The cast and crew of “Euphoria” were all set to start production on Season 2 of the breakout HBO hit when the coronavirus pandemic forced everyone to stop in their tracks. Fortunately, creator and director Sam Levinson had a plan.
“I had a feeling that the pandemic was going to shut us down for a while leading up to it because I was watching what was happening to the rest of the world. So the day they called to shut us down, I actually pitched the idea of doing a super contained ‘Euphoria’ movie, and if not that, then multiple character studies. And HBO said, ‘I think we should all just go home and stay inside for six weeks!’” Levinson told GQ in an interview last year.
After shooting the Netflix movie “Malcolm & Marie” with his “Euphoria” collaborators Zendaya and cinematographer Marcell Rev, Levinson returned to the idea of building out the “Euphoria” world via standalone specials. The result ended up being the two-part bridge to Season 2, special episodes focused on Rue (Zendaya) and Jules (Hunter Schafer). Shot during the coronavirus pandemic, the specials represented a visual departure from the show’s flashy first season with the episodes focused on one or two characters in a single location rather than multiple people in a variety of places.
“These were written for this special situation so we had to go simple, but in a way, it helped us free our minds from everything we experimented with in the first season and I think it really helped us — allowed us to do something completely different,” Rev tells Gold Derby during the Meet the BTL Experts: Cinematographers panel. “We had to strip down our tools. It’s a limited toolset that we were working with and that allowed us a certain freedom to dig deeper.”
Calling it “a big shift in terms of style and focus,” Rev says the special episodes helped him better clarify what the show should look like in Season 2 and beyond.
Rev has worked with Levinson multiple times, but the specials — particularly the episode focused on Rue and Ali (Colman Domingo) — afforded him the chance to experiment and allow the performances to inform some of the visual choices. The Rue episode, for instance, is a two-hander that ends with a striking sustained shot of Zendaya’s face. Rev’s camera pushes in on the actress while subtlety zooming out at the same time.
“It’s all about the performance. First things first, you have to have those performances in order to be able to do anything visually,” he says. “That push-in at the end works because she gave such an incredible performance before that it actually means something to push in on her face later.”
Watch the exclusive video interview with Rev above. “Euphoria” is streaming on HBO Max.
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