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‘Euphoria’ Team Talks Working with Intimacy Coordinator, Avoiding Glamorizing Addiction

HBO’s adaptation of Israeli teen drama “Euphoria” explores the lives of high school kids who are grappling with social pressures, burgeoning sexualities and addiction. And in order to accurately but comfortably bring such tough topics to life, the show worked with an intimacy coordinator and was careful about how they shot certain scenes.

“There’s a lot of movement in the show in terms of camera,” creator Sam Levinson said at the ATX Television Festival panel for the new series Thursday. “In terms of the sex scenes, the main thing we tried to do is keep the camera still. … You want to allow for the awkwardness and the discomfort to bleed into it.”

Series star Eric Dane, who plays Cal, one of the teen’s parents who has a complicated and much more intertwined connection with the younger characters than it appears at first glance, also praised intimacy coordinator Amanda Blumenthal for providing a “safe environment” for everyone to do their best work.

For Levinson, who has been open about his own addiction, part of that safe environment included being sensitive to the portrayal of Rue’s (Zendaya) addiction in the series. But, he admitted he wouldn’t shy away from the harsh reality in favor of such sensitivity.

“I think any time you put anything on screen, you run the risk of glamorizing it just by the nature of it being on screen,” Levinson said. “I don’t want [to be triggering], but we also have to be authentic about it. … I think people can tell if we’re pulling our punches and not showing the relief that drugs can be. It starts to lose its impact.”

Levinson, who shared that watching “Requiem for a Dream” made him want to try heroin, said the production team is “mindful” of not only the portrayal of, but also how a young audience might respond to the subject matter. However, he admits that he doesn’t see the show as a “cure for anything.”

“People react so differently to different things,” he said. “I don’t look at it as someone will watch it and they’ll be OK. But I do think it’s important that we as a culture — we as parents, we as brothers and sisters — have empathy for the struggles [people] are going through.”

Zendaya, who had some of the most emotionally-taxing scenes to perform in “Euphoria,” didn’t dwell on the grim parts of the story. Rather, she responded the realism of the world and the characters. “It explores the dark, but there’s also hints of moments of light and hope,” she said of the show. “And then it’s gone and then you find it again. … That’s how life works.”

“Euphoria” premieres June 16 on HBO.

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