Zendaya and Sam Levinson spoke to IndieWire about how HBO’s drama can connect a generation of teens, even if they’re not watching.
The scene was just seven words: “Leslie and Rue fight in the hallway.”
“So we’re thinking a little yelling, slamming a door, call it a day,” Zendaya recalled while speaking with IndieWire.
But then, driving to set that morning, writer-director Sam Levinson had an idea. Why not try a little improvisation, and see where it goes?
“So I talked to Nika [King], talked to Z,” Levinson said, using shorthand for his already mononymous star, Zendaya. They shot the first take without any improv — just a mother and daughter yelling before the latter slams her bedroom door — “and it was good, it was interesting,” but Levinson wanted to “push it farther.” “However dark she goes, you go darker,” Levinson remembered telling his actors.
The result is what viewers see in the premiere: Rue (Zendaya), a drug-addicted teen, being confronted about her problem and reacting with raw animosity — knocking a framed picture off the wall and using a shard of the broken glass to threaten her own mother.
“It got to a place where it felt so fucking real — where she’s coming at her with the glass — and it was one of those moments where the entire crew […] just walked away from the set for 15 minutes [when it was over],” Levinson said.
“That day took a toll,” Zendaya said.
In a nutshell, that’s what “Euphoria” is striving for: an intense, authentic experience that connects with its audience on a personal level. But despite the extreme reactions to some of its more abrasive scenes, that intensity is designed to help more than provoke. If this scene and the many others like it merely make people angry, they’re not doing their job. “Euphoria” can serve as an introduction to a world some viewers don’t know is out there, as well as a connection for the people who are already living in it so they don’t have to feel alone. Over a first season both gripping and alienating, here’s how “Euphoria” is trying to help teens — even when they’re not watching.
If Not Teens, Who’s “Euphoria” Made For?
“Euphoria” creates a brand new world for anyone who hasn’t lived it, which is an easy path to controversy. For some, scenes like the above can be a lot to take in, and the consistent depictions of teen sex, drug use, and violence only add to the uncomfortable experience — HBO’s weekly episode rollout doubles as a much-need breather between sessions.
But for others, the onscreen drama merely mirrors a life they’re all too familiar with, making for a casual viewing experience or even a cathartic one. They know the high schoolers in “Euphoria” are out there, whether they’re friends, family, or people they know through the internet.
With that split in mind, the question becomes: Who is “Euphoria” made for? It’s made by young people, about a younger generation. Zendaya was 21 when she shot the series, Levinson in his early thirties. Still, no one is claiming the show is aimed at a teen audience — not the creator, star, or HBO president Casey Bloys. But “Euphoria” is still trying to help them, whether they watch it or not.
“I hope it creates a certain dialogue between parents and their kids,” Levinson said. “I don’t think this is a show for people under 17, but…”
“…but if your parent wants to have a conversation about it, that’s good,” Zendaya said.
“Or if you’re going to watch it anyway, and you have a feeling your kid is going to watch it anyway, then it might be good to have a conversation with them,” Levinson said.
“[People say] ‘Oh, it’s so shocking!’ To me, it doesn’t feel that way,” Zendaya said. “Because, yeah, I know someone who had that issue, and my homie went through that, and damn, that’s just like so-and-so. It’s only shocking if it’s maybe not your personal experience. Maybe you had a different path and you never met anyone who went through any of that — but I highly doubt it.”
I’ve added HD screencaps of Zendaya to the gallery from the most recent episode of Euphoria. How great was the newest episode? Detective Rue Bennett was everything. haha.
One after the other, HBO’s incendiary new series “Euphoria” unveils acting discoveries. Exciting ones. Plus-size model and Instagram phenomenon Barbie Ferreira sizzles as zaftig Kat, who prefers controlling her virtual online sex partners to the vulnerability of building an intimate rapport with a real boy (Austin Abrams). “I don’t do virgins,” she tells him, not long after painfully losing her own maidenhead at a blowout party.
She is among several breakouts in this series created by showrunner Sam Levinson (the ex-addict scion of Hollywood royalty Barry), who wowed Sundance 2018 with hacking thriller “Assassination Nation,” which Neon picked up for $10 million (it grossed $2.5 million domestic). For “Euphoria,” Levinson hired again his “Assassination Nation” casting team of veteran Mary Vernieu (Bette Mae, Inc.) and Jessica Kelly (Chrystie Street Casting).
Of course, their job is to give the showrunner options to choose from before HBO finally approves. But it’s unusual for casting directors to look away from established stars to find new faces and make discoveries. “It’s very rare to get a script or an entire series at HBO where they tell you they don’t need any names, just whoever is best to make this story,” said Kelly, who has teamed with Vernieu on multiple movies since Darren Aronofsky’s “The Wrestler.”
“In this day and age the opportunity to discover people doesn’t happen that much anymore,” said Vernieu, who was an associate casting director for Billy Hopkins on Tony Scott’s “True Romance,” starring Christian Slater, Dennis Hopper, Christopher Walken, Patricia Arquette, Brad Pitt, and James Gandolfini. “You want someone who has some value. It’s a wonderful artistic process for us, to be allowed to dive in and find these characters.”
While the casting directors “had an idea of Sam’s taste and style going into ‘Euphoria,’” added Kelly, the pilot was “like nothing I had ever read or seen before. It is a bold, brave, exciting movie with a young cast. We have a great combination of some cast who have never acted before and someone like Jacob Elordi who came from Australia. It’s watching tons of tapes from all over the country, knowing what Sam likes, and bringing in different people and trying different things.”
