‘Euphoria’ cinematographer Marcell Rev on capturing the wildest school play ever

The second season of “Euphoria” continued to explore teenage sexuality and drug use in sometimes graphic and heightened fashion, so it should be no surprise that even something as normally benign a high school play was blown out to epic proportions. In the Season 2 episode “The Play and Its Double,” Lexi Howard (Maude Apatow) puts on an original production called “Our Life” that recreates numerous scenes from “Euphoria” and the show itself spins between past, present and future in an almost seamless fashion that leaves the viewer exhilarated (and probably a little breathless).

Credit for the visual flair exhibited in the episode goes to director Sam Levinson and cinematography Marcell Rev, an Emmy Award nominee for the episode.

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“We definitely didn’t want to do a realist high school play,” Rev tells Gold Derby in an exclusive video interview as part of our Meet the Experts: Cinematography panel. “We wanted to blend it together so you don’t exactly know where you are at certain points of the story – that you can’t decide whether you’re seeing something happening on stage or if this is actually what happened? We were trying to create these sets in this auditorium that resembled the actual locations or sets or apartments of these characters. So we can create a scene on a stage set that can feel like it’s an actual scene in an actual apartment and then we can reveal that it’s a scene on stage.”

The episode doesn’t just feature Lexi’s elaborate production on stage, but also the backstage machinations of what it takes to put on a show of this caliber. The normally timid youngster is unleashed in these scenes, chewing out her subordinates over line readings and lighting cues in a way that seems to delight and surprise even the character herself. Rev says he and Levinson were inspired by Bob Fosse movies like “Sweet Charity” for those scenes and tried to find the rhythm of the movement in the execution.

Season 2 of “Euphoria” broke out in a major way, becoming HBO’s most-watched show outside of “Game of Thrones” in the last decade. It also found favor with Television Academy voters, grabbing 16 total nominations including Best Drama Series, Best Drama Actress for Zendaya, and Best Drama Supporting Actress for Sydney Sweeney. In “The Play and Its Double,” Sweeney is given a couple of choice moments to shine, and in each case, the camera holds on her face as she shifts between emotions.

“She’s really amazing,” Rev says of the actress. “She’s such a courageous character in a way because Cassie is not always likable. Sydney really goes for it. And she has the courage to create something that’s risky. Maybe people don’t like her character that much. And she just goes for it all. And with a lot of trust, which I really admire.”

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