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HBO Defends ‘Euphoria’ Against Toxic Production Allegations, Assures ‘Well-Being’ of Cast Is ‘Top Priority’

Showrunner Sam Levinson recently came under fire for allegations of running a chaotic set that included alleged overlong workdays.

Euphoria Season 2 Episode 8 Zendaya Rue HBO


Eddy Chen / HBO

After shattering HBO Max streaming records and making history on Twitter, “Euphoria” is now back in the spotlight, albeit for a less flattering allegation.

The Daily Beast previously reported an exposé citing background actors’ claiming the Season 2 set was toxic and led to multiple SAG-AFTRA union complaints “over the production failing to provide them meals on time and refusing to let people use the bathroom,” as well as a lack of a proper holding area for extras. Per unnamed sources, “there were so many complaints called into SAG-AFTRA that a union rep turned up to set.”

HBO has released a statement shutting down the accusations and assuring that “the well-being of cast and crew on our productions is always a top priority.” HBO also stated that “Euphoria” was produced in “full compliance with all safety guidelines and guild protocols.”

The network additionally maintained that there were never any formal SAG-AFTRA complaints made.

As for showrunner and creator Sam Levinson’s decision not to bring a premeditated shot list to set — a choice that The Daily Beast sources claimed caused tension and led to long hours and allegedly 18-hour workdays — HBO responded, “It’s not uncommon for drama series to have complex shoots.”

The full statement from HBO reads: “The well-being of cast and crew on our productions is always a top priority. The production was in full compliance with all safety guidelines and guild protocols. It’s not uncommon for drama series to have complex shoots, and COVID protocols add an additional layer. We maintain an open line of communication with all the guilds, including SAG-AFTRA. There were never any formal inquiries raised.”

In a statement to The Daily Beast regarding the complaints allegedly made about “Euphoria,” a SAG-AFTRA spokesperson said, “Advocating for professional performer work categories like background actors and enforcing contractual provisions is one of SAG-AFTRA’s core functions. This includes the routine enforcement of contracts at the worksite through our National Field Services Department which is charged with resolving any on-set violations by working with the company’s production staff members to immediately correct the issue(s) in connection with performers’ employment.”

They continued, “All actors should benefit from the protections our members enjoy, and production companies signed to our agreements need to follow our safety protocols, wage and hour rules, and other protections — regardless of an actor’s union status.”

“Euphoria” cinematographer Marcel Rév told IndieWire that Levinson encouraged “instinctive decisions” on set and moved away from storyboarding prep as he did in the first season.

“You always have to have a plan, especially when a set has to be built around a certain shot or idea, but we allowed ourselves to be much more flexible in the moment than we were on Season 1,” Rév said. “We changed the whole style of the show just to be able to follow [an actors’] performance and be true to the speed of the narrative.”

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