“Euphoria,” Sam Levinson’s trippy-dippy HBO show about love, sex and drugs from the perspective of a ragtag group of beautiful, bedazzled teens, will feature more than one tense, amorous triangle in its upcoming sophomore season.
A trailer for season two teased one of these triangles — one between Zendaya’s relapsed Rue, Hunter Schafer’s kawaii-cool Jules and newcomer Dominic Fike’s pretty, face-tatted boy Elliot. Immediately, many fans were up in arms, infuriated by the possibility that the writer’s room (made up of Levinson and Levinson alone) could have brought in this character to rattle things between the already star-crossed “Rules.”
They’re not alone. In the lead-up to season two’s debut on Sunday, Zendaya, Schafer and Fike sat down with Variety this week, and talked about the new relationship dynamics among characters and castmates.
“There were a lot of conversations over the years about where the show was going to go and what it was going to evolve into, and I remember when Sam first kind of talked about the idea of this Elliot character, I wasn’t feeling it — as someone who ships ‘Rules’ to the bitter end,” Zendaya said. “And I was like, ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa, what are we doing here?' But, in retrospect, and also as someone who understands where the show needs to go and what needs to happen for these characters, it’s crucial that Elliot exist and that he be the person that is honestly the catalyst for a lot of things that just have to happen.”
Zendaya went on to say she believed it was worth it to have Elliot come in and shake up the plot, and that Fike, primarily known for his music, is a fantastic addition to the cast.
“I think I was in a similar boat to Z when I first heard about this ‘Elliot boy,’” Schafer said. “But, you know, as we saw more of what it brought into the story and the script, it became a more interesting and exciting prospect, and once Dom came on board, he made it a lot of fun.”
Zendaya and Schafer both said that the pair, as well as the entire cast and crew, had a lot of time to think about the fate of their characters in the two years between seasons one and two — given the long delay caused by Covid-19.
“We were just in our heads and kind of worried about having to chase the idea of what ‘Euphoria’ was to so many people, and the pressure and fear that kind of came with that,” said Zendaya, who in September 2020 won an Emmy for her portrayal of Rue. “I think taking a step back allowed us to get back inside of ‘Euphoria’ in a different way and allowed it to grow on its own.”
One way that growth was facilitated was through the two special episodes created during the pandemic, which helped both Zendaya and Schafer navigate new territory for their characters and be more creatively liberated — Schafer co-wrote one of the specials, which focused on Jules.
“We were kind of given the space to experiment with what is known to be ‘quintessential Euphoria,’ and the episodes were made in quarantine which meant they had to be downsized and more specific, which gave us experimental freedom,” Zendaya said.
“Before we took on the very serious ambition of season two, the specials were an amazing testament to giving things a shot that you don’t know will work out, especially if they don’t follow the formula that season one followed that ultimately made it a hit show,” Schafer said.
The model, actor and LGBTQ activist regards her co-written episode as one fo the “most insane artistic experiences” of her life, and found that it yielded “cool aspects” to the production process and narrative journey of “Euphoria.” Zendaya gushed about her co-star, pointing out how “blown away” she was as a spectator of Schafer’s performance and what she brought to the nuance of that special episode, entitled “F--- Anyone Who’s Not a Sea Blob.”
Variety asked Fike what it felt like to be the guy that gets in-between “Rules,” to which he answered: “I can’t wait to see where people go with that and for all the hate messages I’ll get on my Instagram … and going into hiding. I can’t wait.”