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Four Euphoria actresses have now asked Sam Levinson to cut nude scenes

Sydney Sweeney, Chloe Cherry, Martha Kelly and Minka Kelly have all mentioned feeling discomfort at the creator’s requests

The world is going mad for Euphoria right now, with an endless string of glittery stills and memes continually occupying our timelines. But among the rabid praise for the series are some concerning remarks from some of the female stars of the show about feeling uneasy about the nudity scripted by creator Sam Levinson.

Sydney Sweeney was the first to open up about “unnecessary” nakedness in the script. The 24-year-old told the Independent that she’d had a conversation with Levinson about cutting some of her character’s topless scenes. “There are moments where Cassie was supposed to be shirtless and I would tell Sam, ‘I don’t really think that’s necessary here,’” Sweeney said. “He was like, ‘OK, we don’t need it.’ I’ve never felt like Sam has pushed it on me or was trying to get a nude scene into an HBO show. When I didn’t want to do it, he didn’t make me.”

Her words prompted concern from fans who were worried about her feeling exploited by the show. This led to her explaining in a Washington Post piece that Levinson had been nothing but supportive and that she’s never felt “pressured” to do anything explicit. “I said, ‘Sam, I don’t think that [Cassie] needs to be naked in the scene and I don’t feel comfortable doing it. Everyone’s just going to look at my boobs and not actually take the scene seriously for the content that’s happening.’ He was like, ‘OK, yeah. You don’t have to do that.’ … I appreciate people being worried… but I’m totally fine on Euphoria.”

Yet Sweeney isn’t the only one to bring up unnecessary or unwanted nudity on set. Chloe Cherry, who plays Faye on screen, described experiencing a trial by fire in an interview. In season two episode two, after supposedly killing someone, a blood-spattered Faye is stuffed into a vent by a frantic Custer as the police close in.

“We just met and said, ‘Hey, how are you?’ and then shot the scene,” recalled Cherry of her on-screen boyfriend. “It probably would’ve been more comfortable had we had a little more time to [get to] know each other. Sam wanted to do the scene with me completely naked and Tyler was like, ‘That’s a lot,’ so they decided not to. But I was covered in fake blood and just felt so good being on set.”

Another example is Martha Kelly, the actress who plays Laurie, who opened up to Variety about playing season two’s drug-dealing villain. She revealed that an uncomfortable scene in episode five turned out to be different than what Levinson originally had planned. When Laurie helps Rue get into the bathtub before injecting her with morphine, Martha said that it was intended to be “even creepier” than the final product, and that it left her “heartbroken”.

“In the script, it is even creepier, because Laurie is helping her undress and get in the tub, and it is approaching this gross paedophilia vibe,” Kelly said. “Initially, I was like, ‘I can't do this.’ It’s difficult to want to play a character that hurts kids.” She said that she had a chat with Levinson about her discomfort with the scene and that he agreed to change it.

Now, a Vanity Fair interview with Minka Kelly, who plays a rich young mum in the second season, revealed that Kelly pushed back on Levinson’s original scripting of nudity. In the episode where she’s introduced, Kelly’s character Samantha is shown wearing a purple gown, which she asks Maddy to unzip – although this, according to Kelly, was originally intended to be more sexual. “[Levinson] thought it would be more interesting if my dress fell to the ground,” Kelly said. At the time, she disagreed. “That was my first day as a guest on this new show, and I just didn’t feel comfortable standing there naked.” 

On social media, many fans have voiced their concerns, with one writing: “Why are so many women having to go to [Levinson] and say, ‘I’m uncomfortable with this’? Why is he writing scenes that a large proportion of the actresses are too uncomfortable to film?” Another added, “Sam Levinson needs to stick to cinematography and get a writers room cause [at this point] there’s way too many stories about actresses being uncomfortable with the excessive nudity and sexual scenes.”

Although each actress emphasised that Levinson took their requests on board without putting pressure on them, it raises questions of why so much nudity was written into the script in the first place, and why the show’s stars felt like they had to approach Levinson to express their discomfort – something that a less established person in the industry might not feel comfortable doing. In her interview with the Independent, Sweeney also addressed the double standards surrounding nude or explicit scenes in Hollywood. “When a guy has a sex scene or shows his body, he still wins awards and gets praise. But the moment a girl does it, it’s completely different,” she said. “No one talks about it because I got naked. I do The White Lotus and all of the sudden, critics are paying attention.”

Read our opinion piece about the latest season of Euphoria seemingly engineered for maximum social media uptake, and how it’s at risk of placing style over substance.