'Euphoria': Zendaya On Her Tour De Force In 'Painful' Episode 5 And Testing People's Empathy In Season 2
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Interviews , Television

'Euphoria': Zendaya On Her Tour De Force In 'Painful' Episode 5 And Testing People's Empathy In Season 2

Editor's note: Spoiler alert for Season 2, Episode 5 of 'Euphoria'

Episode 4, the halfway point of Euphoria season 2, is both an important crossroads and a turning point for the season as its overall narrative comes into clearer focus.

Episode 5 furthers this point and serves as a full-on Zendaya acting showcase that is sure to catapult her into top contention for the Best Actress Emmy that she won last year.

This week's episode was partly set-up by a scene in the previous episode where Rue, after doing drugs, has a hallucination which is a combination of her hugging her father and being in a church where she embraces a pastor, played by the show's music head, Labrinth.

In a midseason interview with Shadow and Act, Zendaya broke down that episode 4 moment and what happens in episode 5. She also teased what's to come as the season continues to progress.

"It's interesting because we always had it written, but it wasn't fully fleshed out and we didn't have a peculiar song for it," she said of the church scene. "I think we were originally going to sing a song that already existed. It's funny because we were actually shooting that kind of later on in the season for episode 4, and in between takes, Sam or myself would go over to where Lab was, and we'd just go in there and just start working, coming up with stuff and writing together. And I love writing with Lab. I've been able to do it before and especially in the context of Euphoria. And just kind of understanding me where Rue is going and where she's at."

She also thinks that Rue is exhausted, contributing to these images of her just being tired of it all.

"It's the idea of Rue being tired of being who she is and you can look at it from like a more melancholy and kind of deep sadness, but there's also this idea of [an] 'I don't want to be who I am anymore' feeling and this idea of rebirthing and becoming someone else or stepping into a new phase of your life, which I really have hope for Rue in that sense," she explained.

For her performance in this episode, the actress says she was able to connect with people who have lost loved ones or are dealing with sobriety in their own way.

"There's a certain volatility that Rue has and an unpredictability in her pain because she's also going through withdrawal at the same time," she explained. "So that adds a whole 'nother element of not only physical pain, but fear of the physical pain that she knows she's going to come in contact with. [It's also] just a complete unraveling of the mind, of the body, of the spirit, everything. All the pain is coming to a head. And I think that's really the root of all of it, is a deep pain and a deep sadness about who she is and who she's become. She's kind of lost control of herself and her life and you can kind of see it in her. She'll have moments of regret and then immediately moments of violence [and] anger...and then moments of sadness. It's just kind of all over the place, which I think is deeply true to someone who might be experiencing so much of that at once. And it's important to remember that she's in the midst of dealing with addiction."

The star also pointed out a lot of the underlying things that the character has going on outside of her addiction.

"She's in also in the midst of dealing with a lot of emotional disorders and there's so much that she hasn't dealt with or doesn't even have the tools to deal with. So I think for us, it was really important not to shy away from the ugliness of the situation, specifically how addiction can be painful for the people around. Especially when you are just trying to do the right thing, but you don't know what the right thing looks like. I think you see that in Jules and Elliot, you see that in her mother just trying to do the best she can. I mean, it's like...how far can you push? How much can you say? How much can you do?"

There are particularly emotional scenes in episode 5 that are shared by Rue with her mother Leslie (Nika King) and sister Gia (Storm Reid). For Zendaya, it was crucial to show the impact that situations like these have on family members.

"I have such a tremendous amount of empathy for any parent who might be dealing with that, because it's not in any way an easy thing to know how to even deal with," she said. "I think any parent can if your child hurts, you feel it 10 times more. I know my mom, if I sneeze, [she] has a heart attack [laughs]. This episode is painful. When we were doing it, it was painful for all of us. I'm really grateful for [a] situation where I work with actresses and actors and our incredible crew of people that are so awesome and so lovely and so supportive because it's really not an easy situation to put yourself through. And everybody was so kind during that process and kind of went through it with me."

Episode 5 is a crucial moment in the season, but she explained that it was needed to have this happen halfway through the eight episodes and to show how the character goes from there.

"[We were like] OK, we can't leave her here. How did she come back from that?' And I think testing people's kind of empathy for that is important because if they can love her through it, they can still root for her and see her as someone who is just dealing with what she's dealing with, but has a lot of pain and has a lot of trauma. If they can do that for her, they can do that for someone in real life. That's my hope...that people stick around for her and support her and still have love for her regardless of how dark it gets."

The episode is also another stepping stone in the evolution of her dynamic of her relationship with Jules, her relationship with Elliott and this emerging co-dependent relationship she shares with them both.

"I think they're all getting some things from each other that they don't have on their own," she said of the trio. "Rue's able to have someone that she can do drugs with. Jules is getting the affection from someone that she's not getting from Rue because Rue's too busy doing whatever. There's so many layers to it. Also they're very young."

As for the remainder of the season, Zendaya believes that everything results in a response to the special diner episode and the conversations that Rue and Ali (Colman Domingo) had that night.

"[She is] trying to make sense and maybe understand what Ali was f*****g saying to her. In that, Ms. Marsha, who I love, who is open with her own personal story with addiction and honestly with her, we just roll the cameras and let her speak. There's something that she said, which ended up being the title of the episode: "Trouble Don't Last Always." She was dropping gems. And she was telling Rue, 'You can't have both, if you want your sobriety, then you can't be looking for a relationship at the same time. Because you can't do it for someone else. You have to do it for yourself.' And Rue is not trying to hear it then. So my hope is maybe that by the end of this, she'll learn a lesson. And I think that there's a deep love there, obviously, that she's shared with Jules, but whether or not it's healthy or whether or not it's the right time is a completely different thing that Rue's going to have to figure out."

Euphoria airs Sunday nights at 9 p.m. on HBO and streams on HBO Max at the same time.

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