Zendaya Had This Brilliant Idea for Her Character on ‘Euphoria’

Euphoria may have wrapped for the season weeks ago, but that hasn’t stopped fans from obsessing over the spectacular show and demanding the second season. The new HBO drama, headlined by the talented 23-year-old Zendaya, has quickly garnered a cult following for itself. With intricate storylines that intermingle in both subtle and abrupt ways, it’s truly one of the must-watch shows of 2019. At the center of all the chaos is Zendaya’s Rue, a 17-year-old drug addict. Warning: Spoilers for season one of Euphoria ahead.

Zendaya, star of Euphoria, attends HBO's post Emmy Award Reception
Zendaya | Photo by Phillip Faraone/WireImage

A quick recap

When we first meet Rue, in Euphoria‘s series premiere, she is fresh from rehab with no intention of staying clean. In fact, she goes on a quest for drugs almost immediately after arriving home. “You think ’cause I went to rehab I stayed clean,” Rue flippantly tosses out to her drug dealer before leaving with tons of different drugs. As this particular moment comes early on in the season, viewers are still unclear as to how Rue’s addiction truly came to pass. However, as more episodes unravel, we began to understand both her character and her addiction more.

Though Zendaya’s Rue narrates the series, we actually learn the most about her past, and her drug addiction, through a series of flashbacks. “All of those flashback scenes were written pretty loosely. I wanted for a certain amount of life to seep into all of those memories — it would make it feel more real, emotionally,” Sam Levinson, Euphoria‘s creator and writer shared in an interview with HBO. Levinson certainly achieved his goal with these flashbacks. For Rue’s character, they allow us to witness some of her most painful moments.

Flashbacks help viewers to better understand the characters

One of the most heartbreaking flashbacks in the first season of Euphoria is Rue taking care of her terminally ill father. It was this particular burden that eventually pushed her into taking drugs recreationally to cope with the grief surrounding her father as well as her own struggles with mental illness. In the final flashback of Rue and her father, we see Rue claiming his sweatshirt as her own after he passes away.

View this post on Instagram

you have to make a choice

A post shared by euphoria (@euphoria) on

Up until this point, the audience was left either confused by or oblivious to the fact that Rue was nearly always wearing this signature maroon hoodie. However, once you know the story behind the sweatshirt, it’s hard to miss Zendaya’s brilliant prop-work. Rue often fiddles with the sweatshirt when she’s uncomfortable and even uses it as a mechanism to hide or retreat into herself.

Giving meaning to the sweatshirt

Funnily enough, the idea of Rue wearing her father’s sweatshirt was not written into Euphoria‘s script, but rather something that Zendaya dreamed up all by herself. “Heidi [Bivens, who is the show’s costume designer] loves to come up with backstories for as much of the clothing as she can. Zendaya [ Rue] had this idea. What if the sweatshirt she always wears used to be her father’s,” Levinson confessed.

Levinson helped bring Zendaya’s idea to life

Once the idea was thrown out, Levinson thought long and hard about how to best execute it. “That was a seed we planted early on. In the pilot, you see her father in the hospital wearing the sweatshirt. As time went on, it was always in the back of my head. When we got to the moment on set when Rue watches her father’s body being taken out on the stretcher, it just felt right. What if his sweatshirt is there on the bed? That’s the emotional ending to her journey throughout the first season,” the Euphoria creator shared. We love how the people working on the show use clothing to share a narrative. We can’t wait to see what’s next from the talented cast and crew.