- Share this article on Facebook
- Share this article on Twitter
- Share this article on Email
- Show additional share options
- Share this article on Print
- Share this article on Comment
- Share this article on Whatsapp
- Share this article on Linkedin
- Share this article on Reddit
- Share this article on Pinit
- Share this article on Tumblr
It seems as if everyone has thoughts to share this year about season two of Euphoria, so much so that The New York Times cited the “extraordinary discourse” about the show in a finale recap that focused on creator Sam Levinson.
He’s among the few that haven’t engaged in the swirl over the course of the season’s eight-episode run that aired Jan. 9 through Feb. 27. But that changed Wednesday night at L.A.’s Academy Museum, host of a packed and enthusiastic special screening (for TV Academy members) and panel discussion put on by HBO Max. It featured Levinson sharing the stage with star and executive producer Zendaya, Sydney Sweeney, Eric Dane, Maude Apatow, Hunter Schafer, Alexa Demie, Jacob Elordi and Barbie Ferreira in a conversation moderated by cast member Colman Domingo.
Because Euphoria debuted at a dicey time amid a COVID-19 surge, the cast and creative team did not have a typical premiere complete with red carpet press so last night’s event felt both celebratory and revelatory. The actors were asked to open up about their respective journeys this season with Domingo lobbing one question per participant except for Levinson, who got two questions to kick off the chat.
“It’s been really kind of amazing and also overwhelming,” said Levinson upon being asked what it has felt like to see his show capture the pop culture zeitgeist and resonate in the way that it has. “At the end of the day, when you make something, you pray that people are going to see it and that they are going to talk about it or it’s going to move them, or they’re going to fall in love with a character so much that they become blind to everything else. The fact that that’s happened in many ways, and people seem to be talking about it and talking about some of the themes and aspects of the show is beyond my wildest dreams and something I’m very grateful for.”
The panel followed a screening of Episode 5, “Stand Still Like the Hummingbird.” It tracks Zendaya’s Rue on a blistering path as she spars with family and friends while hurling toward a devastating rock bottom. Domingo noted how the episode was personal for Levinson as it was inspired by his own experiences.
“The whole season was built around this episode,” Levinson explained, revealing that he changed course on an original plan for the entire season but kept this particular episode. “My writing process is pretty bizarre. I write hundreds of drafts and I don’t go back and rewrite. I start from my memory of the last draft. The first version of season two changed but I love this episode. I feel like I saw it as a fulcrum of the season, that everything that came before it — the hedonism, the nihilism, the immaturity of the first few episodes — just falls by the wayside. It’s a moment as an addict where life pierces through, and you can see with absolute clarity the destruction that addiction can cause in family, among friends, among people you love. That’s the turning point, I think, for Rue.”
It also delivered a powerful opportunity for Zendaya, who said she was both terrified and exhilarated by what the episode asked of her as a performer.
“I was absolutely terrified because I wanted to do it with as much humanity and thoughtfulness as possible without shying away from the ugliness and the pain and the destruction that it can cause,” said the actress who won an Emmy in 2020 for her work on the series. “I wanted to do it the right way. Not only is she going through a lot of emotional pain but she’s going through a lot of physical pain and that’s all coming to the surface at the same time.”
She continued by saying that one of the greatest honors of playing a young addict struggling with their disease is that viewers have responded by sharing their sobriety stories. “It’s so beautiful to me, every single time. I take on those stories with me and they become part of Rue each time I play her. I get very emotional about it because I care about her a lot because she represents a lot of people who need a lot of love,” she said. “She represents part of myself and she represents part of Sam. That means a lot to me. I want people to be able to heal through her. There was a lot of fear in wanting to do it the right way.”
Because they wanted to get it right, Zendaya said that’s another reason they changed course on the season from what Levinson had originally written. “We were, like, there needs to be a new ending to this show,” she noted. “We flipped it around and make it much more positive and beautiful because, I think, that is my greatest hope for her and that is my greatest hope for anyone watching that has a loved one like Rue. If they care about Rue, hopefully they can extend that to the real people who need that just as much.”
Zendaya sharing her love for Rue inspired actors like Demie and Dane to also double down on how much they care about their characters, highlighting another theme of the evening.
Sweeney said something similar, offering, “I had something beautiful with Cassie where every single scene she had, I felt like there was an arc to what was happening within her, her heart, her mind, and she had to grow and learn or unlearn everything around her.” And not all of it was easy to play. “I found these dark places within myself where sometimes Sam would have to come next to me and pull me out of it because it was so raw and so emotional.”
As for Demie, she said, “I love Mady. I love Mady. I can cry thinking about her. She’s very special to me. Thank you, Sam.”
Dane delivered some levity, addressing his character’s wild coming out scene during which a (prosthetic) penis is exposed for the entirety of a monologue. “I, too, love this character,” said Dane, adding that Levinson’s note during filming was that Cal’s journey during season one was like a David Fincher film (“It was a thriller”) while this season, it was more Coen brothers. “My job is not to judge this guy.”
Dane continued, “My job is to hopefully provide some level of humanity to him and engender some empathy so that the audience can really understand what’s going on with this guy. And if you have to come out to your family and you have the opportunity to do it with your penis out for seven minutes, run, don’t walk. I recommend it for everybody. It’s so liberating.” Dane’s suggestion got huge laughs from the audience.
Domingo then ended the night with a powerful moment. He read aloud a message he fielded from a viewer who recently reached out to share how Euphoria helped her process the death of her mother, an undiagnosed bipolar drug addict whose life and artistic ambitions were derailed by substance abuse. “She was just trying to be happy her whole life,” he read as both Zendaya and Demie wiped away tears. “Thank you for helping me see her, for her. Thank you for helping me separate her from the drugs and the other issues and just see her. She was beautiful and all she wanted was to be happy.”
Sign up for THR news straight to your inbox every day