Levinson infused his own history of dealing with drug addiction and anxiety into the eight-episode series. In the drama, HBO’s first major teen-centered show, Zendaya plays Rue, a 17-year-old addict fresh out of rehab. She befriends a new trans girl at her school, Jules (Hunter Schafer), and the two quickly develop an inseparable bond as the navigate the pressures of modern teen life.
“I just feel like there is such a disconnect between what young people are going through and what everyone else thinks they’re going through,” Levinson told The Hollywood Reporter of his inspiration for the series. “We didn’t want to pull any punches. We didn’t want to make it feel like we were holding anything back or that we are hiding anything.”
HBO says Euphoria is the youngest-skewing drama on its digital platforms and that the show is averaging 5.5 million viewers per episode, including linear replays, delayed viewing and streaming. That’s nearly 10 times the 563,000 viewers for initial airings.
THR‘s chief television critic Tim Goodman called the series “trigger for parents — but excellent,” noting that it feels “absolutely, graphically, unflinchingly real and earned.” In addition to Zendaya and Schafer, the show also stars Eric Dane, Algee Smith, Sydney Sweeney, Alexa Demie, Jacob Elordi, Barbie Ferreira, Nika King, Storm Reid and Maude Apatow.
Euphoria‘s second season will help bolster HBO’s scripted originals slate under new corporate parent WarnerMedia. Other dramas on the company’s roster include Westworld, Lovecraft Country, Mrs. Fletcher, The Nevers, Contraband and Watchmen, which will debut this fall.