From creator Sam Levinson, the HBO series Euphoria is back for a second season, following a group of high school students who are trying to find themselves as they navigate all of the drama that comes along with love and friendship during the teenage years. When you add sex, drugs, social media and, in some instances, a whole lot of trauma on top of that, it pushes them into some very dangerous places.
During this interview with Collider, which you can both watch and read, co-stars Zendaya (who plays Rue Bennett, a young woman who is dealing with her father’s death by drowning herself in drugs) and Hunter Schafer (who plays Jules Vaughn, a trans teen who no longer wants to be involved with participating in risky sexual encounters) were joined by series newcomer Dominic Fike (who plays Elliot, a new classmate drawn to both Rue and Jules) to talk about the challenges of Rue’s journey, whether she hits rock bottom this season, the difficult decisions Jules is facing, how Elliot fits into their lives, and why viewers should hold onto their love and empathy for these characters.
Collider: Thank you for talking to me about this season. There is just so much to talk about. Zendaya, Rue gets pretty low this season, even though I’m not sure if she’s actually officially hit rock bottom yet. What was the most difficult aspect of her journey for you, this season? Was there a scene or a moment that was most difficult for you?
ZENDAYA: Listen, it’s all pretty painful, to be honest, because I care about her. I also care about her future and I care about her life and her happiness. It’s not just because I think she is a character that I’ve grown to love, but I also think she’s a representation of so many people that are dealing with the same thing. My goal is that, even when she gets to those low points, you still root for her and love her and view her in an empathetic way, enough so that you still believe that there is some hope for her, that there is a future for her, and that she deserves love and happiness and a beautiful life, even if she doesn’t have that feeling. So, it wasn’t easy, in the sense that your mind knows it’s not real, but your body doesn’t. It’s difficult to be in someone’s shoes and do things that you would never wanna say or do to people that you care about. That’s when it gets icky feeling. I know that I have to do it because it’s Rue’s story and it belongs to her, but as Zendaya, it’s not fun. But you have to go to those points, in order to get to the beautiful parts, hopefully later for Rue.
Do you feel like she’s at her lowest? Do you feel like she hits rock bottom this season?
ZENDAYA: I don’t wanna spoil it. I think that’s part of her journey and that’s a decision that she ultimately has to make for herself. Once we get to that point, is this the end? Is change coming? What is gonna be the thing that stops this endless cycle of pain? Major themes for me are hope, empathy, and redemption, and to remind ourselves that we’re not the worst thing we’ve ever done. She is still worth a beautiful life. It’s difficult because you don’t know what’s coming. When we were in the middle of the season, there was no ending to the season. I’ve always been able to get through the toughest parts of Rue by reminding myself that Rue is an extension of (show creator) Sam [Levinson], and if Sam has been able to do something beautiful with his life, and has been able to move forward and heal and grow, then maybe Rue can too. But I never had that in front of me, guaranteed. I’ve always just lived with the hope that could happen. You have to stick with Rue, in the hopes that she will get there by the end of the season. Hope is a major factor in this. Addiction is something that doesn’t just affect Rue. It reigns terror on her family, on her loved ones, on her relationship, and it’s not something that she is the only victim of.
Hunter, how difficult was Jules’ journey for you this season? Jules has some tough decisions that need to be made and that are not always going to have a happy outcome.
HUNTER SCHAFER: Yeah. Before she even can confront those decisions, you have to acknowledge that she’s also operating from inaccurate knowledge of what her partner’s going through. She doesn’t know that Rue is actively using again. I think if she did, it would dramatically change how she moved throughout the season. But I also think that’s why Elliot’s presence is important. He’s not neutral, but he’s an independent force between the two.
Dominic, what was it like for you to join this duo and take on a character where you’ve said that you don’t really consider yourself an actor. You’ve also said that this character reminds you of your younger self, but you’re at a point where you’ve moved past that. Did it provide any self-reflection for you, to take a journey with a character like this?
DOMINIC FIKE: Absolutely. It was crazy, first of all, interrupting this specific dynamic. And then, it’s tough watching this kid make all of these dumb decisions, not out of malice or anything, but it’s just how this kid is. Doing all the wrong things and messing me up, I’m pretty familiar with.
What’s it like to play somebody who can reflect a different point of your life, at the same time that you’ve moved past that and can see it in a different way than you did when you were in it yourself?
FIKE: I’m actually really happy that I got to do that because that’s all I really know how to do. With music, I just talk about myself the whole time, so I don’t know, especially with my first time acting, if I could have just jumped into a completely different character and just been someone else, every day. I’m really glad that I got to do that. It was a great introduction to this craft.
Zendaya and Hunter, without spoilers, what can you say about where things will be left with Rue and Jules, by the end of this season? Should we have hope for them, for Season 3?
ZENDAYA: Listen, you’ve just gotta ride it out. You’ve gotta ride it out with them and remember that they’re just trying to figure it out and they don’t know what they’re doing. They are human beings that will make mistakes and are dealing with a lot of pain that they don’t know how to express. If you can just hold onto that love for them and hold onto that empathy for them, maybe there will be a hopeful ending. Who knows if that’s with them together or not, but if you can just hold on.
SCHAFER: They’re just kids.
Euphoria airs on Sunday nights on HBO and is available to stream at HBO Max.
Because teen angst and self-discovery are in fashion.