“Euphoria’s” Decision To Cast Zendaya As Rue Instead Of An Unknown Woman They Street-Scouted Has Sparked A Serious Debate

In 2020, then 24-year-old Zendaya became the youngest person to win an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series category after wowing critics and fans alike with her performance as Rue on the HBO drama Euphoria would have.
And last month, the actress told Vanity Fair that she was "overwhelmed" to be nominated for four more Emmys after the show's second season, which premiered earlier this year.
So there's no doubt that Zendaya has proven herself in the grueling role, starring Rue, a 17-year-old girl struggling with drug addiction following the death of her father.
The star has poured her heart and soul into her performances for the TV series and previously said the filming left her with physical scars and bruises, in addition to the mental toll the difficult scenes took on filming.
And while it may be impossible for fans of Euphoria to imagine anyone other than Rue, the show's casting director Jennifer Venditti recently revealed that the role nearly went to an actor her team first spots on the street would have.
In an interview with Variety published Monday, Venditti said the unidentified woman recovered from drug addiction on her own, giving her "a similar trajectory [to] Rue."
However, she and showrunner Sam Levinson had concerns that the project would prove too difficult for the actor and that she would not be able to film the show.
"There was a young woman who had been tracked down the street by my team who was a magical person and had a trajectory similar to Rue's and had come to the other side," Venditti told the publication in reference to Rue's struggles with the drug addiction.
"But on a TV show, it can be many years [of work]. We all loved her, but going through the rigors of the process, we didn't know if she would handle the stamina," Venditti continued.
Venditti put the actress in touch with a coach to see if they could help her process the "emotional weight" of the project, but she and Levinson decided she ultimately wasn't ready.
"It's so interesting. A polar opposite. Because here is 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," she concluded.
The anecdote has divided people online, with some criticizing Venditti and Levinson for casting an already established star rather than helping another young actor get his big break.
"What a weird thing to talk about," one person tweeted in response to the article. "I find it odd to say, 'We scouted a young actor on the street who had overcome addiction and was perfect for the role, but then we put him in Zendaya instead' in it."
Another agreed: "When I thought about how this could have been a life changing role for the actor and would probably have helped things a lot financially, the creative team settled on a celebrity who was already finding success. I don't hate Zendaya or her performance, but it's just weird."
Another reiterated: "So a first-time actor with experiences similar to the character whose career could have been made on the show was given to someone who is already extremely wealthy and privileged and has a career already made? Zendaya has done amazing things, but that's just weird to me."
"This is such an odd story to tell when you haven't actually dated the unknown actor," wrote another. "Instead, you just brag about leaving a recovered addict in the dark and condescendingly say, 'Amazingly, unlike Zendaya, she couldn't handle it!'"
However, the discourse has sparked a backlash, with others arguing that putting an amateur actor in a potentially triggering situation would have been exploitative.
"I don't think that's a bad look," one person wrote on a Reddit forum. "It just sounds like they tried to have a path with who would play Rue, but ultimately found that Zendaya was better prepared to handle the emotional complexity of the character."
"And based on the material the show handles, casting someone very much like Rue could have been really destructive for an aspiring actress. Rue needed to be played by someone with more training," they added.
"Yes, I imagine that having to encourage drug use for their job would be very triggering for anyone who has ever dealt with addiction," agreed a second user. "It sounds like both the girl and the production team came to the conclusion that even if the drugs and alcohol were fake, it wouldn't be good for her to be in this environment."
Another person wrote: "100%. In what world was "she had an amazing talent but in the end we were worried it would hurt her mentally so we had to look after her sanity and say no" a BAD thing? My goodness."
“Honestly, I think it would have been for the best. Street scouting means she wasn't looking for an audition and maybe wasn't even an actor," commented another. "Why make someone relive a possible trauma by basically making them reenact their worst time? It would have been exploitative.”
This is especially true in Season 2 Episode 5 of the series where Rue tried to escape intervention from her friends and family after they found out she had relapsed and was back on drugs.
Zendaya admitted she was worried about filming the dramatic episode as it would affect her both physically and mentally.
"I was scared to do it because I didn't want to see Rue like that or have to go through it. Your body is a person, it doesn't know that what you're doing isn't real," she told Elle Australia. "My brain can say 'ok, I'm just pretending,' but when I do it, my body and my heart don't know it's not real."
"It wasn't always easy," she adds. “I yell in the face of people I care about. It's not fun, so I appreciate the safe environment I had to do this in."
Elsewhere in Venditti's interview, she told Variety that model Hunter Schafer initially turned down the role of Jules.
“I reached out to their agent and they originally passed. [The actor] had to be open to any kind of sexual situation. So imagine you haven't really thought about acting and someone brings up an opportunity with possible nudity," she shared.
"I said, 'Can we just meet up?' Of course, I would respect her decision if she ended up not being comfortable with it. But I didn't feel comfortable with just not having a discussion about it, to see what their thoughts were and to explain what it was," Venditti added.
Venditti also put Schafer in touch with an acting coach, and she ended up getting the part after auditioning for the unknown actor they wanted to cast as Rue.
And while street scouting for the role of Rue didn't quite go to plan, a then 18-year-old Angus Cloud was successful when he was approached by a casting agent as he was walking down the street.
Angus was working as a waiter at an American chicken and waffles restaurant in New York City at the time and was asked to audition for the role of Fezco.
"She gave me her phone number, so I called her, I left, they let me do some auditions and stuff, and then I flew out to film the pilot in LA," the actor told the Face.
He is now a Euphoria fan favorite and has also signed with IMG Models.
More on this
Zendaya has spoken openly about being "terrified to tackle the brutal latest installment of Euphoria because her body and heart "don't know it's not real"Stephanie Soteriou February 10, 2022
A clip of "Euphorias" Angus Cloud, who works as a waiter at a restaurant, has gone viral after admitting he's "uncomfortable" with FameStephanie Soteriou March 7, 2022
Zendaya's controversial 'Euphoria' role almost went to an unknown actor who shared a similar backstory to RueMorgan Murrell August 8, 2022
Rue grimaces while sitting against a wall
Zendaya defended "euphoria" and said the show is "in no way a moral story" after criticism of drug use Larryfitzmaurice February 8, 2022
zendaya
American actress and singer
Sam Levinson
American actor, screenwriter and director

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