Zendaya on her ‘Euphoria’ character, Rue: ‘I have such a love and protective feeling over who she is’

EXCLUSIVE: The star of the acclaimed HBO series "Euphoria" sat down with theGrio and teased an intense episode 5 that "pushes Rue to the limits."

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Euphoria is well into its second season and the acclaimed drama series is deeper, bolder and darker than ever before. Led by Zendaya, the series has a massive fan base that tunes in every week to follow Rue’s story, her battle with addiction, and her friends as they navigate young adulthood.

TheGrio’s Jared Alexander sat down with Zendaya and broke down the show, all of those wild fan theories and what’s to come for the story that viewers can’t help but love.

UK Special Screening of "Dune"
Zendaya attends the UK Special Screening of “Dune” at Odeon Luxe Leicester Square on October 18, 2021, in London, England. (Photo by Jeff Spicer/Jeff Spicer/Getty Images for Warner Bros )

While it’s been three years since the premiere of Euphoria, the second season only recently premiered due to delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. For the actors, it has made the process even more unique, as they’ve had to sit with their characters for an unusual length of time.

“It’s a tough thing to separate from because you are in it for so long,” Zendaya told theGrio. “We were supposed to do it a couple of years ago, so you’re in it in that way. And it’s a long shoot, it’s like nine months of being with Rue and going through so much with her. I have such a love and protective feeling over who she is, and what she represents to, I think, a lot of people.”

“Now it’s time to give her away and kind of let the world have her,” she added. This season, like the first, has been filled with wild twists and turns, specifically when it comes to Rue’s journey through drug addiction. While Rue was sober throughout most of the first season, season two has followed her post-relapse. Zendaya said her character is being pushed “to the brink” this season.

HBO Euphoria Screening - New York
Writer/director Sam Levinson, actress/singer Zendaya and moderator Elaine Welteroth (L-R) speak onstage at the New York screening of HBO’s “Euphoria” on June 14, 2019, in New York City. (Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images for HBO)

Fans and social media users have spent the last few years creating TikToks and memes about the show. One theory gaining steam online is that Rue is actually dead in the series, which would certainly be a shocking twist. When asked if she checks in with the fan chatter or keeps herself separate, Zendaya said, “I definitely check in because people are so clever. Especially with some of these memes they kill me, I’m like, ‘How do ya’ll even come up with this?'”

“This season, we’re pushing Rue to the limits,” Zendaya added. “That was always intentional. We started the season off giving her everything she said she wanted or she thought she wanted, but we all know that’s going to come to a very painful end. We just don’t know when or what’s going to happen in the damage and fallout of that.”

Teasing an intense episode 5, Zendaya said: “I really care about her massively. There are so many people that have shared their stories that feel so deeply connected to Rue … that to me is the most beautiful thing. People being able to feel seen by her or maybe just feel a little bit less alone in what they are feeling or have gone through. That’s really, really important to me.”

“We wanted to test people’s empathy for her,” she added. “Hopefully they can hold onto that, especially through this next episode and see how much pain she’s in. There’s a humanity that we don’t give to people who suffer from addiction, and that’s my number one goal: To look at Rue first that way. To try to somehow after this, have people still love her, care for her and still root for her.”

Euphoria airs Sunday nights on HBO and HBO Max.

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