The Cult of Sam Levinson

euphoria creator sam levinson
credit: Eddy Chen/HBO

It’s no secret that the Euphoria fandom hates series creator Sam Levinson with a passion.

Despite their love for the characters and actors, fans have long taken issue with the gratuitous nudity on the show as well as the problematic nature of a white cisgender man writing POC and LGBTQ characters.

And that hatred only seemed to amplify over the COVID pandemic when allegations of toxic set conditions, absurd working hours, and feuds with cast members (mainly, Barbie Ferreira) began filling our Twitter feeds.

And yet, if you read an interview with nearly any of the Euphoria cast members, you’ll find them fawning over Levinson. Words like “genius” and “brilliant” get thrown around as if Levinson were the second coming of Michelangelo rather than a Hollywood screenwriter producing a teen melodrama for HBO. (He’s not creating television, he’s creating art.)

Zendaya (Rue Bennett) seems to be particularly enamored with Levinson, repeatedly singing his praises. When the series first premiered in June 2019, she wrote on Instagram,

“Sam, thank you for existing so Rue could exist. You’re courageous and brilliant and I’m lucky to learn from you, thank you for trusting me with your story.”

She’s since discussed how special he is as a director and how his scripts are “fucking brilliant.”

zendaya sam levinson euphoria season 3
credit: Eddy Chen/HBO

“I talk to Sam every other day. I read four scripts that are fucking brilliant.” — Zendaya

Sydney Sweeney (Cassie Howard) is another who loves to praise Levinson’s brilliance and told Vogue in April 2022,

“Sam is such an incredible creator because [he] allows these characters to go places that people are scared to [approach], but he isn’t. Having the opportunity to bring this to life and affect such a huge audience is incredible.”

She’s also gushed over him in interviews with The Hollywood ReporterTeen Vogue, and Thrillest.

sydney sweeney euphoria season 3
credit: Eddy Chen/HBO

“I fully trust in the filmmakers that I work with, and I’m always so excited for whatever Sam writes.” — Sydney Sweeney

It’s not that it’s so unusual for actors to praise the series creators or writers of their show. But the degree and fervor of the constant adulation and damn-near worshipping is bizarre.

What’s creepiest, of course, is when several actors from the show repeat the same phrases in interviews. It’s as if they’re reciting a cult leader’s manifesto from memory.

“I trust him.”

Several of the cast have said these words over and over like a mantra they can’t get out of their heads. In interviews, actors Sweeney, Maude Apatow (Lexi Howard), Eric Dane (Cal Jacobs), and Jacob Elordi (Nate Jacobs) will be quick to tell you how they implicitly trust Levinson with everything — their characters, their plotlines, hell, maybe even their lives.

The word “trust” tends to pop up particularly when the actors are asked about the future of their characters. Since Levinson is notorious for writing and rewriting scripts on a whim, the cast rarely knows anything about the direction of the series and often resorts to telling reporters that they “trust” whatever Levinson has in store for them, despite not knowing what the hell that is.

eric dane euphoria sam levinson
credit: Eddy Chen/HBO

“I trust Sam Levinson implicity. Wherever he wants to take this character, I’m just along for the ride.” — Eric Dane

On top of that, they all seem to be carrying out some sort of peculiar PR campaign in order to offset the rumors that Levinson is incredibly difficult to work with on set.

Apatow, Alexa Demie (Maddy Perez), and Hunter Schafer (Jules Vaughn) have all praised him for being “collaborative” and for taking their opinions into account. They even tout how willing Levinson is to let them ad-lib on set. It’s ironic, of course, given that Levinson is the sole director on 15 out of 18 of the episodes and the sole writer on 17 out of 18 of the episodes (TV shows usually have a whole writers room). It’s not as if he has control issues, right?

hunter schafer euphoria sam levinson
credit: Eddy Chen/HBO

“It was really important to me that he would listen to us and be collaborative. And he has been all that and more.” — Hunter Schafer

Other Euphoria actors have hailed him as empathetic, respectful, understanding, and professional. Elordi once called him an “absolute treat” to work with on set and Colman Domingo (Ali) went so far as to say he’s “doing the work of a good shaman or priest” by “healing” the people around him.

