I’ve been writing a movie with Hunter, which I’m very excited about, so we talk pretty often. And I called her up to get her thoughts on this episode. Several hours later, we were talking and she said something that was based on a poem she had written when she was sixteen about the ocean and its femininity and strength. And I said, “Well, this ought to be actual dialogue. Do you want to just write this thing together?” Four days later, we had a draft of the episode that we co-wrote.
So how do these specials, taken together, set us up for season 2?
What I can say is I think of Euphoria in the same way that I think of Rue. She can simultaneously be mature and immature. She can surprise and disappoint you. It’s why I always enjoy the reviews from people who think the show is half good, half bad, because what they’re saying is, “Why won’t this show just grow up?” And that’s not to say that there weren’t things that we couldn’t have done better. I’m also really self-critical. If HBO would allow me, I literally would go back, change storylines, and reshoot 80% of season one. The only thing I wouldn’t change is the cast and its spirit. Its spirit is what I think we have to protect moving forward.
But that’s the weird thing about television in general. I suppose one of the few beneficial side effects of this fucked up year is the distance between season one and season two. It’s really difficult to insulate yourself from the response and write from the same place of creative freedom, because you know what people liked, or didn’t like. I just hope we can continue to explore and stay curious and experiment, so the show can grow in whatever way it does.
You guys were set to start shooting literally the next day before lockdown hit. I imagine that stung then and still stings now given how far it’s pushed the season back.
Relatively speaking, not being able to make the second season of a TV show isn’t high on the list of terrible things that could happen to someone during a pandemic. I did feel a responsibility, though, to support my crew. They’ve always had my back, and so to sit around and not try to find every way possible to get back to work so people can provide for themselves and their families, just wouldn’t feel right. That was the motivation for making Malcolm & Marie and making these bridge episodes, and we’ve successfully completed three full productions in a safe and diligent way since the pandemic started. And to be honest, HBO was incredibly thoughtful about the protocol they instituted for these bridge episodes.
Will you have to change anything you were planning for those episodes when you finally do return?
Not anything that won’t make the show better.
Kelvin Harrison Jr [who’s joining season two in a mysterious new role] told me he’s never seen a character like the one he’s set to play on the screen before. What can you tease about the person you two created?
I honestly have no idea how to describe this character, but I can say that Kelvin is one of the most talented actors working today. I loved him in Waves. I loved him in Monsters and Men. And even though we worked together on Assassination Nation, it was too brief, and so I’m really excited about getting to do it again.
How did it feel to see Zendaya win the Emmy?
It was an incredibly emotional moment for me. I couldn’t be more proud. I’ve always believed she has no ceiling to her talent and to be honest I feel like this is just the beginning.
You two have kept very busy during this pandemic. You also have Malcolm & Marie on deck. I expect to see a whole other side of her arsenal in that.
Was it an opportunity for you to flex some different muscles as well?
I guess so. I wanted to make a movie that really scared me as a filmmaker, in the sense that it’s one location, two actors, black and white film, two weeks to shoot. And the challenge was how do we make a film under these constraints, that if you were watching it, you’d never know it was made under these constraints. It’s also romantic, which I sort of flirted with in Euphoria but never committed to until this one.