Zendaya talks her captivating role in HBO’s hit show Euphoria, pushing representation and getting more in tune with her softer side in a new interview with Deadline.
Zendaya has been putting in work since her days on Disney. From Shake It Up, Frenemies,” Zapped, and K.C. Undercover, she says she was always been a fan of Disney even before being one of its stars. “I was a huge fan of That’s So Raven as a kid,” Zendaya says, saying that was the first time she felt seen on television. “I don’t know—maybe I was destined to be on Disney Channel. But I did love me some Disney Channel!”
Today, Zendaya has been given her first Emmy nomination for her role as “Rue” in “Euphoria.” The actress, 23, said when she first learned that the show’s creator, Sam Levinson, wanted her on the show, the news was overwhelming. “I was like, ‘This is just too much for me to mostly handle right now… I need to go back to sleep.’ So, I did,” the young star said. She added that even weeks later, she was still trying to process emotions. “It’s like one of those out-of-body things, where it’s like, is this even really happening to me?” she said. “It still feels very, very surreal. I don’t know if it will feel like it’s real life. ‘This isn’t happening to me. This is happening to somebody else.’”⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Euphoria is a heavy series filled with storylines that highlight drug abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, among other things, and it’s all told from the perspectives of modern-day teens. Some of the content is loosely based on some of Levinson’s personal experiences; Zendaya says she feels honored to be trusted with telling that narrative. “I’ve learned so much from playing Rue. I feel very honored to be able to be her because of how personal the story is for Sam. Him trusting me with that really means a lot to me. I care a lot about Rue. She’s important to me.”
The actress says that in playing Rue, she has learned to be more open with expressing her own emotions. “Playing her as a character has opened me up in a lot of different ways and exposed a lot of things and emotions,” she says. “A role like that requires you to be a lot more open and a lot rawer with your emotions. If you aren’t, it won’t work.” She added that she’s more in touch with her softer side. “I guess I have softened a little bit. I’m more emotionally connected. I’ve learned more about people, empathy, and understanding by playing her,” said Zendaya.
Zendaya also mentioned that she is overjoyed with how much representation takes place on the show. The star recalled a time when a Trans girl expressed how grateful she was of the show. Zendaya says she immediately connected her with her co-star #HunterSchafer. “For her, that meant everything,” Zendaya said. “I felt so honored to be able to facilitate them being able to have a conversation together and her being able to meet Hunter, even over the phone, it was very special, and that meant a lot to me. I just got to be a piece of it.”
She continued: “I think that that’s what’s good about “Euphoria” is it makes other people feel less alone in their experiences,” she says. “It makes them know that they’re not the only person dealing with what they’re dealing with. For example, Episode 7 is a manic-depressive episode. That’s what she’s dealing with. And really understanding that from Sam’s perspective was beautiful.”