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Euphoria’s Biggest Scandals: From the Controversial Nudity to Continuous Filming Delays

Euphoria s Biggest Scandals Over the Years Excess Nudity Filming Delays
HBO

Euphoria has made headlines since it premiered on HBO — but not always in a good way.

The teen drama followed troubled teen Rue Bennett (Zendaya) as she struggled to remain sober while adjusting to her return to high school after rehab. In addition to Zendaya’s character, the series offered a large focus to the entire ensemble cast, including Hunter Schafer, Alexa Demie, Jacob Elordi, Sydney Sweeney, Maude Apatow, Colman Domingo and more.

Shortly after the series premiered in 2019, Euphoria become a topic of conversation between critics and fans alike. Viewers were immediately surprised by the full-frontal nudity that was included in most episodes of the first season — including a locker-room scene that showed upwards of 30 penises.

The controversies haven’t only been over what’s happening on screen. Creator Sam Levinson, who has written every episode and directed nearly all of them as well, came under fire when a Daily Beast report in 2022 alleged that he created a toxic work environment on set. (In 2023, Levinson and The Weeknd’s HBO series The Idol was rumored to be delayed due to a poor working environment and last-minute script rewrites, which the network denied.)

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HBO — and stars from Euphoria — came to Levinson’s defense in the aftermath. Levinson, meanwhile, has stood by his vision for the show despite the graphic storytelling approach. In August 2023, Levinson hinted at the next chapter of the series ahead of season 3.

Levinson teased to Elle that he viewed the next batch of episodes as a “film noir” that explores “what it means to be an individual with principles in a corrupt world” through the eyes of Zendaya’s character, Rue.

Scroll down for details on the drama behind the hit HBO series:

The Graphic Story Lines

Euphoria s Biggest Scandals Over the Years Excess Nudity Filming Delays
HBO

The first season of Euphoria, which aired in June 2019, featured an animated sex scene between Louis Tomlinson and Harry Styles. Tomlinson reacted to the NSFW moment when One Direction fans took to social media to express their outrage.

“I can categorically say that I was not contacted nor did I approve it,” Tomlinson wrote via X one month later when one fan asked whether HBO reached out to him and Styles.

The graphic scene featured a young Kat Hernandez (Barbie Ferreira) becoming a popular fanfiction writer online due to a story about Tomlinson and Styles “secretly” hooking up during their time together on the road.

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The Gratuitous Nudity

Euphoria s Biggest Scandals Over the Years Excess Nudity Filming Delays
HBO

Over the years, Euphoria cast members have spoken out about the show’s numerous nude scenes, many of which involve characters who are under 18. Sweeney, who portrayed Cassie, implied in January 2022 that some of her character’s NSFW scenes didn’t make the final cut.

“There are moments where Cassie was supposed to be shirtless and I would tell Sam, ‘I don’t really think that’s necessary here,'” she told the Independent. “He was like, ‘OK, we don’t need it.'”

Two months later, Sweeney said her comments had been misconstrued. “I never asked him to cut any scenes,” she told Teen Vogue in March 2022. “It was more [about] how respectful Sam is and how incredible of a director he is, that he would never make me do something I didn’t feel comfortable with.”

Minka Kelly also discussed how Levinson wrote a more explicit scene for her character, Samantha.

“[Levinson] thought it would be more interesting if my dress fell to the ground,” she recalled in a February 2022 interview with Vanity Fair. “That was my first day as a guest on this new show, and I just didn’t feel comfortable standing there naked.”

Kelly, who was a guest star in the second season, told Levinson she didn’t think the scene was necessary and he didn’t question her decision.

“I said, ‘I’d love to do this scene, but I think we can keep my dress on,’” she added. “He was like, ‘OK!’ He didn’t even hesitate. And he shot a beautiful scene and got exactly what he wanted.”

Sam Levinson’s Lengthy Shoots

Euphoria s Biggest Scandals Over the Years Excess Nudity Filming Delays
HBO

Elordi, who played Nate, made headlines in January 2022 when he addressed the show’s filming process.

“The thing is, we do it for so long,” he told Thrillist. “We shot that [New Year’s Eve] party for over a week, so very quickly it’s like being in hell. It’s like being in a party that you don’t want to be in. At all. And you can’t wait [to leave].”

Meanwhile, Apatow claimed that the shoots lasted all night long.

