If there was one part of the Euphoria season 2 premiere that felt like a long time coming, it was seeing someone finally get some revenge on Nate Jacobs, the football star who's found a way to terrorize just about every beloved character in the cast.
Going back into production, actor Jacob Elordi, who plays the teen antagonist on HBO's breakout drama, found Nate's next steps to be unpredictable. "We left him in such an unknown, damaged space, so I really had no idea how it was gonna come about in the second season," Elordi tells EW. "And he comes back with a bang that's for sure."
Below, Elordi shares what it was like filming Nate's fight with Fezco, how his scenes with Sydney Sweeney differ from his scenes with Alexa Demie, and what part of Nate's life he empathizes with.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So Nate got his s— rocked last week [Laughs]. What were your thoughts when you read that in the premiere script, and what was it like shooting his fight scene with Fez?
JACOB ELORDI: When I read the script, I kinda knew it was coming [Laughs]. Yeah, I think there was a part of me that knew he was gonna have to get his just desserts at some point. And it's also a little bit like we left him in that last scene where he sort of has that confrontation with Fez in the first season at the liquor store. You get this feeling like if you dance too close to the flames, you're gonna get burnt. So for me, that was a knowing feeling that it was coming, I just didn't think it would be quite so brutal. And filming it was amazing. We have our great stunt coordinator, Jeff Barnett, he's a legend. He pretty much just put us in this space, and it was just Angus and I going nuts on each other, and Angus smashing sugar glass bottles on my head. And it was brutal. It was definitely brutal.
Yeah, I saw Angus Cloud posted a video of you two rehearsing that stunt. Did the bottles actually hurt at all? Angus said he was pretty worried about hurting you the whole time.
Yeah, it's funny. They definitely do hurt, because it was on the soft side of my head. One of them, I moved the wrong way and he moved the wrong way, and I ended up getting a cut on the side of my head. So it was bleeding, we had to get the medic, but it was fun. But it's more the little things you sustain, like when he throws me to the ground, my knee will hit his head or something like that. It's these little, less violent parts that you end up actually like getting knocks and bruises on. But he really went for it, which was awesome.
It's funny because Euphoria is not necessarily an action show, but between season one and season two, it sounds like you're getting a crash course in stunt work.
I mean, I've beaten so many people up on that show, and done so many violent things. I feel like there's always a stuntman on standby. Especially this season. This season's action-packed.
Later in the episode, we see Nate doesn't snitch on Fez to his father. Why do you think he did that? Does he respect Fez more post-fight? Does he have greater revenge plans in store for him?
For me, when I was playing the scene, it was more just like Nate has this God complex, this control complex. And for the first time, he's sort of like, "What the f—?" He just got faced with the real world, and at the end of the day, even though we all love Fez and everything, he's a f—ing coldhearted drug dealer, and I think Nate maybe bit off more than he could chew — and got a little bit of a reality check. And from that, he starts sorting out others in his life, and tying up loose ends. But maybe not in the way that we'd usually see Nate do it. Yeah, it kind of sobers him.
Usually the show opens with a character's backstory, but tonight's episode did something different. Was it exciting to see what you all could do with the show openings once you move past a character like Nate's origin?
Yeah, I think so, because it allowed us to move into this realm of fantasy, which was this dreamlike sequence where you see a side of his character that's not necessarily his past, present or future. It's this absurd little moment. So yeah, I think having been with the characters for so long, gives us more time creatively to play in those spaces, and not have to introduce and set things up. You can move around in that world a little more. They shot [those scenes] in this way where they put this filter over the lens, or did something to the film, that gave it this dreamy, old school rom-com feel, which was super fun to shoot.
The sequence seems to be about why Nate is in love with Cassie, but we see flashes of Jules in it, and he texts Maddy that he still loves her later in the episode. Do you think he's actually in love with Cassie right now, or just trying to convince himself he's in love of Cassie?
