Buro Exclusive: The cast of HBO's 'Euphoria' tells us what makes their show stand out from the rest
Not just another teen drama
Controversial. That's the one word we'll use to describe this series.
A quick Google search will show you that the internet has loads of opinions on what Euphoria is about. How it is "hard to watch" and how it shouldn't be considered a 'teen drama' because it contains scenes of violence, nudity, sex and drugs, which let's be honest, doesn't make sense considering the fact that the same audience are probably also fans of Game of Thrones – a show that is popular for the aforementioned scenes. So yes, while the show does showcase graphic and heartbreaking scenes that might hit home for many, it must be doing something right because HBO had just recently renewed it for a second season.
The eight-episode first season which debuted on 16 June is actually based on an Israeli show by the same name. Created and written by Sam Levinson, the groundbreaking series follows a group of friends as they navigate a minefield of drugs, sex, identity, trauma, social media, love and friendship.
Zendaya stars as Rue, a 17-year-old high school student fresh out of rehab who soon falls back into her old drug-using ways. Hunter Schafer co-stars as Rue’s new trans best friend Jules; Jacob Elordi as Nate, a jock whose anger issues mask sexual insecurities; Alexa Demie as Maddy, Nate's on- and off-again girlfriend; Algee Smith as Chris, a football star who finds the adjustment from high school to college harder than expected; Sydney Sweeney as Cassie, whose sexual history continues to dog her; Maude Apatow as Lexi, Cassie's younger sister and Rue's level-headed childhood friend; and Barbie Ferreira as Kat, a bodyconscious teen exploring her sexuality.
What appealed to you about the show and how did you get involved?
Zendaya: "I was having this weird section in my life where I didn’t really know what I was going to do next. I was looking for something magic, some kind of feeling. Everything I was reading just wasn’t right. Nothing was making any kind of an impact or felt like anything I would want to do. And then Euphoria came along and all the worries that I had had before, or ideas I’d had about what I needed to do or should do, just went through the window."
Hunter: "From the get-go it felt very real and accurate and something we could resonate with as far as the characters we were going for. This is my first acting gig. I saw the open casting call floating around on Instagram which trans women were passing around to each other and a few days later my model agency put my name in and it went from there."
Barbie: "I remember reading the synopsis and I was like, “not to be presumptuous, but I need this character.” It was very nerve-racking for me because I just felt so connected to Kat. A lot of my friends were auditioning and the pressure was on but I deeply cared about this character. I was like, “this is me, this is the one, this is it.” The script was really special."
What sets it apart from other dramas depicting teenage life?
Sydney: "I think we’re so used to seeing sugar-coated, glamorous versions of teenage life. It’s bold but that’s because we haven’t really seen anything like it on TV before. It takes the veil away from people’s eyes of what growing up in this day and age is really like."
Algee: "It’s very cinematic, it’s very raw and it holds no punches. I think that’s how it should be, because if you give people the plain truth they can do their own examination of how they want to react."
Hunter: "We’re allowed to be complex in all the issues that it covers. There’s a unique connection to the internet and I don’t think we’ve seen quite to the extent that it’s going to play out in the show."
Do you find the show shocking in comparison to your own teenage experience?
Sydney: "Some parts I completely understood and had lived through and other storylines I was like, “oh my” but that’s just my life. There are storylines where I’m like, “this can’t be happening in today’s world,” but it is 100% happening and that’s one of the reasons why I absolutely love the show. It makes you really sit there and think. The social media influences, friendships and teenage love and sex are relatable for every teenage girl, because there’s no road map given to us of what we’re meant to do, we’re all just trying to figure it out and be ok."
Algee: "I can’t say that I was shocked, it’s more that it’s my first time seeing it on a TV show. I was home schooled, so I didn’t have a high school experience, but I know what school was like, as I had friends who went. I didn’t go to prom and I didn’t play sports, but I related to the authentic social content in the show as far as sex, drugs and the pressure of society to be something that you may not even want to be."
Hunter: "I definitely didn’t have a parallel experience to Jules but as far as feeling the way she did and needing affirmation with femininity and how that affects even your subconscious, I got that. I’ve been there and I’ve also brought myself out of it. I don’t think I’m fully ever out of that kind of spiral but I could use that feeling in order to push her further."
What can you tell us about your character and what issues are they dealing with?
Zendaya: "To me, sometimes Rue is hard to explain because she has so many sides to her. She can be extremely sweet and loving and she can be volatile and evil; she can be shy and timid and she can be funny. It's crazy. I'm exploring all the different parts of who she is, but at the end of the day she is a good person and I think we sense that as we watch it. Because she's a good person, you really feel for her and I think it helps that we can hear what she's thinking. When she does bad things or acts out or hurts people we all know what's going on inside and therefore we can see past it and still love her anyway. I don't know if she's like my little sister or if she's me in another life, I don't know what it is, but I just think that we all really care for her and want her to be alright."
Sydney: "Cassie grew up in a broken home. She has an alcoholic mother and a medication addicted father, so she has always had this absence in her life that she looks to fill through relationships with men. She falls in love with every guy she comes across and unfortunately some of them don't treat her as well as she hopes. She ends up having an unwanted sexual reputation that she doesn't know how to deal with. She falls in love with McKay and for the first time, has a real, stable relationship. Even though it has its problems and there are outside influences, she finally gets to navigate a teenage relationship. She's just trying to find who she is when she doesn't know what she's good at yet. She feels lost and looks to other people to accept her, without accepting herself first."
Algee: "McKay is Nate's best friend. He is a college football player with dreams of going to NFL but his first year of college is not going so well; he's struggling a lot with his confidence and where he wants to be. On top of that, he has an interesting relationship with his dad because his dad has given him a really strong work ethic since a young age and he has a problem communicating with him. There are masculinity issues for sure. McKay has to get to grips with being comfortable with every part of the vulnerability that he truly feels and not hide from it, and that's a hard thing for him to do."
Hunter: "Jules is new in town, about to start on this high school endeavour and quickly finds a best friend, Rue. Jules has a routine as far as her sexuality goes. She wants to feel good about herself so she has developed a routine in order to fulfil this, of engaging with older, typically married white cis men in order to reach some sort of affirmation with her femininity. While she's got it down to a tee, it's not necessarily healthy for her, it's toxic, so when she comes to this town she has an opportunity to break that down."
Barbie: "Kat likes to be a little bit invisible in her real life but leads a double life on the internet, with a fan fiction blog and eventually camming. She's scared of people not accepting her for who she is but she finds an outlet on the internet where people see her as a sexual being; she's not just the friend who no one notices and she feels important. I think that's actually what a lot of teenagers want to feel, that they're important, or worthy. Kat's friends are all conventionally beautiful, thin people and it's really hard when you don't fit the norm of what people in your high school think is attractive. We definitely see Kat's personality coming out; she's so sarcastic and funny."
Some scenes are quite harrowing. Did you find anything particularly shocking, Zendaya?
Zendaya: "Not really. I think it's only shocking if it's not necessarily your experience. Just because it didn't happen to you doesn't mean it's not happening everyday, all the time, and I think that it is, it's just certain people will be able to understand it a little bit more than others. Some people will have their eyes open to it; some people will say, "damn that happened to me" or "that's my sister" or whoever. Someone's going to connect to it and whoever needs to see it, will see it. It's important to know that you're not alone and there are other people who are dealing with it especially in this space where sometimes the world makes you feel like you're the only person struggling with what you're struggling with and you kind of isolate yourself, which I'm guilty of sometimes. I think this show allows you to remember that you're not alone, that we all don't know what we're doing. We're all just kind of doing the best we can and figuring it out as we go."