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'Euphoria' actress Storm Reid talks about the show's popularity and power


The HBO show "Euphoria," written and directed by Sam Levinson, follows the dark, complicated lives of a group of teens as they try to navigate substance abuse, depression and love. Oh, yeah, and don't forget high school. One of the characters, Gia, portrayed by Storm Reid, is grappling with the strain that drug addiction has put on her relationship with her sister Rue, played by Zendaya. Storm Reid joins us now to talk about season two of "Euphoria." Hello. Welcome.

STORM REID: Thank you so much.

SUMMERS: You know, I've never really watched a show quite like "Euphoria" before. What do you think makes people just so attracted to it, so glued to watching it again and again?

REID: Yeah, I mean, I think, yes, it's entertainment, so some of the situations are heightened. But we are talking about real situations that young people are going through and trying to bridge the disconnect between older generations and our generation. Specifically with my life, I haven't had the situations or gone through the circumstances in which our characters have gone through, thank God. But I know a lot of people that have. So I'm proud to be a part of something that people can look to for hope or just to be seen and heard.

SUMMERS: Tell us about Gia.

REID: Oh, yeah. Gia, I think, is a complicated character. Sam did such a beautiful job of depicting what it really looks like for a young person to experience their sibling or their loved one go through depression and anxiety and battling addiction. Gia seeing her sister overdosed at 13 is not something that should be taken lightly. So we did get to see glimpses of her in season one and how Rue affected her. And I think Gia stood in a space of admiration and just wanting her sister to get better. But she can't continue to neglect her feelings for the sake of wanting to have a better relationship with her sister. She really has to love herself.

SUMMERS: The show touches on a lot of incredibly tough topics. And I know you've said in the past that this season really stuck with you and that when you'd leave the set, you'd have to kind of get yourself together. What do you mean by that?

REID: Yeah. I mean, I think I'm good at knowing the difference between what work is and what real life is. And I'm able to disconnect from work and back - go back into my reality. But filming season two, I think it was just so heavy and so raw. And I found moments on set or even when I would leave set where I would just - the quiet moments by myself where I would think, wow, people really go through this every day. Like, yes, we are very privileged to be on a show and be acting, but it's emotionally taxing for us. So I can't imagine how people who are going through these situations in real life every day right now as we speak - how they feel.

SUMMERS: Storm, from "12 Years A Slave" to "A Wrinkle In Time" to "When They See Us," I think it's fair to say that you have been a woman on the rise. And you're only 18.

REID: It's a very weird and unnatural experience being so young and being known in the ways that I am. I'm grateful to be able to do what I want to do. And then there's a sense of responsibility for me to create content that is intentional and purposeful because content is impactful, especially - I think we experienced that and saw that through the pandemic where we were in our houses, had nothing to do. So we were just trying to find things that made us feel good. And I think "Euphoria" was that for some people. So it's all a privilege. It's all very cool, even though it's unnatural. And standing outside of Trader Joe's at my campus, and there's a swarm of people coming up to me - it can be a little weird. But I appreciate the support, and I can't wait to see what the future years bring.

SUMMERS: What would you like people - and particularly young people - who are watching "Euphoria" to take away from the show?

REID: That's a tough one because drug addiction is very real, so I just would hate for young people to think, oh, yeah, Rue is doing it, and she's surviving. Or in the first episode, you see her in that party, and she does a slew of drugs. And then she feels as though she's having a heart attack and takes Adderall, and then she's fine. Like, those things are not OK to do. So I want people to know, especially young people, that "Euphoria" is a depiction of people giving themselves grace and making mistakes. And I think I always have to remind myself and my friends, especially being in college, even though we're not doing crazy things, that we're only teenagers. And we're not going to be perfect. And we're going to fall in love. And we're going to be heartbroken. And we're going to ruin friendships and burn bridges. So that's the beautiful part of life in "Euphoria."

SUMMERS: Actress Storm Reid is in the latest season of "Euphoria." It airs Sundays on HBO. Thank you so much, Storm.

REID: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF LABRINTH'S "FOREVER") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Juana Summers is a political correspondent for NPR covering race, justice and politics. She has covered politics since 2010 for publications including Politico, CNN and The Associated Press. She got her start in public radio at KBIA in Columbia, Mo., and also previously covered Congress for NPR.