On Sunday afternoon (Dec. 18) , Zendaya, Sydney Sweeney, Hunter Schafer and Maude Apatow took part in an awards season Q&A for their hit show Euphoria, accompanying a screening of season two’s fifth episode, “Stand Still Like the Hummingbird.”
The episode was largely seen as the season’s breakout, as Golden Globe nominee Zendaya’s Rue runs throughout the night to evade police, drug dealers and her mother’s attempts to bring her to rehab — while also revealing Cassie’s (Sweeney) secret relationship with Nate (Jacob Elordi). Creator Sam Levinson had originally written an entirely different version of the season, but Zendaya said that the plan for this stand-alone episode always remained pretty constant.
“There was a much sadder ending to this season, and so we were thinking, ‘We can’t leave her here, she means too much to us,’” Zendaya told the crowd inside the Paramount Theater. “I think, collectively, as a people, we all needed a little bit of hope. We needed something to look forward to, some goodness and some joy, and trying to find that in a very painful time,” as they worked on the second season amid the pandemic.
“That felt very relevant to, I think, a lot of people, but also important to me when it comes to Rue. I want people to know that there is something beautiful inside of her, whether she can see it at that time or not,” the star and executive producer continued. “So then, he proceeded to completely change the ending, and it ended in the most beautiful way and the most incredible performances that you guys brought to life that blow my mind. And really, the idea [is] that art can save lives in many ways. So it went through many iterations, but I’m grateful where it ended, and I’m grateful for all the stories that were then shared with me after that ending.”
The cast also discussed each of their characters’ arcs in that pivotal episode (which originally aired in February) and the logistics of that Rue run (which surely played a part in Zendaya’s second Emmy win in September). With a third season on the horizon, the stars were also asked what “euphoria” looks like to each of their characters going forward.
Sweeney said that for Cassie it would be a family, as “she’s looking for a family in everyone else. She looks for it and her friends, she looks for it in the guys,” and Apatow said for Lexi it’s “freedom from yourself and your thoughts and negative thoughts, negative self-talk. Once that’s out of the way. you can realize your full potential, and I think that’ll probably [be] hers: stop attacking herself.”
“Each of these characters have their own vice in a way, and I think the product of Jules’ vice that she’s looking for is closeness with other people and feeling affirmed in that closeness without any judgment or real connection and safety in that connection,” Schafer added for her character. “I think she finds it in not the best ways a lot of the time, but I think end of the day, it’s what she’s looking for — what she knows is there with, Rue but there’s stuff in the way; what she knows is with her dad, but there’s stuff in the way; what she knows could be with Elliot, but he’s an addict and everything.”
Finally, Zendaya said for Rue, her one wish “is literally just to be able to be alive and maybe enjoy it.” She said Rue feels like she’s always drowning and hopes that she can, for a moment, just be able to breathe and keep her head above water with “a little bit of happiness and a little bit of joy.”
“And I know that she can do it because Sam wrote it, and Sam is Rue, and he’s done it,” Zendaya continued, as her character is famously based off of the creator’s own struggles with addiction. “He’s proof that there is hope for Rue and anyone like Rue, and from the beautiful letters and people who have reached out — I am so grateful for those experiences when somebody comes up to me, and they speak about Rue and how they’ve connected to her or whatever part of their healing journey she has been able to be a part of. To me that is the greatest, greatest gift I can ever ask, it gives me euphoria and purpose in what I do.”
“I just hope for a little bit of joy and for her just to be able to breathe and love without the fear of losing,” she added. “I mean she’s gonna have to go through some things, yes, but you know, we’ll get there.”
This article originally appeared on The Hollywood Reporter.