“Euphoria” creator Sam Levinson fought back tears while sharing his story of drug addiction before the show’s premiere in Hollywood on Tuesday.
The upcoming HBO series is executive produced by Drake — who got his start on another teen series “Degrassi: The Next Generation” — and based on an Israeli series that depicts sex and drug use among teens, much of which is informed by Levinson’s personal experiences as an addict.
“I spent the majority of my teenage years in hospitals, rehabs and halfway houses,” Levinson told the audience at the Arclight Cinerama Dome. “Sometime around the age of 16, I resigned myself to the idea that eventually drugs would kill me and there was no reason to fight it. I would let it take me over, and I had made peace with that.”
At 19, Levinson checked into rehab to “get off opiates and on a more productive drug like crystal meth,” joking that he couldn’t pursue his love of writing when using the former. While in rehab, he came across a book and found a quote that changed his life: “In the end we are nothing more than an amalgamation of our actions and that’s ultimately what defines us.”
“It really spooked me in a sense that if I were to die today, who would I be? I’m a thief. I’m an addict. I’ve been sh–ty to almost every person in my life that I love,” he continued. “There was this voice that was clear as day that said, ‘stop f–king doing drugs.’ I’ve been clean for 14 years.”
The creator thanked everyone involved, with a special shout out to the show’s star Zendaya. “To Z, your talent has no ceiling. I’m inspired by you everyday. I love working with you thank you for taking this leap. You are one of the kindest, most generous human beings I’ve ever come across in my entire life and you make showing up to work a joy every morning,” he said.
On the red carpet, the cast of “Euphoria” discussed the show’s graphic depiction of teenage life with Variety.
Alexa Demie, who plays Maddy, said, “With every character its as honest and raw as it can get with addiction and volatile relationships.”
“It’s raw. It does not pull punches,” shared Algee Smith, who plays Chris. “My character goes through a lot of vulnerability issues, masculinity issues. That’s really important for me to talk to other black men [about] because we’ve grown up thinking that’s not cool.”
It’s the most current representation of high school,” said Hunter Schafer, who plays Jules, adding that the show has a level of “realness” that other teen dramas often lack.
“Euphoria” premieres June 16 on HBO.