I think he just has this very primal, "American Dream" idea in him of having a very straight down the line, white picket fence, beautiful blonde life. This idea of love and family that he doesn't have. This conventional storybook idea for him. And I think he's doing that thing, that's what you're saying, trying to convince himself like "This is right in front of me. This is a good girl. She loves me. I have full control over her. This must be what love is." Because that's his thing. The whole time I think he has no f—ing idea what love is. He's not loved by his mom. He's not loved by his dad. He's not loved by his peers. He has no concept of what real love is. So he's just trying the best he can to understand it.
Did it feel like you and Sydney Sweeney were kind of diving into the deep end, immediately having to work closely together and figure out your characters' dynamic this season?
Yeah, we had nothing to do with each other in the first season, and so I never really ever worked with her, but I mean creatively this season, we became a bit of a Bonnie and Clyde. Every time I was in, I was in with her, and vice versa. And she's so, so good at what she does that it was just such a treat the entire time working with her. She brings it every single take, every single scene. And they're always intense scenes with her as well, but we had so much fun. We got to play all kinds of different dynamics from that first meeting, and so it was such a treat working with her.
Has there been a different dynamic between acting with Alexa Demie and acting with Sydney?
Yeah, completely different working with Syd. With that particular storyline, I tried to treat it almost like I was making a romance film because I needed to have something different in my eyes in the way that I looked at her. Whereas when I was working with Alexa last season, it was like a drama. Everything was combative, everything was always on edge, everything was always worried — I needed to play every scene like it was a battle. Whereas with Sydney, I never really thought about love a lot in the first season, where I was saying earlier, this season for me was about love. So I tried to play the scenes almost as if I was making a completely different movie, you know? Yeah, completely different working with both of them.
Obviously Nate's such a complex character, so some things are unclear. Do you feel that he does still have love for Maddy, or is he entertaining her right now just to try and get his father's sex tape back?
I don't know. I think we hold love in our DNA, and in our bones, and I don't think it ever really goes away. You'll always have a pang when you see that somebody. So that was definitely something that I was trying to play. It's also very hard to let someone go fully, to say "Goodbye forever. I will never see you again or speak to you." Especially for someone like Nate who, on top of that, is so controlling, and does have something that he needs, and has no idea if he loves who he loves. I think that has so much to do with it.
One interesting thing that I think we're slowly seeing more this season is the show finding humor in situations involving Nate. His deadpan of "Don't ever put that in writing again," made me laugh. Did you feel like you got to be funny at all this season?
That was [creator] Sam [Levinson]'s direction for sure. I remember one day on set, he said to me "If last season was David Fincher, this season is Coen Brothers," which is a note that I remember was weird for me, because that's not really what I was thinking of playing, but I trust him. And yeah, I think it does bring a lightness, and these situations are so absurd if you really think about them and look at what's going on. They're f—ing absurd! And Sam's brilliant at that. He always sees the absurdity in life and the humor in these super f—ed up situations.
Another line from this episode that stuck out to me is the narration talking about Nate's parents, and how awful it is to dislike your kid. Do you relate to the idea of disliking your kid in the sense of playing Nate? Like "My character is not a good person, but I play him, in a way I gave birth to him, so I have empathy for this character."
Yeah, those lines play funny when you watch the show, but reading the script, I found them really heartbreaking. I have a really wonderful relationship with my parents, so that's where I can empathize with him. Because I sort of look at my life and I imagine if my mom outwardly didn't like me as a person, and if my dad thought I was a piece of s—, what that must do to a child is a terrifying thought. As an actor, I empathize with him, but I empathize with anybody whose parents can't bring themselves to like them. That's a crazy thing to think about a child. "I don't like you." When I was doing the work on the scene, I just could not get over that thought. A grown adult who brought you into the world saying "I don't like you." That's f—ing heartbreaking. For me, as Nate, creating him, yeah I mean, it's my job to have an abundance of empathy for him and to feel for him. Otherwise, I'd be judging him as I'm standing there on the screen, and it just wouldn't work.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
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