First up was casting the series lead, an addicted teen who loves her family – who discover her overdosed and comatose in Episode 1 – but finds it hard to cope with the world without altering her consciousness. Zendaya’s casting was by no means in the bag: her management team wasn’t sure that playing an addict was the best thing for the 22-year-old rising star’s career. After all, the model and “Dancing with the Stars” contestant had already come into her own on Disney’s “Shake It Up” and “K.C. Undercover” as well as Hugh Jackman’s smash musical “The Greatest Showman” and Spiderman gal pal MJ for Marvel. But “Euphoria” offered her the opportunity to reveal her range, digging deeper in a way that no one was expecting.
Vernieu knew Zendaya could do it. And she argued vehemently to showrunner Levinson that the series needed the magnetic good-girl Zendaya to draw in the audience, giving them someone familiar to make them feel secure within a challenging contemporary milieu that often feels too authentic for comfort. “At first I thought she wouldn’t do it, it’s such a departure,” said Vernieu. “It was something so far from her persona. She’s got a lot of fans. Getting her people to take a minute to read it and pass it on: ‘Are you sure this is what you want to do?’ It’s a complex character. At the last minute she read it and wanted to do it. But she knew from beginning what to do with it, how important it was. She’s a smart girl.”
Zendaya took the role, with Disney’s “A Wrinkle in Time” star Storm Reid also extending her scope as her little sister. “Despite all the darkness and hardship, we have to have hope,” said Vernieu. “That’s what made Zendaya the perfect person to root for, so she could come through the other side.”
In order to cast a casting net wide across the country, HBO brought in another famous talent scout, Jennifer Venditti (“American Honey,” “Good Times”), who specializes in auditioning and finding unknowns who fit their roles perfectly, from Florida shopping malls to the streets of Ohio.
Vernieu is alert for certain signals when she reads a lot of people. “A perfect performance in the room is not what we are looking for,” she said. “We are looking for moments of brilliance, those flashes that show where it can go. Auditions are artificial, it’s really hard for the actors, hard for everybody—in a room, two chairs, not in the scene. What it’s really about when someone comes in? Is it an essence, is it organic? Do they feel like the character? You see the flashes, that one moment, ‘Oh my God!’ Once you send them off to do the movie or TV show, then they can go deep, access deep feelings, have layers, it can resonate. You’re looking for a person who has more to offer than what they’re showing.”
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Euphoria can’t last forever. Heck, it probably can’t last beyond a few seasons.
“Well, [the characters] are in high school, so there are only so many seasons it can go,” HBO president Casey Bloys concedes to TVLine of the boundary-pushing breakout teen drama, which was recently renewed for a second season. “There’s a time limit.”
That said, Bloys maintains that he and series creator Sam Levinson have not set an end date in stone. “We’ll follow [Sam’s] lead on that,” he says. “There is no set plan. But I don’t think you want 30-year-olds playing [high school students].”
In renewing the show for Season 2, HBO’s EVP of programming, Francesca Orsi, heralded the “incredible world” Levinson has created, adding, “We are so grateful that he chose HBO as the home for this groundbreaking series. We look forward to following these complex characters as their journeys continue through the challenging world they inhabit.”
Debuting last month in the post-Big Little Lies time slot on Sunday nights, Euphoria offers an unflinching look at teenage life, with copious amounts of sex, drugs and violence.
Euphoria is set to wrap its first season this Sunday.
Welcome to Zendaya Coleman Network! We are so excited to share with you our new fansite dedicated to actress (and singer and designer and model) Zendaya Coleman! Zendaya can currently be seen on Euphoria on HBO (which is amazing!!) on Sundays at 9pm EST.
Here you will find the latest news and photos of Zendaya and we hope our little fansite can serve as an online hub for Zendaya fans. We have tons of photos and content to add to the site in the coming weeks and months so be sure to bookmark ZendayaColeman.net and visit us again, as well as follow us on twitter. We are not Zendaya nor are we affiliated with her. We are just a couple of fangirls.
There have been three movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe released in 2019, and now all three have passed $1 billion at the global box office. Following in the footsteps of Captain Marvel and Avengers: Endgame, Spider-Man: Far From Home has now passed the landmark. This may come as a surprise, but this is the first time a Spider-Man film has reached the $1 billion benchmark.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Far From Home passed $1 billion on Thursday, further extending its lead on the next highest-grossing Spider-Man film, not adjusting for inflation. The next closest entry in the franchise is 2007’s Spider-Man 3, the final Spidey movie directed by Sam Raimi and starring Tobey Maguire, which earned $890 million. The other MCU Spider-Man, 2017’s Homecoming, topped out at just over $880 million.
The success around the globe for Far From Home has been unparalleled in terms of the Spider-Man films, but other entries have done better in North America. As of now, Far From Home is the fifth-highest grossing Spider-Man movie at the domestic box office, coming short of Homecoming and all three films in the Raimi trilogy. That said, the film is right on the heels of Homecoming and Spider-Man: 3 and will likely pass their domestic totals sooner rather than later.
In addition to becoming the only Spider-Man film to cross $1 billion at the box office, Far From Home is one of only two titles released by Sony Pictures to do so. The only other Sony film to hit the mark was the James Bond film Skyfall, which was released in 2012.
With Far From Home now officially crossing the threshold, there have been a total of 40 movies in cinematic history to make $1 billion at the box office. Spider-Man: Far From Home is just the third to do so this year, but surely won’t be the last. Disney’s new adaptations of Aladdin and The Lion King should both hit the mark before all is said and done, and it would be a surprise if Frozen 2 and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker didn’t do the same later this year.
Spider-Man: Far From Home is currently playing in theaters.