Zendaya and Nika King improvised an emotional fight between Rue and Leslie on “Euphoria”

Euphoria is a teen drama series that debuted in 2019. It quickly became one of the hottest shows, with fans and critics singing the praises of the talented young cast. Zendaya is front and center, with the former child star making waves as a recovering drug-addicted teen in Rue.

Nika King as Leslie Bennett and Zendaya as Rue Bennett | Eddy Chen/HBO

Whereas Euphoria is a scripted series, the stars of the series delve deep into their characters’ psyches – and several times throughout the series the actors have improvised key scenes, making them even more emotionally intense.

“Euphoria” stars Zendaya as Rue Bennett

Zendaya was already a star when she landed the lead role of Rue Bennett in Euphoria. However, the Rue character was a totally new project for Zendaya, who had risen to fame as a Disney Channel star, appearing on shows such as shake it.

At the start of the series, Rue is a drug-addicted teenager who has just come out of rehab and is struggling to find her place in her social circle. Several of the show’s most brutal scenes involve Rue and her mother, Leslie, played by Nika King.

The generational trauma and emotional scars that separated Rue and Leslie make these scenes gripping to watch. Behind the scenes, Zendaya and King work hard to bring these scenes to life, with Zendaya revealing in 2019 that she improvised one of the most intense scenes of the first season.

What season 1 scene did Zendaya and Nika King improvise?

In a press conference to promote the first season of Euphoria, Zendaya revealed that she improvised one of the confrontation scenes between Rue and Leslie. The scene involved Rue’s ongoing drug problems, revealing how the teenager was faking a drug test in order to try to trick her mother. As reported by Refinery29, the actor noted,

“There was this specific situation where there was a fight scene between (Rue and Rue’s mother, Leslie) that wasn’t scripted. He just said one line (of direction): ‘Rue and his mom are arguing.” So I’m like, OK, I’m going to slam the door, or whatever, but that’s not what Sam had in mind. He wanted us to improve the scene.

Zendaya described creator Sam Levinson’s direction for the scene:

“He said, ‘I want you to go around each other’s necks. Go ahead, as hard as you want. If she goes hard, you go harder. Now, being a very quiet person who doesn’t argue, who doesn’t (scream), I would never say such things.

She revealed that standing there for the sake of the character made her feel “sick” and felt like throwing up after filming the scene.

Several scenes of ‘Euphoria’ were improvised by the cast

Leslie herself, Nika King, spoke about improv on the set of Euphoria, revealing to The Hollywood Reporter that many of the fight scenes are improvised. The king said,

“A lot of the fight scenes are off the cuff. We’re able to move around. I was able to address Stormy in certain ways. I was able to address Rue in certain ways. So they kind of got us just allowed to play as part of the scene.Every take is different because in every take you find something new.

Series star Sydney Sweeney also improvised some of her character Cassie’s mannerisms and reactions. In a 2022 interview with The winner’s podcastSweeney revealed that she improvised the scene in the second season of Euphoria where Cassie hangs out of Nate’s car window as he drives the vehicle recklessly.

As Closer News Weekly reported, Sweeney said, “It was actually just me hanging out the window. It was just random and very in the moment. Certainly the cast’s dedication to making it work even difficult scenes is part of what makes Euphoria a show not to be missed.

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