“We would start at 6 p.m. and go until whenever the sun would rise — 5 a.m. — and we were so tired!” the actress, who portrayed Lexi, explained. “There were certain days, or at least for a couple hours at a time, where we would all be hanging out in the green room together, and it would feel fun like we’re all hanging out, but mostly we were all just trying to nap.”

Elordi walked back his comments later that year, telling GQ in August 2022, “For me, working on that set is an absolute treat. When I’m working with Sam, I’m in the trenches with him, and I trust him, and I work myself to the bone for him. I think I’ve read people saying, ‘Look, that’s a bad image to set, you shouldn’t have to work yourself to the bone for art.’ F–k that. I enjoy it.”

The actor went on to defend the grueling shoots because of the final product.

“What everyone’s seeing on television, the shots that people are talking about, the feelings that they get, the conversation that’s around the show, that’s because certain shots take 30-something takes,” he added.

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Claims of Drug Glamorization

Euphoria s Biggest Scandals Over the Years Excess Nudity Filming Delays
HBO

In February 2022, D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) expressed in a statement that they were worried about Euphoria “misguidedly glorifying and erroneously depicting high-school student drug use.” The educational organization specifically expressed concern over how Rue’s addiction journey and road to sobriety was depicted on screen.

Zendaya reacted to the concern in a statement to Entertainment Weekly, which read, “Our show is in no way a moral tale to teach people how to live their life or what they should be doing. 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.”

The actress reflected on having “a lot of people reach out” about the show offering them similarities to their own life, adding, “So many parallels with Rue and her story and Rue means a lot to them in a way that I can understand, but also maybe in a way that I could never understand, and that means that means the most to all of us.”

Toxic Production Claims

In February 2022, The Daily Beast published a report with claims from background actors about a toxic work environment on the Euphoria set including “multiple complaints made to SAG-AFTRA over the production failing to provide them meals on time and refusing to let people use the bathroom.”

The article also highlighted speculation about a falling out between creator Levinson and Ferreira, which reportedly led to her walking off set. HBO released a statement addressing the rumors one month later.

“The well-being of cast and crew on our productions is always a top priority. The production was in full compliance with all safety guidelines and guild protocols,” the network said in a statement to Variety in March 2022. “It’s not uncommon for drama series to have complex shoots, and COVID protocols add an additional layer. We maintain an open line of communication with all the guilds, including SAG-AFTRA. There were never any formal inquiries raised.”

Barbie Ferreira’s Surprising Exit

Euphoria s Biggest Scandals Over the Years Excess Nudity Filming Delays
HBO

In the aftermath of the toxic workplace allegations, Ferreira announced her departure from the series after two seasons. She later shut down rumors that she had clashed with Levinson on set after her character Kat’s story line was seemingly reduced in season 2.

“I’ve seen so many different things and a lot of it is untrue and some of it’s kind of like mundane little things,” she told Insider in March 2022. “Sometimes, things take on a life of their own, and they’re not rooted in the truth, but it’s OK because I know it’s just out of passion and out of curiosity and all that good stuff. And I signed up for it. So, I’ll take it. I’ll take the good and the bad.”

Zendaya Euphoria

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Nika King’s Candid Comments About Her Salary

Euphoria s Biggest Scandals Over the Years Excess Nudity Filming Delays
HBO

After Euphoria was renewed, star Nika King surprised fans when she addressed the lengthy amount of time between seasons.

“Season 3 is coming out. I don’t f–king know. Don’t ask me. I don’t know. It’s one of those things,” King, who plays Zendaya’s onscreen mother, said during a stand-up show in March 2024. “People are like, ‘We need season 3.’ I’m like, ‘Bitch, I need season 3. I haven’t paid my rent in six months.’ And Zendaya’s over in Paris at Fashion Week, I’m like, ‘Bitch, come home! I need you! Mama need you!’”

She continued: “You’re laughing and I’m serious. I haven’t booked anything since Euphoria, this is some bulls—t. I thought my career was on the rise. After Euphoria I thought I was good. It don’t work that way. I called [Taraji P. Henson], she was like, ‘Bitch, get used to it.”

Filming Delays

Production on season 3 was originally delayed due to Levinson’s commitment to his 2023 series The Idol and Zendaya’s busy schedule. The wide release gap increased due to the dual WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes in 2023.

HBO confirmed in March 2024 that production would be delayed again.

“HBO and [creator] Sam Levinson remain committed to making an exceptional third season,” a spokesperson for the network told Us Weekly. “In the interim, we are allowing our in-demand cast to pursue other opportunities.”

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