name, “Hewson.”) After growing up in southside Dublin, Hewson was bit by the acting bug and enrolled in an program at New York University.
Her first big break came when she was cast in the 2011 indie This Must Be the Place, in which she played the daughter of Sean Penn—who, interestingly enough, played an aging rock star. Hewson’s biggest splash, though, came with her performance in last year’s critically cherished romantic comedy Enough Said. She played Tess, the vapid teenage daughter of James Gandolfini in the film, and, like the rest of the cast (which included Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Catherine Keener, and Tavi Gevinson), was a fantastic mix of broadly funny and achingly relatable.
Now she’s in Steven Soderbergh’s big, buzzy new drama. Premiering Friday, the series is already getting praised as summer’s best new show, and Hewson’s subtlely sweet, wide-eyed performance certainly contributes to those raves.
“I was like, how close do my hands get? Steven’s on the bed shooting behind, like, shooting Clive’s bare ass. And I’m supposed to be leaning down.”
Ahead of her premiere we chatted with her about working with Soderbergh, watching Channing Tatum strip with her mother, that wild cocaine scene we keep harping on, and what it’s like to grow up the daughter of the most famous rock star in the world—and then break out on your own.
Were you nervous to work with Steven Soderbergh? I mean, it’s Steven Soderbergh.
I know! I sort of was, yeah. I was nervous to meet him. But I met him and he was so cool. He just asked me about Taylor Swift. The first thing he said was, “Tell me about Taylor Swift. Why does she have so many Twitter followers?” So we got along pretty well. He’s very easy going. He’s not as intimidating as I’m sure he thinks he is.
Do you have a favorite film of his?
I remember seeing Traffic really young and that sticking with me, obviously, for a lot of reasons. When I got the part I showed my mom Magic Mike and she was just so excited and made me rewind through so we could watch Channing Tatum strip over and over again.
Did you get to chat with Steven at all about the making of that movie? I bet it was wild.
Not really, but Channing Tatum did come to our wrap party. That was really cool. It was like a gift to all of the women who worked on set. “Thanks for five months of hard work. Here’s Channing Tatum!”
So what was the audition process like for this?
I basically sent a tape in. I met our casting director, Carmen Cuba, before. She was the one who was like, “You should go into TV. That’s where all the roles are for women. It’s really hard to book a great part in a movie these days.” She definitely didn’t know that she was going to be casting a TV show, because this was way before Steven even got the script. It sort of was just a happy coincidence. So I met her and we got along really well. I actually was in France and they sent me a pilot script and I made a tape for it. With that, I think they sent four tapes to Steven and mine was one. Then I got a meeting with him. A limo picked me up from my apartment in L.A. and I got put on a plane. I got a first-class ticket to New York, which I was into already.
I can understand why.
Then I met Steven in a bar. It was like one of those dream scenarios that never really happen. You go through so many auditions and so many nos and so many jobs not working out. But when you’re right for something, it just clicks and something happens. It was a very easy thing. It was weird.
What did you like about Lucy when you read the script?
She is quite the sweet character. There was something about her. When I read it I knew exactly what she was thinking. She’s so curious and naive. I couldn’t help falling in love with that. It almost made me laugh. She’s sort of a stalker! She’s so hopeless. It was fun to play her childishness. Something about her curiosity. She’s always watching everyone. She’s always listening to everyone. I just loved it. She almost wants to be taught how to be bad.
She does seem adorably naïve.
What I liked about her is that she isn’t really tapped into her brain yet. She doesn’t understand strategy. She goes and does as she’s told and follows her instinct. She has that weird instinct that a lot of women have where they try find the strongest man in the room, latch onto him, and then try to make lots of babies with him. It’s a survival instinct. It’s science. I think a lot of people might look at what she does and go, “What a fucking idiot.” But I understand.
Well, on top of everything else with this show, you now have bragging rights. You can forever say that you injected Clive Owen’s penis with cocaine.
Hahaha. Yes, I will brag about that until the day that I die.
It’s such a crazy scene.
It’s a great scene, but it’s literally the tip of the iceberg, pardon the pun, in terms of what happens over the course of this season with their relationship.
What was shooting that like?
When we shot it that day we had so much crazy stuff to do in the span of a few days. I genuinely wasn’t even thinking about shooting that scene because I was so concerned about the other things I had to do that day. It was like, “First up: oh shit, we’re doing that penis scene.” After reading the whole season I was far more concerned about other wild things we had to do. But it was a very bizarre scene to shoot. Because I was like, how close do my hands get? Steven’s on the bed shooting behind, like, shooting Clive’s bare ass. And I’m supposed to be leaning down—like how close to do I need to get to him in terms of perspective? It was a little awkward, I’m not going to lie. But Clive was a good sport about it.
