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Culture > Entertainment

Should A Lesser Known Actor Have Played Rue In ‘Euphoria’ Instead Of Zendaya?

Euphoria is a show that still makes headlines, even months after a season ends. So much of Euphoria’s hype comes from not only the crazy storylines but also the phenomenal acting performances in this HBO show. But, have we ever thought about if the show would be different if the casting directors made a different choice? For instance, what if Zendaya never got the role of Rue?

As reported by Variety On August 8, 2022, Euphoria’s casting director (Jennifer Venditti) revealed that the role of Rue almost went to another actor. And while Zendaya was always the production team’s first choice, I can’t help but wonder if the titular role of Rue, the star and narrator of the series, should’ve gone to that lesser-known actor.

Now, there is no denying that Zendaya was a great—perfect, even—choice: she portrays Rue with so much empathy and her voiceovers offer a matter-of-fact tone that is very hard to replicate. However, it does bring up an interesting conversation about Euphoria’s casting process, and the Hollywood casting process in general. 

Euphoria has cast many first-time actors during its first season who gave incredible performances that were praised by critics and fans alike. Models Hunter Schafer and Barbie Ferriera, as well as Angus Cloud (who was approached on the street by the casting director), had all never acted before Euphoria. While each actor is perfect for their part and gives authentic performances, it does raise some eyebrows from other established actors who are equally skilled and talented, but are also working their butts off in the industry as we speak.

But here’s the casting process from a studio’s perspective: big names bring big bucks. Addison Rae, a very controversial TikTok influencer, got the starring role in the He’s All That, the Netflix reimagining of She’s All That. This film did not get great reviews and neither did Rae’s performance, which is ironic because she basically played herself (her character was an influencer who also sang so like, go off). Although she did say repeatedly that he took acting classes as a kid and trained when she got the role, some will always believe that it was her following on social media that got her the role, not her talent. 

Back to Euphoria. This show featured actors that were already getting decent work but wasn’t A-listers quite yet. Jacob Elordi was known for The Kissing Booth films. Sydney Sweeney was recognizable from Everything Sucks and The Handmaid’s Tale. And Maude Apatow was known for her dad Judd Apatow’s films: This Is 40 and King of Staten Island

While these celebrities were already semi-established in the industry, Euphoria propelled all of its stars to huge amounts of fame, and Zendaya into superstardom. A Fans may have come for Zendaya and the cinematography shown in the dreamy trailer, but they no doubt stayed for Demie and Sweeney’s Maddy and Cassie. So, if Sam Levinson, the series creator, did cast an unknown actor as Rue, they no doubt would have as well. 

According to the Variety article, the other actor in consideration for Rue was scouted from the street. While nothing of her name or identity was revealed, Vendetti said that the other actor’s life followed “a similar trajectory as Rue and had come around to the other side,” in terms of drug addiction. While Zendaya has been praised for her realistic portrayal, Rue may have been even more authentic if the casting directors had gone with the latter. 

Did the casting directors feel a need to peg the show’s titular character to a star like Zendaya? Were they afraid that a lesser-known artist wouldn’t generate the same buzz? Who’s to say.

There are so many talented, hardworking, kind, and one-of-a-kind actors out there who would have done amazing in these roles. I’m not saying Zendaya didn’t prove herself, and isn’t right for her role. She absolutely did, and she absolutely is. But with a project like Euphoria that, from the get-go, had the potential to launch so many careers, it just makes you wonder how many unknown, talented actors are there out there who could have been given their chance on a show like Euphoria, with a role like Rue.

Hello! My name is Sami Gotskind! I'm from Chicago and graduated from the University of Kansas with a degree in Acting and Journalism. I also working on getting a certificate in Fashion Styling from the Fashion Institute of Technology. I was a writer for Her Campus KU from 2020 to 2022 and for Her Campus Nationals since 2021. I was also the Writing Director for Her Campus KU in 2022. I love film, TV, fashion, pop culture, history, music, and feminism. My friends describe me as an old soul, an avid Euphoria fan, a fashion icon, a Swiftie, an Audrey Hepburn-Blair Waldorf fanatic, a future New Yorker, and a Gossip Girl historian. Look out for me on your TV screens in the near future! Thank you for reading my articles!