The 25-year-old actress, a two-time Emmy contender for HBO’s “Euphoria” and “The White Lotus,” says she wouldn’t take on a role if it wasn’t challenging for her.
“Reality” is no different. Sweeney portrays Reality Winner, a former Air Force linguist and contractor for the National Security Agency who was detained in 2017 on suspicion of leaking a secret document to nonprofit news outlet The Intercept, in HBO’s suspenseful new drama (now streaming on Max). For the data breach, which revealed Russian meddling in the election of former President Donald Trump, she was found guilty and given a sentence of more than five years in jail.
The play “Is This a Room,” by Tina Satter, which was made into a movie in 2021, was written precisely from the FBI transcript of Winner’s questioning and arrest. The entire 82-minute movie takes place at Winner’s home and features dramatic situations that are usually stranger than fiction.
I thought to myself when I read the dialogue, “You can’t even write stuff like this!” states Sweeney. Because I wanted to be able to honour Reality’s voice as much as possible, I was both attracted and afraid by it.
Reality Winner is the real name of the NSA leaker.
In the first chats with Satter, Winner’s mother gave her word that Reality’s name was real. Satter relates that Reality’s father, who is now deceased, had the opportunity to chose her name and requested “a real winner.” “Her dad was a little bit of a character.”
Reality Winner’s own Quran and Pokemon bedspread provided a look into who she was.
The movie includes numerous images of the real Winner, 31, all of which were given by her family or obtained from social media. (In the image that stands out the most, Winner is seen grinning while holding her pink-and-black AR-15.) Sweeney and Satter were enthralled by Winner’s diverse possessions, including her punk-rock posters and sketchbooks.
I simply adored her Pokemon blanket, Sweeney gushes. It was a hilarious decision on her part, and it revealed her sense of humour and her personality at home.
Satter continues, “Reality has such a broad interest in religion that her marked-up Quran was incredibly vital to show. Then, when she tried to seek bail, her Quran was used against her, with statements such, “She had a keen interest in the Middle East! Perhaps it was a subtle hint about her character! However, she was genuinely interested in both intellectual and spiritual matters.
She spoke about her dog and cat a lot throughout the FBI investigation.
Unexpectedly, Winner’s initial interrogation focused a lot on routine details for a movie about leaking confidential information. She requests permission to put her groceries away first so they won’t spoil when FBI investigators visit her home in Augusta, Georgia. Winner, a gym rat, worries about skipping a yoga session and an approaching powerlifting competition. There is also a great deal of back and forth regarding Winner’s pets and who will look after them if she is imprisoned.
The discussion about the dog and cat is almost lighthearted, despite the fact that it’s a serious situation in someone’s life, according to Sweeney. She loved animals and raised them as her own children. Because she was in charge of them, she wanted to ensure their safety no matter what happened to her.