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Zendaya may have won the Emmy for her portrayal of Rue Bennett on HBO’s hit series, Euphoria, but her path to success wasn’t always a walk in the park. Because portraying the 17-year-old drug addict is so gritty and emotionally taxing, Zendaya sometimes struggled to get where she needed to be for the challenging role. But what caused this emotional block and how was Zendaya able to overcome her difficulties?

Euphoria star Zendaya
Zendaya | Steven Ferdman/Getty Images

Though Zendaya was a working actor for years before landing Euphoria, portraying Rue was certainly one of her most challenging roles up until that point. The role required a level of vulnerability that Zendaya’s previous Disney roles did not. In an interview with GQ, Sam Levinson, who is the creator and showrunner for Euphoria, revealed that Zendaya’s stint in the Disney machine made it challenging for her to be emotionally vulnerable at first.

Zendaya struggled with emotional vulnerability when she started filming ‘Euphoria’

“If I’m gonna be 100 percent honest when we first started working together on Euphoria, the thing she struggled the most with was giving herself permission to be emotionally vulnerable in a scene,” Levinson shared about Zendaya. “I don’t fault her for that. When you get to the level she’s at in her career, you have to simultaneously have thick skin as an individual while also being emotionally open as an actor. It’s a real mindf*ck, and I don’t envy it.”

Levinson continued on to shared that Zendaya’s perfectionist tendencies caused her to be very hard on herself as well. “She’s very protective, rightfully so,” the writer added. “And if she doesn’t nail something or feel it on take one, she has a tendency to get very self-critical, which only further inhibits the release of emotion. So throughout the first year of Euphoria, we spent a lot of time trying to break down those barriers.”

The Emmy winner has a process for nailing an emotional scene

Zendaya may have struggled initially but, like a real pro, she kept at it until she nailed the emotional intensity that the scenes required. Furthermore, she and Levinson developed a process to get her out of her head and into the emotion of the scene. The process is a simple one, but highly effective and just involves the pair sitting together and talking.


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“He sits with me, and we just talk,” Zendaya shared about Levinson. “Everybody knows the process, everybody’s just quiet, and everybody’s so supportive, which I appreciate. Because I feel like sh*t, just making people wait on me to get emotional.”

Zendaya’s struggles only endear us to her more

While we’re sure it was challenging for Zendaya to feel as if she wasn’t nailing the emotionality that a scene required on the first pass, her struggle also feels very relatable. With her considerable talents, it’s far too easy to presume that everything about acting simply comes naturally to her. Knowing that she too has her struggles likely makes other actors give themselves a bit more grace also. Furthermore, the extra time that Zendaya took to get where she needed to be emotionally for Rue was well worth it. Fans only need to watch Euphoria to see that she more than delivered what the role required.