Eddy Chen/HBO

There's A Lot Of Truth In HBO's 'Euphoria'

by Esme Mazzeo

HBO's risqué teen drama is already creating buzz for the nuanced writing, moving performances, and explicit sexuality and drug use. So if you're sitting here thinking, 'Do teens really behave this way?' you're going to want to know if Euphoria is based on a true story.

From previews and the first episode alone it's hard to determine if Euphoria was based on a real event or even loosely inspired by a single person's honest experiences. Series creator Sam Levinson confirmed that even if the show is not based on a specific event it is very much rooted in the reality of kids' lives today. Euphoria is also based off of an Israeli series of the same name that "depicts sex and drug use among teens," according to Variety.

During a screening of the show at The ATX TV Festival in Austin, Texas Levinson said, “A lot of this stuff is very true,” according to Page Six. “I was a drug addict for many years and I had a lot of anxiety and struggled with depression and I got clean at the age of 19 and have been clean for 14 years, and it wasn’t easy. It’s still not easy.”

Zendaya plays Rue on the show, an addict just released from rehab and about to start her junior year of high school. Levinson said at the screening that he had specific, difficult emotions he wanted to portray throughout an addict's journey and Zendaya rose to the challenge. "What I really wanted to get at the core of is the pain and the shame about what you’re doing and your inability to get clean despite the havoc and destruction you’re wreaking around you and that is a tricky f*king thing for an actor to pull off, but you do it with a level of warmth and humor and sensitivity that I could never have dreamed of," he said.

And while the show may be a high school drama, HBO programming president Casey Bloys wants people to know that it's a different kind of teen show. "We're not trying to put out a Gossip Girl," he told The Hollywood Reporter, emphasizing that the show isn't trying to shock for shock value alone. "It's not sensational to be sensational...It may seem boundary-pushing, and the idea of putting them on TV may be, but somebody lived them," the executive told THR.

Still, the content made one actor uncomfortable enough that he left the show while filming the pilot. THR reported that a source told them Brian "Astro" Bradley quit the show after reading scenes that suggested his character would sexually experiment with a man.


Topics and on-set drama aside, I think Levinson's story is an important one, and HBO's commitment to telling it as authentically as possible is impressive. “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,"Variety reported Levinson saying at another Euphoria event at the Arclight Cinerama Dome in LA.

But as reported above, Levinson is 14-years clean now. He should be proud he made it to the other side of addiction and now has the chance to change lives by telling his story.