The actor has seen the Nate memes and says he can ‘feel the humor in the hate.’
Warning: This article contains spoilers from the Euphoria season 1 finale, “And Salt the Earth Behind You.”
One of 2019’s most terrifying villains is undoubtedly Euphoria‘s Nate Jacobs (Jacob Elordi).
The high school bully frightens with both his eerily cool demeanor and then bouts of violent rage.
In Sunday’s season finale, Nate and his father Cal (Eric Dane) had a violent fight that ended with Cal fleeing to his office while Nate banged his head on the floor and screamed.
EW talked to Elordi, who’s Australian, about the shocking scene, Nate’s motivations and mastering his American accent.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Let’s talk about that breakdown/fight scene you have with your father. Did you get hurt during that?
JACOB ELORDI: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, a lot actually. It was physically grueling, but Sam [Levinson, creator] and I kind of have this head nod when there’s an intense scene and the stunt guys would kind of lay it out for us. And then when we give each other the head nod, it kind of means that we’re just going to go for it when the camera rolls. And Eric and I, we’re incredibly close, so I basically said to him, “Let’s rock and roll and make it sort of as real as possible,” because I think it’s super important and he was on-board as well. So Eric f—ing smashed me. I was bleeding. I got a concussion. I ended up throwing up after work. It was gnarly. It was really, really gnarly, but it came at the end of my shooting period. I was just wrapping the show around that time. So it was almost like this massive letting go of everything over the eight months that we filmed. It was incredibly grueling, but it was so worthwhile and I definitely couldn’t have done it without Eric and Sam kind of walking me through it and helping me out. And it was definitely the most fulfilling thing that I’ve sort of ever shot. I have a magazine cover for Wonderland and you can see the cuts on my arm. But it was pretty cool in hindsight.
It still feels like Nate’s motivations and identity are unclear. Do you know what’s going on with him or is it also a mystery to you?
Well, I have ideas and I have sort of my journal, but I think the best part of it is for that kind of mindset, he’s always torn all the time. Between sort of his father’s teachings and then what he sees and what he knows and how he interprets things. So I always approached it scene by scene and I never let myself have a clear idea of what was going on because then when I was sort of delivering the lines to do during a scene, I was sort of just as confused as he was to a degree. You can kind of see it in episode 3. He tests sort of the waters with Jules because he kisses her and then he manipulates her, and that kind of threw me for the longest time because I was like, “No one’s watching. You don’t need to do that.” So I always think that as the audience is sort of trying to figure it out, I think he’s also trying to figure it out. So I never let myself have like a clear, definitive answer. I think that really helps.
He’s an intense, dark teen. How did you prepare to play someone so toxic?
I was an intense, dark, tortured teen [laughs]. I had a lot of time to prepare. I love cinema and I love acting, and it’s sort of been my love for the longest time now, so I kinda just let myself go. There’s really no other way to explain it. I just didn’t compromise, I didn’t let anything hold me back, I didn’t let opinions hold me back or ideas. I just kind of just let myself go and basically immersed myself in the world for the eight months of filming. I didn’t really do anything else. I would go home, I would work in my notebook, and then I would go to work and then do it. And I kinda just tried to live in it as much as possible, you know?
Nate is such a terrifying villain. What’s been the fan reaction?
It’s been hilarious. There are some funny people online. The most wonderful thing, though, is I can feel the humor in the hate. There is so much understanding that it’s acting, and there’s so much recognition for it being acting. I don’t know why that is because I’ve seen other sorts of TV villains get tortured online and get called awful things and I’ve heard that they’ve been spat at in the street. But I haven’t had anything. I’ve really only been embraced. And, I mean, one person pointed a Glock at their TV screen and took a picture of it. But I suppose there’s humor in that, I hope [laughs]. But yeah, it’s been overwhelmingly kind and just appreciative, which has been very new for me and very, very lovely.
Would you want Nate to have redemption in season two? Or keep down this path?
Whatever it is, I want him to have a life and I want it to be honest. I truly don’t have any qualms about which direction it goes. I mean, obviously, it would be a lovely story if he turned out to be a real sunflower and lit up the world. But I definitely want it to be just true and real to his experience and I want it to kind of make sense. And I’m not sure what that looks like.
Has Sam told you anything about season two?
I know nothing about season two. When we were making season one, I knew nothing about season one. We kind of just go for it. I mean, not that he’s holding back information or anything. We just finished season one, so I’m good. I can wait.
So some viewers noticed that there’s a third brother in the Jacobs family photo that’s shown in the pilot. Do you know where that other brother is?
We haven’t seen him. I don’t know where he went. I have no idea. I had the same questions when I got to work. I was like, “You do realize that there’s different child in this picture?” And everyone just didn’t really say anything. I don’t know.
Some people also think Rue (Zendaya) is narrating this from the afterlife and that she’s dead.
That is the first I’m hearing it. My feeling is that that’s pretty morbid. That’s a different show isn’t it? I hope not.
At the winter formal, the girls all say they think Maddie (Alexa Demie) and Nate will still end up together. Do you think that’s true?
I don’t know but I think that’s a pretty interesting commentary on trying to just exist and settling. I think because that’s so many different stories, they have this awful relationship and then they just try to make it work forever and then they die. I really don’t know, the way that I looked at the scene was, it was a really difficult goodbye. Because right after his breakdown, he tried to … had a moment of clarity and she definitely had a moment of clarity after everything they put each other through. And I saw it as a goodbye, but I mean, she has his dad’s tape now, so who knows what that means.
Is there something this season you’re particularly proud of?
I’m quite proud of the entire show. For a long while, I’ve wanted to be able to act and to be able to showcase that has been just an absolute pleasure. But I think for me, definitely the breakdown scene, because, I mean, before I started the show so sort of when I made my first movie, one of my qualms was like, “Oh, man, I don’t know if I’m going to be able to do an American accent.” I knew I could do one but my fear was that I would just forget and be stupid. And then in that moment I was like, “Well, if you ever have to actually act, you’re screwed.”
So it was a nice confirmation after the breakdown scene. And in my head, I didn’t know if it was good or bad or whatever, but I felt something that kind of let me know that this is hopefully what I’ll be doing sort of for the rest of my life. And that was a really, really cool moment to see the year of work and all the notes, and obviously, with the support of everyone else, accumulate into something that I’m pretty proud of.