And now you get to tell your grandchildren about it.
Exactly. And it’s a great opener. People are like, “So, what are you doing on the show?” And I’m like, “Well on the first episode I inject Clive Owen’s penis with liquid cocaine.” And they’re like, “Oh shit, I want to see that.”
In the past you’ve said that when you were first starting out in acting, your mom and dad, specifically, were discouraging you from getting into the business. Has their tune changed now?
Oh, absolutely. My parents were being protective of me, and I honestly didn’t think they would have been good parents if they weren’t wary of me, their daughter, entering the entertainment industry. They wanted to make sure I really knew what I was signing up for and that I was serious. And I basically said to my dad that, look, I’m just as passionate about movies as you were about music, and when you were 18 you wouldn’t let anyone stop you so you’ve gotta let me do this. He was like, “Oh shit. I do.” He was like, “Crap.”
Ha! You had him backed into a corner.
He didn’t take no for an answer when he was 18, so I have that in my genes. I went to school and I studied it and I wanted to know what I was talking about and I wanted to learn about it. I’m really glad I did that and with that they really saw that I was dedicated and disciplined about it. And it was hard. I definitely didn’t get every job I went out for. They started to have sympathy with me. They started to get their hopes up, too. And they saw that I was being relentless, that I wasn’t stopping just because someone said no one time. I think they respected that I was committed to it. Now they’re so proud of me. They’re just desperate to see the show. They want to see the show, and they’re so upset because they’re going to be in Ireland and I don’t think it’s coming out in Ireland until September.
Do you feel like watching your father weather the public eye and this industry while you were growing up prepared you better for it?
I really do. I definitely feel like I have someone who is in my corner, who is looking out for me. Who’s like, “Oh, this might happen to you in an interview.” It’s just easier because he’s been through it all. My family’s been through it all. Even just simple things, like my family’s been through stupid tabloid rumors, so they don’t believe everything that they read. I don’t have my grandparents calling me being like, “Are you pregnant?” It’s actually really helpful that they’ve been through it before.
When you’re going out for parts do people know that you’re Bono’s daughter?
Sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t. They certainly don’t say anything to me about this. And I have this stupid thing where I don’t think about it when I walk into a room, and I think I should maybe stop doing that, because then I would be on better behavior. But I don’t walk into a room thinking about what other people are thinking of me. Maybe they’ve googled my name before, but I don’t think about it.
What’s great about Hollywood is that it is so cutthroat, and it really fucking doesn’t matter who you are. If you’re not right for the part, you’re not right the part. No director is going to sacrifice their film because they want someone’s famous kid in it for a headline. That’s what I love about Steven, too. He doesn’t give a shit. At all.
So you got to work with James Gandolfini in Enough Said, playing his daughter. That must’ve been an amazing experience. What was your favorite memory from shooting that?
I think maybe one of my favorite memories was our cast dinner. We had dinner at a restaurant in Venice. It was nice because we were all there. I just remember James Gandolfini being so amazing. At the end of dinner he came down and sat in front of me with a martini. And he looked at me and goes, “So? Where are we going?” I was like, “What do you mean?” And he said, “Are we going out? Let’s go out. We should go out.” I don’t know why, but I didn’t have a car at the time and I had a car waiting for me to drive me back to my hotel. And I was like, if I don’t get in this car I don’t know how to get home, and I have to go home. It’s one of my biggest regrets—that I didn’t go out with him that night.
You turned down a night on the town with James Gandolfini!?
I know. He was so amazing, and immediately became my dad. Like, “You’ve got to do this in your career.” And, “Don’t you dare do this.” And being very fatherly and protective of me. From that point on he was so amazing. If he wasn’t working one day he would send his car to pick me up and bring me to work. Or he would have me jump in his car if we were going from set back to basecamp for lunch. He was always about the other person, making sure the other person was comfortable and having fun. That’s why everyone fell in love with him and was devastated when he passed. He was just a genuine, gorgeous guy. When he came on set he would pick up every woman and give them a big bear hug in the morning. He’d lift them off their feet and hug them.
So I would be remiss if I didn’t ask you before you go what your favorite U2 song is.
Oh, God. Favorite song… “Discotheque.”
Because have you seen that music video? It is the most ridiculous one that I’d ever seen. They’re singing in a disco ball and have a routine like they’re in a boyband. It’s amazing.