It’s been solely 16 months since Zendaya took her ultimate bow on the Disney Channel, however her new HBO collection, “Euphoria,” makes one factor clear: The parent-approved portion of her TV profession is already historical historical past.
In the collection, debuting Sunday, Zendaya stars as Rue, a highschool junior dedicated to numbing herself with vodka and no matter medicine she will be able to get her fingers on, after a failed stint in rehab. Between bouts of unconsciousness, she narrates a darkish, graphically-depicted world in which the native sellers have barely hit puberty, fentanyl is rampant and her classmates’ intercourse shouldn’t be solely informal, however often documented. “It’s 2019: Nudes are the currency of love,” Rue explains in the primary episode.
Based on the Israeli collection of the identical title and govt produced by Drake, “Euphoria” is a uncommon foray into teen drama for HBO. The creator and showrunner Sam Levinson (son of the filmmaker Barry) drew on his personal troubled adolescence to inform the story, which channels earlier uncooked teen tales like “Kids” and “Skins” whereas tackling modern realities like active-shooter drills and revenge porn.
“It’s a scary jump,” Zendaya mentioned of the present. “But I think it was time for me to do this.”
She is assured the “Euphoria” viewers is unlikely to overlap with Disney’s goal demographic. “I don’t think any of my 8-year-old fans know” that this present exists, she mentioned, smiling. “If they do, I don’t think their parents will let them watch it.”
Born in Oakland to schoolteacher dad and mom, Zendaya (final title Coleman) landed her first Disney gig in 2010 at age 13. When she wasn’t enjoying an aspiring dancer on “Shake It Up,” and later a spy in “K.C. Undercover,” she was busy constructing a slim however thrilling résumé.
In “Spider-Man: Homecoming” (2017), her deceptively small half as Peter Parker’s sarcastic classmate Michelle led to a third-act twist that unmasked her because the franchise’s notorious love curiosity, MJ. Zendaya reignites the chemistry along with her superhero co-star Tom Holland in the forthcoming sequel “Spider-Man: Far From Home.” She additionally delivered a nimble, exuberant efficiency as a trapeze artist in the movie-musical “The Greatest Showman” (2017).
By mid-2018, after wrapping her eight-year run on the Disney Channel with the “K.C. Undercover” finale, Zendaya discovered herself frightened about her subsequent challenge for the primary time in nearly a decade. Then she learn the pilot script for “Euphoria.”
“I knew if I wasn’t a part of this show, I’d be miserable,” she mentioned.
At the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills, Zendaya, 22, collapsed on a sofa. The fashionable actress had spent a protracted day in maroon velvet stilettos, however she was nonetheless keen to discuss why she wished this function so badly and whether or not she would find a way to break Rue’s extra vulgar habits in time for the “Spider-Man” press tour.
These are edited excerpts from the dialog.
Did “Euphoria” enchantment to you as a result of it was such a break from Disney?
There was no strategic plan. After capturing “The Greatest Showman” and “Spider-Man,” I went again to my Disney present, which is sort of like going to faculty after which having to return and do the identical grade time and again. Not that I didn’t recognize having a job. But it’s such as you flip a swap on and do it, and then you definitely get turned off and go house. I wished extra. Upon speaking to Sam and discovering out that Rue is de facto an incarnation of him and his battles with dependancy and despair and a large number of different issues that everybody offers with, it made sense why I related along with her.
You don’t do medicine. What do you might have in frequent with Rue?
I really feel like she’s a model of myself with totally different selections and circumstances. Rue is an efficient particular person, she simply doesn’t understand it. She’s in ache. There’s one thing harmless and redeeming about her that reminds you that she’s a human first and an addict second.
Is the intent of the present to be intentionally provocative?
I don’t discover it that stunning, to be trustworthy. People will. I sort of accepted the truth that it could be polarizing. I discovered a bit calm in that. Whether individuals prefer it or not, it’s actual. I’m telling any individual’s story. Just as a result of it’s not taking place to you doesn’t imply it’s not taking place on a regular basis, each day. It’s arduous for me to converse on dependancy as a result of it’s not one thing I’ve handled instantly. But I nonetheless had associates who have been coping with issues, and I had to assist them by means of it.
Were you nervous to step into a job this darkish and infrequently graphic?
I used to be actually nervous as a result of I wished to do properly. It’s like going from nothing to all the pieces — there have been no steps in between. That’s why individuals suppose it’s such a stretch for me to play this character. There’s lots of people who most likely suppose I can’t do it as a result of they don’t actually perceive my character. And I get it: I’m a Disney child. There’s rather a lot to show.
Sam informed me I used to be on a temper board he made for Rue, and I didn’t imagine him as a result of I felt like there’s no means he’s seen something that I’ve executed. He took a threat on me, however he doesn’t see it that means. He would at all times say, “Yo, Z, I’m not worried about you.” I recognize that.
How did you come to belief Sam to deal with your onscreen relationship with Hunter Schafer, who performs Jules, one of many first main transgender characters to seem in a highschool drama?
Anybody who meets or talks to Sam feels a way of consolation round him. He’s a really open ebook. I’m glad that he wrote himself as me as a result of he may’ve written it as a white dude, after which I might by no means have the chance to play a personality like this. He directs many of the episodes, but when he’s not directing, we’ve got all feminine administrators, which is nice. He’s additionally very collaborative and allowed us to fuse our experiences and our emotions into the character. Sam and Hunter have had lengthy, in-depth conversations about life. And Hunter is an angel of a human. She’s good. It’s not arduous to be in love along with her onscreen.
Your film profession obtained off to a formidable begin with “Spider-Man: Homecoming.” Even although your half was small, do you know from the beginning that your character was MJ?
Yeah, I talked to the director [Jon Watts] prior to auditioning, and he mentioned she will get larger because the factor goes on. I used to be like: “Dope. I’m here for the long game.” I didn’t know she was going to be the sarcastic introvert. She’s a really guarded particular person and she or he doesn’t let lots of people in. In the primary film, we simply noticed her shell. We sort of discover the softer sides of her in this upcoming one. Now she has to be extra weak as a result of she likes Peter.
You pushed again towards the Disney Channel’s authentic plan for “K.C. Undercover” — you wished to be a producer, you wished the title modified from “Super Awesome Katy,” you wished to characteristic a household of colour. Did you’re feeling Disney wanted to develop extra numerous feminine characters?
Yeah, 1,000 %. It was very vital. It was both they did it, or I didn’t do it. It’s understanding your price. If you’re in a spot the place you’ll be able to transfer the needle, then do it. I’ve been in a position to assist present the younger Disney children different paths to go. So hopefully it makes it a bit simpler to make that kid-to-grown-up transition that everyone places all this emphasis on.
Have you already seen a change in the forms of roles you’re being supplied?
I nonetheless get the corny stuff. It’s cool. I really feel like I can do [“Euphoria”] and nonetheless have one other world outdoors of it the place I can do household films and enjoyable issues like that. I’m attempting to break the behavior of utilizing the F-word now as a result of I take advantage of it a lot as Rue, and in life. I’m about to go on tour for “Spider-Man.” It’s a beautiful household film. I can’t be dropping F-bombs.