What is Euphoria, Zendaya’s HBO Show, Even About?

Everything we know right now about the Drake-produced series.


Anchored by Zendaya, the cast of HBO’s upcoming show Euphoria—many of whom, including Jacob Elordi and Sydney Sweeney, we’ve already introduced you to here—reads like a who’s who of buzzy young actors and models. Adding to our intrigue about the show is the fact that HBO, still prestige TV’s gold standard, has never before tackled a scripted series focused on high school–age teenagers. Yet, in the wake of the success of shows like 13 Reasons Why and Elite, Netflix appears finally ready to dip its toes into the YA waters, and no doubt they were only going to do it with a product they felt confident in. The fact that it’s the first dramatic series from the TV department of A24, the buzzy indie distributor behind movies like Moonlight and Hereditary, only adds to the anticipation.

Well, sandwiched in between sneak peeks of Game of Thrones and Big Little Lies 2, HBO dropped a short first look at the series that should clue us in to what to expect. The clip begins with a blond girl with a backpack walking into what we assume is a house party, even if the lighting makes it look more like an actual rave. Then we jump to Zendaya, whose character proclaims, “This is the feeling I’ve been searching for my entire life.” She puts on sunglasses in a mirror, and then, suddenly, seems to be walking on a ceiling like something out of Inception before stumbling down. In case you couldn’t guess, that feeling she talked about, the one she was seeking her entire life, is drugs.

Here, everything else we know about the show aside from that brief clip and the previously announced cast list.

It’s based on a popular Israeli show.

The original Euphoria (or אופוריה) aired on Israeli TV from 2012 to 2013, and offered a no-holds-barred look at the underbelly of teen life. You don’t need to understand Hebrew to know from this one-minute trailer of the original that the show was full of sex, drugs, alcohol, nudity, and violence. Yes, the trailer is a bit NSFW.

The original series, set during the ’90s, was variously advertised with the slogans “Where are your children now?” and “17 is the new 30.” Incidentally, not a single parent of any of the characters were ever seen on screen. The HBO version seems to have a different approach, as, according to IMDb, characters named “Jules Dad” and “Rue’s Dad” have been cast. Though, the fact that they don’t actually get names of their own suggests that parents won’t be major characters.

In any event, the cast in the original includes a teen who gets involved in pornography only to be haunted by body dysmorphia, a young gay man who finds a home with a much older couple, a girl who suffers abuse as well as low self-confidence because of her weight, and an amateur chemist who concocts new drugs to numb them all to their lives. It’s unclear, exactly, how close the U.S. version will hew to the original.

It was inspired by real events.

According to Israeli media, the original series was inspired by the murder of Ra’anan Levy. The 18-year-old died in 2004 after taking a girl to a club, only to get into a fight with her boyfriend. Two of the other man’s friends then chased after Levy before stabbing him.

But the American version will focus more on Zendaya’s character.

She’ll play Rue, who has been described as a “lying, drug-addicted 17-year-old” who will also narrate the entire series.

There’s some star power behind the scenes as well.

First of all, Drake, of Degrassi fame, is producing. And Sam Levinson, the writer and director of Assassination Nation, is credited as the U.S. version’s creator.