Zendaya Cites ‘Euphoria’ Colorblind Casting: ‘It’s Not a Lack of Talent But a Lack of Opportunity’

Though she’s still in her early 20s, Zendaya has already made a name for herself as an actor to be watched. From her background on the Disney Channel to her role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, she’s gained a lot of fans. But here’s why her starring turn in the teen drama Euphoria is unique.

Zendaya stars as Rue in ‘Euphoria’

Zendaya attends the Los Angeles premiere of the HBO series 'Euphoria' at the Cinerama Dome Theatre in Hollywood on June 4, 2019.
Zendaya attends the Los Angeles premiere of the HBO series ‘Euphoria’ at the Cinerama Dome Theatre in Hollywood on June 4, 2019. | Chris Delmas/AFP via Getty Images

In the series, Zendaya portrays Rue Bennett, a teenager who is in recovery. The HBO drama, which also stars Maude Apatow, Eric Dane (Grey’s Anatomy), and Storm Reid (A Wrinkle in Time), aired its first season in 2019. The series has been reviewed for a second season.

The actor calls herself her “biggest critic,” tell The Hollywood Reporter that she “wanted to prove” herself with the role. “When Euphoria came along, I was very grateful because all those fears melted away and I felt like it was something that I had to be a part of. So, the fear became just, like, push yourself.”

She came from the Disney Channel 

Zendaya faced a transition that many young stars before her have dealt with. She got her start with the Disney Channel series Shake It Up and K.C. Undercover. From there, she entered the world of superheroes as M.J. in the Sony-Marvel Spider-Man franchise and starred in the movie The Greatest Showman alongside fellow ex-Disney star Zac Efron.

So the role in Euphoria brought levels of pressure for Zendaya. “Being a young Disney actor, that’s one level, being a young Black woman is one level, and then being very hard on myself is another level,” she explained. However, she’s feeling “excited” about season 2, saying, “the motivation is to work harder and become a better actress.”

How did Zendaya get the role in Euphoria?

When an actor goes out for a role, there are often specific attributes they’re meant to have. But this isn’t always the case. Zendaya explains the colorblind casting of her character, saying, “Our creator [Sam Levinson] wrote Rue based off his own experiences with addiction and he is a white man, so Rue could have been that. Rue had no description.”

Zendaya plans to build upon this to help others in the future. She said she wants to “create things and make space for women who look like me and women who don’t look like me. That’s the ultimate goal, to make room, [because] for a lot of Black creatives, it’s not a lack of talent but a lack of opportunity.”

Janelle Monáe was also cast this way


Zendaya Reveals How She Made the Leap From Disney to ‘Euphoria’

The other Black woman in the roundtable interview was Janelle Monáe, who called Zendaya “brilliant” in Euphoria. Of her role in the second season of the Prime Video show, Homecoming, she said, This was the first script where it didn’t specify “urban” or “Black.”

Monáe continued, saying, “I’m obviously very proud of who I am and where I come from, [but] there was just an amount of freedom that I felt like I had in that. I didn’t have to live up to some stereotype of what you think [she] represents or what Black people can be.”