‘We want people to feel less alone’

EuphoriaSecond season opens with a New Year’s party. There’s a heart-to-mouth-full pleasure ride, illegal bathroom sex, a potentially drug-induced cardiac arrest averted with Adderall, a joyful confession of love, and someone being beaten in the pool at midnight.

This is exactly the kind of return fans would expect from this groundbreaking – and headline-making – series.

It sets the tone for a season that somehow manages to get even darker than the first one, which became a cultural phenomenon back in 2019. And although the shock value of its pilot (statutory rape, an overdose, self-harm, sex tape, an erection on the screen) may be a little less immediate, the second time the drugs are harder, the egos more fragile, the violence more brutal and the relationships are on an even sharper knife egg.

As his Emmy-winning lead role is Spider Man and Dune (and former Disney Channel) star Zendaya (25) explains: “It is by no means easy to see. This season has highs and lows. Some things are really fun and funny, more than they have ever been before, but with that comes heartache. “

Zendaya (left) returns as drug addict Rue in season 2 of Euphoria

Zendaya’s character Rue, a 17-year-old drug addict, talks about the Sky Atlantic drama, which is based on creator Sam Levinson’s own experiences. It has been hailed as one of TVs most honest and amazing depictions of teenage life, praised and criticized equally.

With such extreme content that they got involved with Euphoria has been keen to point out that it is not aimed at teenagers themselves. Before the first season premiered, Zendaya posted a trigger warning on social media advising that it was for “mature audiences” rather than a younger fanbase from her Disney days.

Maude Apatow (24), who plays the straight-laced Lexi, however, is adamant that the show’s shock tactics are justified: “I think Sam [Levinson] uses this extreme, heightened darkness to get people talking about these topics. It’s just a very augmented reality. It’s entertaining, but it’s also really scary, and it makes people talk and hopefully have constructive conversations. ”

And in addition to the show’s explicit character, there is some seriously progressive storytelling going on, especially regarding sexual fluidity and the acceptance of queer relationships. Especially the portrayal of Rue’s best friend and love interest, Jules, a young man trans girl, has been praised for being multifaceted and avoiding stereotypes.

Maude Apatow, who plays Lexi, says Euphoria expresses an ‘augmented reality’

Hunter Schafer (23), who plays Jules, says one of her favorite things about the series is the way it allows the characters to express themselves without judging: “Many of these explorations of identity are left unspoken and left more to the eye or to the ear, in a more artistic and less political perspective. Which I think is most applicable to something as fluid and insane as gender and sexuality. “

This is actually evident when speaking to the young cast Euphoria‘s trademark, neon-soaked visuals, glitter-studded make-up and beautifully disorienting camera work are all secondary to the emotional core of the show. And as the long-awaited second series arrives, fans will this time be prepared for its intensity.

Perhaps even more radical than the shock value that was crammed into the full frontal first season two special episodes released in late 2020, a product of the pandemic delay. After establishing itself as a high-octane display, Euphoria stripped it all back for psychological deep dives into Rue and Jules characters.

Euphoria stars Hunter Schafer (left) and Zendaya (right) starring the show’s creator, Sam Levinson (Photo: Jeff Kravitz / Getty / HBO)

Schafer actually co-wrote her episode in which Jules’ gender identity developed, somewhat inspired by the actress’s own experiences of growing up trans. “Making these episodes felt a bit like drawing under a painting, which season two was,” she says. “It was preparation, but without pressure. I think when you do something that is considered ‘good’, you want to make yourself even better, and that can put you off doing exactly that sometimes. I’m glad we had time to sketch. ”

Zendaya’s fame has skyrocketed between seasons: she also felt pressured to exceed expectations. “We were worried and always compared ourselves to the first season and tried to chase it. Just trying too hard. It did not flow.”

Such a worry about getting things right is understandable given the often disturbing topic Euphoria covers and the violent fandom it generated across a wide spectrum.

