The casting director for HBO's teen drug addiction drama Euphoria revealed that a first-time actor was considered for the role that eventually went to Zendaya–who at 24 became the youngest person in 2020 to earn an Emmy Award for her performance in the series.
In an interview with Variety featuring Hollywood casting directors, Jennifer Venditti–who cast the actors in Euphoria–said Zendaya was always the first choice to play the character of Ruby "Rue" Bennett.
Rue, the show's protagonist, is a 17-year-old recovering drug addict struggling to find her place in the world after the death of her father.
Zendaya admitted the emotionally grueling role has left her with "physical scars and bruises" in addition to some of the intense scenes taking an emotional toll on her.
Before Zendaya was officially cast in the role, however, Venditti noted an unknown actress–who actually was a recovering drug addict like the character–was considered for the part.
"There was a young woman who had been street scouted by my team who was a magical person and had a similar trajectory as Rue and had come around to the other side," recalled Venditti.
After setting the inexperienced actress up with a coach to prepare her for the emotional weight of playing the character, Venditti and showrunner Sam Levinson ultimately decided to move forward without hiring her.
“With a TV show, it can be many years [of work]," Venditti continued.
"We all loved her, but when we went through the rigor of the process, we didn’t know if she could handle what it would take in terms of stamina.”
Some people thought the unknown actress should've been given a chance.
Others had their hunches the show's creators had opportunistic intentions.
Some people agreed with the casting decision out of respect for the unknown actress based on her life experiences.
Venditti noted the interesting dichotomy between the two actresses.
“It’s so interesting. A polar opposite."
"Because here’s 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.”
Last month, Zendaya told Vanity Fair she was "overwhelmed" after hearing she received a total of four Emmy nominations this year for her work on Euphoria.
In addition to earning a nomination for lead actress in a drama series–after having won in the same category in 2020 for the same show–the Spider-Man: No Way Home star is also up for an Emmy as executive producer on Euphoria and for producing and writing lyrics for two original songs featured in the popular series.