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HBO is defending its hit high-school drama Euphoria.
Following the season two finale of the Sam Levinson series starring Zendaya, the Daily Beast published claims of a “toxic production,” following up on an earlier Feb. 23 report detailing “messy behind-the-scenes drama.”
In the story published on Friday, several unidentified sources spoke to the outlet about 18-hour days and the production failing to provide meals or allow bathroom trips, which allegedly prompted “several complaints” made to SAG-AFTRA and a union representative visiting the Los Angeles set.
In a statement to The Hollywood Reporter on Friday, HBO said no formal inquiries were raised during filming.
“The well-being of cast and crew on our productions is always a top priority,” said the cabler in a statement. “The production was in full compliance with all safety guidelines and guild protocols. It’s not uncommon for drama series to have complex shoots, and COVID protocols add an additional layer. We maintain an open line of communication with all the guilds, including SAG-AFTRA. There were never any formal inquiries raised.”
In a statement to THR that was also provided to The Daily Beast, the union said it performs “routine enforcement of contracts at the worksite through our National Field Services Department” and that “All actors should benefit from the protections our members enjoy, and production companies signed to our agreements need to follow our safety protocols, wage and hour rules, and other protections.”
The claims come on the heels of an early renewal for a third season and series-high ratings for the Feb. 27 finale. Racking up audiences not seen by HBO since the end of Game of Thrones, Euphoria doubled its season one average with its finale, which has been viewed by at least 19 million across all platforms.
The eight-episode second season has elicited both critical praise and criticism over its graphic nature, much like season one. And the fandom has grown even louder in the time since the first season aired, which was pre-pandemic in 2019, followed by two stand-alone episodes. (The first, in December 2020, focused on Zendaya’s starring protagonist Rue, and the second, in early 2021, on Hunter Schafer’s Jules.) Conspiracy theories over the plot have run rampant, with viewers analyzing every detail across social media and online platforms like Reddit and TikTok.
The dozens of unidentified background actors who spoke in the March 4 report made claims about a “disorganized” set, taking issue with the creative approach from Levinson, who created, wrote and directed the entire season. He and cinematographer Marcell Rév have spoken about their approach to film in the moment and “shoot from the gut” in order to create the final, immersive product seen by viewers.
When recently speaking to THR about the finale in separate interviews, Jacob Elordi, who plays disturbed teen Nate, and Angus Cloud, who broke out in season two as drug dealer Fezco, each described the “labor of love” approach on set as rewarding.
“We do shoot really long days; sometimes 16-hour days. It’s kind of like the labor and the love of the work. You can’t do that stuff in a short amount of time. At the end of it all, it’s quite cathartic to work so hard and long on something and have a product that you’re proud of come out,” said Elordi. Cloud added, “Definitely hard work. Definitely putting in them long hours, but you see the outcome of it, and it’s worth it.”
Cloud also noted the script changes that often occur and confirmed his character was initially supposed to be dealt a tragic fate that was changed last minute.
Throughout the season, Sydney Sweeney, who plays Cassie, and featured players Minka Kelly, Chloe Cherry and Martha Kelly have all shared personal objections to explicit scenes in various interviews, saying Levinson granted their requests.
Some of the complaints in the Daily Beast report, such as 18-hour workdays and long-delayed meal breaks, recall major grievances that surfaced during the IATSE negotiations for a new Basic Agreement in the summer and fall of 2021. At that time, many workers noted that amid the push to produce content in the wake of COVID-19 production delays and shutdowns, workdays were growing longer and more packed, posing a potential safety hazard. Other complaints such as failure to provide bathroom breaks and providing a poor holding area for extras have been less common during COVID-19-era production.
Euphoria follows high schooler Rue (Zendaya), who looks for hope while balancing love, loss and addiction in the town of East Highland. The cast also includes Nika King, Eric Dane, Algee Smith, Alexa Demie, Barbie Ferreira, Maude Apatow, Javon Walton, Dominic Fike, Storm Reid and Austin Abrams.
Katie Kilkenny contributed to this report.
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