“Euphoria” star Zendaya is responding to critics who say the show is glamorizing teen drug use.
Just after season two premiered, D.A.R.E. condemned the show’s portrayal of substance abuse and called out those who deem the show "groundbreaking."
The substance abuse education program told NBC News in a statement that "Euphoria" "chooses to misguidedly glorify and erroneously depict high school student drug use, addiction, anonymous sex, violence, and other destructive behaviors as common and widespread in today’s world."
But according to the show's headliner, this week’s episode alone shows the series is much more than that.
"Our show is in no way a moral tale to teach people how to live their life or what they should be doing," Zendaya told Entertainment Weekly. "If anything, the feeling behind 'Euphoria,' or whatever we have always been trying to do with it, is to hopefully help people feel a little bit less alone in their experience and their pain. And maybe feel like they’re not the only one going through or dealing with what they’re dealing with."
This week’s episode showed an intimate look at the pain caused by main character Rue’s drug addiction — on her family, her friends and herself. After an intense, and often violent, intervention, the episode follows Rue on a foot chase as she tries to run away from her mother, going back to rehab and the police. It’s an uncomfortable watch, but perhaps the most raw and honest acting audiences have seen from Zendaya.
Viewers saw Rue in physical pain, frightened and also frightening those around her. We saw her at what Zendaya has called her "rock bottom," and the actor asked fans in an Instagram post to "still see her as a person worthy of their love."
"I think if people can go with her through that, and get to the end, and still have hope for her future … then maybe they can extend that to people in real life," she wrote.
The actor’s performance shocked fans and critics alike, prompting many to accredit her work in season two with calls for another Emmy.
"My biggest hope is that people are able to connect to it and those who need to heal and grow with Rue hopefully, by the end of this season, feel that hope and feel that change in her," Zendaya said.