The former "K.C. Undercover" star's new HBO series, "Euphoria" premieres on June 16 and has already made headlines for its extremely intense and graphic sex and drug use scenes. There's been uproar about how younger audience members will interpret and internalize the also young actors' (portraying teenagers) behavior in the series.
In one episode, there are multiple penises featured, a rape, and Zendaya's character, Rue, overdosing on drugs, per The Hollywood Reporter.
"What HBO is doing with this show is taking the most extreme conduct that a teenager can experience and normalizing it," said Parents Television Council President Tim Winter to Fox News. "The content that children consume impacts their views and their behaviors. They are influenced — their conduct, values, and beliefs about society [are shaped] by what they consume in entertainment."
Zendaya feels differently. In an interview with The New York Times, the 22-year-old expressed how she knew it was time in her career to "do this" darker type of content and take on a character that's damaged and complicated.
“I don’t think any of my 8-year-old fans know” that her next TV role is in this series, she said. “If they do, I don’t think their parents will let them watch it.”
As for the provocative adult content, Zendaya doesn't find it "that shocking" but understands that other "people will."
"I kind of accepted the fact that it would be polarizing. I found a little calm in that. Whether people like it or not, it’s real. I’m telling somebody’s story," she explained. "Just because it’s not happening to you doesn’t mean it’s not happening all the time, every day. It’s hard for me to speak on addiction because it’s not something I have dealt with directly. But I still had friends who were dealing with things, and I had to help them through it."
The series was created by Sam Levinson, who pulled from his own life experiences to write the series. Levinson battled drug addiction and many of the scenes were taken directly from things he lived through.
Zendaya admitted that she was nervous about taking on the heavier role. "I wanted to do well," she said.
"It’s like going from nothing to everything — there were no steps in between. That’s why people think it’s such a stretch for me to play this character. There’s a lot of people who probably think I can’t do it because they don’t truly understand my personality. And I get it: I’m a Disney kid. There’s a lot to prove," she added.