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It’s hard to imagine the HBO Max drama series Euphoria without Zendaya, especially considering her producing credits on select episodes and her involvement in the magical soundtrack. According to a new interview with casting director Jennifer Venditti however, the actress was not the first choice for the role of Rue.

Speaking to Variety, Venditti revealed that her team discovered a young woman who had a similar troubled past to the character, a recovering teenage drug addict. “There was a young woman who had been street scouted by my team,” she said, “who was a magical person and had a similar trajectory as Rue and had come around to the other side.”

“With a TV show, it can be many years [of work],” Venditti added. “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.”

Venditti worked with series creator and writer Sam Levinson on the casting and eventually determined that the up-and-coming actress wasn’t quite ready for the enormous role. Instead, they looked to the incredible Zendaya.

“It’s so interesting. A polar opposite,” the casting director continued. “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.”

The performance earned Zendaya an Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series in 2020. She made history as the youngest women to win the prestigious award.

“Rue has become an amalgamation of my experiences, [Euphoria creator Sam Levinson’s] experiences and our collective pain—and seeing through the eyes of an addict,” Zendaya recalled in an interview with Variety in June. “I think the approach was to try it as human as possible without ever shying away from the devastation and the ugliness of what that can create.”

Zendaya is rumoured to make her directorial debut in the third season.