‘Dare Me’s Taveeta Szymanowicz Breaks Down RiRi’s ‘Life-Changing’ Injury & More: It’s ‘Difficult To Watch’

HollywoodLife spoke with ‘Dare Me’ star Taveeta Szymanowicz about the episode 5 scene that made everyone’s jaws drop, her hopes for season 2, and more.

Dare Me has captivated audiences around the world. The teen drama explores the cutthroat world of competitive high school cheerleading and it’s dark, sexy, and worthy of your obsession. Taveeta Szymanowicz stars as RiRi Curtis, one of the cheerleaders at Sutton Grove High School and one of Addy and Beth’s closest friends. In episode 5 of the critically-acclaimed series, RiRi suffers a brutal stunt injury during a performance when a Tacy falls and kicks RiRi in the mouth. This causes a shockingly brutal and bloody scene where RiRi loses several of her teeth.

HollywoodLife talked EXCLUSIVELY with Taveeta about RiRi’s “life-changing” moment. First and foremost, she’s impressed that RiRi came back to the squad despite the traumatic event, even though it didn’t really surprise her. Taveeta said she was very excited to film RiRi’s huge scene but admitted it was “difficult to watch” the finished product with her mother. Plus, Taveeta discussed RiRi’s role in the Addy and Beth saga and what she’d like to see in a potential season 2. Dare Me is available now on USANetwork.com in the United States and on Netflix internationally.

What was your reaction when you learned RiRi was going to get her teeth knocked out? Because it’s truly one of the most shocking scenes I’ve ever seen…
Taveeta Szymanowicz: Funny enough, it was completely opposite to everyone else’s reaction which was complete utter disgust and poor RiRi. I was thinking this is going to be amazing to film. I was actually really excited about diving into and getting to portray such a horrific event because of what that horrific event will make people feel. I think you know RiRi is a very vibrant character. She brings a lot of fun and vibrancy to the squad, so I think who better than her to have the accident happened to and show viewers of this show just how easy it is to have everything taken away from you, especially in cheerleading but also just in life in general. She goes from being a young, vibrant, and carefree teenager to completely having her life shattered and not really knowing what’s going to happen next. It truly is a life-changing moment, so I was thrilled when I read that in the script.

When you watched it back, did you ever have a different response to it?
Taveeta Szymanowicz: Yes. The first time I watched it, I had that same excitement of the first feeling of reading it. I thought the episode was incredible. Our director for that episode was phenomenal. So I was really happy about it. But I had seen that when it wasn’t fully edited and when it wasn’t fully colored. I had only seen the version that they sent out to the cast to show us what it’s starting to look like. When the series actually came out and I watched the episode over again, that’s when it hit me in the gut that this is really painful. I watched it with my mother and specifically the part where J.J. Curtis [RiRi’s mom] comes into the hospital and RiRi kind of breaks down even more, that was really difficult to watch with my mom. I don’t think I’m able to watch those scenes anymore, but it was exciting at first. I really have a newfound appreciation for the sport. I grew up as a dancer so going into the show, I was confident. I thought that because I had a dancing background, this should be easy. I remember our first week of rehearsals, I would come home and just be completely bruised and in pain. It is truly mind-blowing just how fearless you really have to be. You’re trusting somebody in the air and you have to catch her. I think it’s really beautiful the trust that you have to have between your squad.

Did it surprise you at all that RiRi came back without breaking a sweat, even though something so traumatic had happened to her?
Taveeta Szymanowicz: Not at all. I think that ties into the fact that when you are a cheerleader you sign up for that. You know that stuff can happen. With RiRi specifically, her mother doesn’t play. Her mother puts a lot of pressure on Riri to, essentially, be the best in both the squad and in life. I think, ultimately, it’s almost embedded in her DNA that she would just get right back up and keep going on. I think a lot of that is fueled by the pressures of her mother and the pressures of just regular teenage life. I actually really loved that she came back so quickly and I think it could be pretty inspiring for other people to just show that when life does knock you down, you get right back up.

RiRi is very much pulled into the middle of the chaos between Beth and Addy. How do you think RiRi feels about that? 
Taveeta Szymanowicz: She’s very much aware that she’s the pawn in this relationship, but she does love Addy and she does love Beth. She also really loves the idea of being a part of that trifecta. Reading the script and going through the lines, I knew she was a subliminal source of information for whatever intense drama was going on between the two of them. It was fun to play with the idea of looking at that and wondering how much she actually knows. There are a couple of little nuances that I tried to bring to the character where she still has that fun and flirtatiousness that she has with everyone she speaks to, but I think that she still knows what she’s saying. It’s fun for me in some scenes to really think about how deep and how involved in their relationship she really is. That comes out specifically in the regionals episode when they’re partying in the hotel and we rehearse the moment with Brianna where she’s like, “There’s a lot that you don’t know.” I read that and it was kind of the justifying moment in the choice that I had made for the character. She really does know a lot about this relationship. She’s being a good friend and allowing herself to be the pawn in that relationship because she does care about them. But she’s also using that to her advantage because she does really want to be a part of that trifecta, if not the main person in that trifecta.

If she had to choose, do you think RiRi would choose to side with Addy or Beth? 
Taveeta Szymanowicz: I think she would absolutely choose Beth. If we’re talking about the duration of the first season, she spends a lot more time with Beth. I do think that there is there’s an obvious division between Addy and the whole entire squad the second Colette comes in. So I think that naturally, she gravitates more towards that. Beth is the big, bad top girl, so who better to be your first lady?

Is there anything that you would want to explore in a second season specifically with RiRi?
Taveeta Szymanowicz: I would love to explore a bit more about what she does know and her relationship with her mother. I’d also like a bit of a glimpse into how her accident did affect her like I know it did. She just got back up and straight into things, but that was a very emotional and psychological event. It takes some time to heal from that, so it would be really interesting to play with that. I would also love for her to genuinely find out a piece of crucial information and see where she goes with that and how that changes her perspective on power with Addy and Beth. I think that would be really fun.

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