This, of course, is in stark contrast to the allegations that Levinson created a toxic work environment on set. In an exposé published by The Daily Beast, several behind-the-scenes sources reported that Levinson comes unprepared to set and without shot lists, making work days last 16+ hours. Single scenes can take as long as a week to film, apparently creating “hellish” conditions. And extras have even refused to return to set due to the untenable work conditions that included a lack of access to a restroom and late meals on long work days. (HBO eventually responded to the allegations, claiming that Levinson hadn’t violated any safety protocols).

But the actors rarely complain nor do they even question Levinson’s methods.

And even when an actor accidentally slips up and says something even potentially negative, they’re quick to backtrack.

This happened to Sweeney in January 2022 when she let it slip to The Independent that she was less than thrilled about the excessive nudity. She told them,

“There are moments where Cassie was supposed to be shirtless and I would tell Sam, ‘I don’t really think that’s necessary here. He was like, ‘Okay, we don’t need it.’”

jacob elordi euphoria
credit: Eddy Chen/HBO

“Sam is so unpredictable but I’m happy to see it go anywhere. I trust Sam and he’s a bit of a mad genius so wherever he takes it I’m happy to go.” — Jacob Elordi

Of course, the media ran with the quote, enthusiastically announcing that Sweeney had asked for fewer nude scenes.

Sweeney was quick to fix her mistake and later told Teen Vogue how the anecdote was supposed to show “how respectful Sam is and how incredible of a director he is.”

Instead, it ended up highlighting the sheer amount of nudity Levinson was writing into the scripts.

Guest star Minka Kelly (Samantha) and second-season breakout-star Chloe Cherry (Faye) have shared similar stories about asking Levinson to cut back on the nudity but both followed it up with praise about how gracious he was in allowing them to keep their clothes on.

maude apatow euphoria sam levinson
credit: Eddy Chen/HBO

“I trust that Sam wouldn’t let us do anything that wasn’t correct.” — Maude Apatow

As for the actors who don’t worship him, well, we all know what happens when you refuse to bend the knee — just ask Barbie Ferreira (Kat Hernandez).

Ferreira recently announced her departure from Euphoria ahead of season 3 after a year of turmoil between her and Levinson.

While neither has ever confirmed anything, the rumor is that Ferreira walked off set while filming season 2 after disagreeing with Levinson over a potential eating disorder storyline. The creator promptly cut most of her lines, as evident throughout the season.

Fans were understandably furious when Ferreira’s character Kat Hernandez not only lost screentime but also the badass, fat-positive attitude that made the character so special.

storm reid euphoria sam levinson
credit: Eddy Chen/HBO Max

“He’s made this show what it is, so I’m very thankful for him.” — Storm Reid

HBO has already renewed Euphoria for season 3. But given Levinson’s love of last-minute rewrites and hectic, long shooting schedules, season 3 isn’t expected to drop until 2024.

And while fans are quick to lash out at Levinson over casting, storylines, and more, it’s unlikely that the show will lose viewers anytime soon. Because as much as they hate Levinson, they love the cast and characters just as much or more. Cast members have millions of fans on social media (Zendaya has 151M followers on Instagram alone) and characters have inspired endless fan art and fan fiction.

On top of that, Euphoria has single-handedly introduced a series of new makeup and fashion trends including creative eyeliner looks and two-piece matching sets, respectively.

We may not like Sam Levinson, but he’s infiltrated our world irrevocably. And that’s just the way the cast likes it.

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‘Euphoria’ Star Sydney Sweeney On How Her Acting Career Nearly Broke Her Family

Lena Finkel
Lena Finkel is the Editor and Founder of Femestella. Prior to starting Femestella, she worked at People, InStyle, Tiger Beat, and Sesame Workshop (aka Sesame Street). She loves all things Real Housewives and Vanderpump Rules. When she's not busy binge-watching TV, you can find her hanging out with her tuxedo cat Tom.