In the first season, fans rooted for the charismatic, charming Rue as she desperately tried to stay clean after leaving rehab, but the other, after her relapse, pushes her even further as she graduates from taking opioids for heroin and suffers of a shaky abstinence. sober facade crumbles around her. Without a doubt, the portrayal will continue to resonate with people of all ages who have struggled with addiction.

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“So many people have joined Rue and it is one of the most beautiful experiences I have had,” says Zendaya. “People who share their sobriety journeys with me … and how Sam has put into words feelings that they could not articulate on their own. For me, it was important for them to feel a sense of hope for her … I feel a big responsibility to those people because I feel a responsibility to Rue. I want her to be okay. “

No matter how difficult it is to see Rue’s journey, and those of her peers, the cast agrees. Euphoria is true to life. Sydney Sweeney (The white lotus) plays the incurably sexually objectified and easily manipulated Cassie, a character whose desire to be loved for more than just her looks drives her in season two to make some disastrous decisions that betray her loved ones.

Sweeney, 24, says the show’s portrayal of the influence of porn on teenage sex is more than accurate: “I think it’s very realistic. When you grow up, it’s about pleasing someone else and not yourself. You do not learn that, before you grow up. ”

Meanwhile, Apatow recalls, “I remember the first time my family saw it, they were scared. For us, it might not bother us because we were there. We know what to expect.”

Dominic Fike in the second series of Euphoria

Although the cast takes such material in its stride, Apatow’s family (incidentally filmmakers) react Judd Apatow and actress Leslie Mann) was certainly more in line with the panicked reaction of many older viewers who were worried that their children might imitate what is on the screen.

Nika King, who plays Rue’s upset mother, has received such feedback. “I would say I have received several calls from several friends and they have small children, for example six, seven years old and they say ‘is this what I can expect?'” She says. People are scared because they are like, is it really happening? And yes, it does happen. “

Because despite the fact that they are not the target group, the teenagers still watch. Online analysis of second-season trailers has been forensic, and the show is huge on TikTok, though it seems to be style rather than behavior that most people imitate: in the hugely popular #EuphoriaChallenge users create their own intricate eye makeup looks as a tribute to the show.

And instead of alienating parents, Storm Reid, the youngest cast member of 18, believes the show breaks down barriers: “I love it Euphoria bridges the gap between parents and their children. Adults who really realize that these things are going on … it’s about hearing and seeing the younger generations and what we’re going through. “

Saying, however, Reid does not think the show is as shocking as people might think: “I think Gen Z – and I do not want to speak for all of us – but we are well known [in real life] with the things going on in our show. The good, the bad, and the ugly: we know it. “

The actors in Euphoria at the launch of the show’s second series in Los Angeles last week (Photo: Jeff Kravitz / Getty)

Despite all the fuss about the show glamorizing sex, drugs and hedonism – in the US, the Parents Television Council broadcast a warning about its graphic content Almost no sign in Euphoria (despite the title) is doing extremely well. If this is an advertisement to go over to the wrong side of the tracks, it certainly calls for caution.

Angus Cloud, 27, who plays fan favorite Fezco, a drug dealer with a big heart, claims it could even be “pretty educational”.

“It’s clear not all kids will go wild like them in this show,” he says. “But it’s all out there. It’s all real and it’s going to be a concern for every parent, so I think it’s important for them to see it. Older kids too, because they can see it and learn what they shall not [know that] they do not fight alone, for everyone goes through the same battles. “

Euphoria is an exercise in profit. Just like Midsummer Murder offers a disproportionate number of gruesome deaths, Euphoria represents a boiling point for teenage tensions. Not all teens will hide a heroin addiction or be blackmailed over a sex tape, but some of them may be dealing with something similar. And many more of them will juggle feelings of shame, guilt, confusion, depression, low self-esteem and a desire to fit in.

As Zendaya sums up: “This is not a show that in any way tells anyone how to live their lives, but rather a means of storytelling to make someone else feel less alone in their experience.”

‘Euphoria’ is on NOW and Sky Atlantic Monday at 21.00

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