It's hard to imagine Euphoria without its leading lady and executive producer, Zendaya. She was cast as Rue Bennett, a 17-year-old recovering drug addict who serves as the show's narrator and main character, in 2019. Thanks to her multifaceted performance on the HBO series, Z went on to become the youngest person to win the lead drama actress Emmy in 2020. But, while the internet constantly hails Queen Z for her serious acting chops on Euphoria, she nearly didn't land the role of Rue.
According to a new report by Variety, a first-time actor was almost going to play Rue over Zendaya, although she was "always the first choice for the role." Casting director Jennifer Venditti told the outlet that they had originally scouted a woman on the street — similar to how they cast Angus Cloud as Rue's friend and drug dealer, Fez.
"There was a young woman who had been street scouted by my team who was a magical person and had a similar trajectory as Rue and had come around to the other side," Jennifer said. "But with a TV show, it can be many years [of work]. We all loved her, but when we went through the rigor of the process, we didn't know if she could handle what it would take in terms of stamina."
Jennifer said she connected the woman with an acting coach to help her adjust to the "emotional weight" of the project, but that she and showrunner Sam Levinson didn't feel she was ready to tackle Rue's storyline that was similar to her real life. "It's so interesting. A polar opposite. Because here's Zendaya, who has none of the life experiences of Rue, who was able to dig into her toolbox and access it in such a beautiful way," Jennifer said of their final decision to cast the former Disney Channel star.
The report also revealed that the role of Rue's best friend-turned-lover, Jules, went to Hunter Schafer despite her lack of acting experience. Hunter got her start in the modeling industry, and when she was approached with the opportunity to act on Euphoria, Jennifer says her team initially declined the offer because Jules' actor had to be "open to any kind of sexual situations." Jennifer eventually went on to have multiple discussions with Hunter to respectfully gauge whether she'd be comfortable tackling the role with possible nudity.
After being set up with an acting coach, Hunter landed the role and did her auditions with the first-time actor who was being considered for Rue. "She also did something that I think is so beautiful: when it was time for the other young woman to do a scene that was hers, she showed up for her. She was so present and so natural with these other scenes that weren't hers," Jennifer told Variety. "You find that with good actors, that's what they do for each other."
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