Zendaya Almost Didn't Play Rue on Euphoria

Zendaya is such a natural as Rue on HBO's Euphoria that it seems unfathomable it almost never happened. Find out who nearly got the coveted role instead.

By Daniel Trainor Aug 08, 2022 10:42 PMTags
Watch: 18 EPIC Zendaya Pics at HBO's "Euphoria" Premiere

It's nearly impossible to think of anybody other than Zendaya as Rue on Euphoria—but it came awfully close to happening.

When it came time to cast the intense HBO drama, the network nearly went in a drastically different direction.

"There was a young woman who had been street scouted by my team," casting director Jennifer Venditti told Variety Aug. 8, "who was a magical person and had a similar trajectory as Rue and had come around to the other side."

For non-Euphoria viewers, Rue is a recovering drug addict on the show.

"With a TV show, it can be many years [of work]," Venditti explained. "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."

After Venditti and Euphoria creator Sam Levinson determined the unknown actress wasn't quite ready, they found their girl.

"It's so interesting. A polar opposite," Venditti said. "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." 

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Zendaya recently opened up about the process of creating Rue, despite not having the same real-life struggles. 

"Rue has become an amalgamation of my experiences, [Euphoria creator Sam Levinson's] experiences and our collective pain—and seeing through the eyes of an addict," she explained to Variety in June. "I think the approach was to try it as human as possible without ever shying away from the devastation and the ugliness of what that can create."

When it came time to cast the role of Jules, played by Hunter Schafer, the casting department ran into a different problem. 

"I reached out to her agent and they originally passed. [The actor] had to be open to any kind of sexual situations," Venditti said. "So imagine that you were not really thinking of acting, and someone brings an opportunity with possible nudity."

Euphoria represented Schafer's acting debut after making a name for herself in the modeling industry.


Despite the hesitancy, Venditti persisted.

"I was like, ‘Can we just meet?' Obviously, I'd respect her decision if that was something that, ultimately, she wasn't comfortable with," she continued. "But I didn't feel comfortable just not having a discussion about it to see what her thoughts were and to explain what it was."

Given the show's Emmy nomination for Outstanding Drama Series in July, we'd say things worked out just fine.

The first two seasons of Euphoria are available to stream on HBO Max.

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