FLAUNT – Close your eyes and picture this. Near actor Jacob Elordi’s home in Brisbane, Australia lies a lush rainforest, untouched by human hands. This is where Elordi spent a lot of his time thinking during the pandemic. Elordi walks barefoot through the forest, letting the mud, leaves, and mulch create a soft pillow below his feet. It’s here where he finds his escape, amongst the thick golden gum trees densely packed together and the warm, wet air. At the end of the path, he reaches a sparkling waterfall. The water makes a thunderous sound as it crashes down below, creating a frothy white pool. Elordi observes the electric blue prawns that play hide and seek amongst the rocks and dives into the refreshing cool water. The shock of the cold plunge erases all stressful or laden thoughts, wipes away impurities, until Elordi is in a complete state of ecstasy. He lets the water gently handle him, he shares, and he knows he is where he is meant to be.
Away from his ethereal surroundings in Australia, Elordi finds himself in LA—his second home. Here he finds a different kind of magic—that of cameras and bright lights and fame. The 23 year-old actor has procured a large and faithful fanbase through his definitive performances in the Netflix film trilogy, The Kissing Booth (the final installment of which drops later this summer) and HBO’s Euphoria. The two have been impeccable timestamps of the world of Gen Z.
In The Kissing Booth, Elordi plays confident and hot-headed Noah Flynn, who finds himself having a soft spot for his childhood friend Elle Evans (Joey King), which evolves into a deep love. Pool parties, secret romances, and the unequivocal smell of sunscreen are all the rage in The Kissing Booth, somehow perfectly depicting that youthfulness and nostalgia we all yearn for, whatever our age.
In Euphoria, Elordi plays Nate Jacobs, star quarterback of East Highland High School, with a hard to miss sense of toxic masculinity that he uses to mask his personal struggles with his upbringing and sexuality. Through flashing purple lights, intoxicating music, and daring characters sporting gems across their cheeks, Euphoria captures the darker side of youthfulness, one that deals with physical abuse, drugs, mental health, and struggles with identity. The first season enraptured most of Gen Z, who have fallen in love with the portrayal of the world it knows so well. The raw stories that each character portrays feel relatable yet untouchable, a combination that Elordi unmistakably brings to searing life.
If a group of people living 100 years from now sat down to watch a movie from the 2020’s, what would they think of youth culture? “We’re an introspective bunch,” Elordi remarks. “There’s a lot of conversations about self. A lot of what is on the television now are individual stories. I think if you go back through time, you see that we’ve always had a distinct voice, an original voice, a voice that is there to instill and inspire change. I think now, with this generation, a lot more voices get heard.” Although we live in much different times, Elordi believes that, with the nuances of technology and social media, we are able to voice our opinions and thoughts to a larger audience. He believes that the connectivity that the internet provides is a huge part of our existence on Earth now. “You grow up and you get told things,” he continues. “And you take that on—you start to form yourself as a person—and then you reach a certain age, and you start seeing things. And then when you hit that age, sort of where I’m at now, and where a lot of people are that are speaking out, you form that opinion, and you want to give that opinion.”
When asked if he feels similarly to any of the characters he plays, Elordi jokes and replies, “Well I look a lot like them.” He then shows me his dogs Leila and Milo over zoom who look like two squirming balls of fur. Elordi is vastly different from his characters portrayed on screen—he is compassionate and warmhearted and espouses a receptiveness to others, a far cry from the cockiness and occasional selfishness we’ve seen. He shares that he puts a lot of effort into separating himself from his characters as much as possible.
What makes Elordi such a good actor, though, is his ability to exit the distance, exit the forest, and immerse in his scripted persona—a package of pathology and purpose. “If I make a film set in the 60s, I learn everything about what it would be like to be in the 60s,” he attests. “It’s almost like I nearly get to live something that I didn’t live, and then, when I go to set or step on stage, I get to live it. Whoever I am at home, or whatever world I live in, I get to leave it and go to a different place, for a brief period of time.”
True to the moment we live in, Elordi’s performances play a huge part in how entertainment can shift social perspective and prompt self-reflection. In both The Kissing Booth and Euphoria, he brings to life an alternate reality that still hits notes of real life and current issues. The execution of the roles evokes a sense of relevance, with the appeal of being transported into an inconceivable world. “I think art is there to hold a mirror up to the times and what’s happening and to display them truthfully,” he remarks, “but I think entertainment is there not to blind the masses, but to maybe give people a break from the reflection of real life for a little while.”
Since the pandemic, Elordi has taken time to wind down and spend more time by himself. He wakes up when he wants, makes himself a warm cup of coffee, and watches movies and reads books for the remainder of the day. He suggests reading Timebends: A Life by Arthur Miller and watching Black Bear, two of his new favorites. “I think I’ve had a lot of time to myself,” he shares, “to overcome a lot more as a person. I used to feel like if my feet stopped moving, I would perish. But I’m much more calm now—in everything that I do.”
The pandemic has been a turning point for many in terms of mental health, and it has been no different for Elordi, as he has had to come to terms with the new normal. “It’s kind of like a pendulum of happy and sad, and then not sad, and feeling everything all at once,” he suggests. “And I think one thing to do, that I like to do anyway, is being okay with both ends of the spectrum. I’m just lucky to have a passion. Having something that’s mine—something that I can identify with, love, and put myself into wholeheartedly. It helps me feel like I belong and keeps me connected.”
Elordi’s love for the world of cinema also plays a large role in maintaining his mental health, he shares. There is nothing he enjoys more than finding a new favorite movie and entering a new era, space, or world. “Whenever anything gets too dark or too difficult to handle, I’ve always said this: ‘I’ll always have movies. Always.’ And it’s nice to have that kind of pillar in the ground.”
With fame comes certain reservations for Elordi. He attests that it’s exhausting at times to be seen as the characters he plays on TV, when in reality he has a multitude of layers that make up the person he is. “I’d love to just be able to be an actor in a bubble and have no one know anything about me,” he says, “and every time they see me, they have no idea who I am, but I’m just playing different characters each time. I think it’s the bullshit that surrounds acting—that is what I have a lot of reservations about.” Nonetheless, he is passionate and driven about what he does well. “I think above all, I want people to see kindness,” he affirms. “Jack Kerouac has this quote, from a poem, and it says, ‘for Christ’s sakes, stand up and be true, or shut up and sit down.’ And that’s all I ever really want to do—just be entirely honest. With everyone and in everything that I do.”
Elordi thrives on connectivity—be it the books and entertainment he absorbs or in the environments to which he retreats. Alas, as we have faced confinement within stale walls and manmade architecture, the desire to connect with the textures of the Earth, hear the sounds of a trickling river, and breathe in crisp air has become more meaningful and desirable. For Elordi, this is nothing new. Much of his upbringing revolved around bonding with the natural world—it was a matter of reconnecting with these roots. “I think we humans seem to always be reaching for, like, the next remedy, or the next thing to prolong our time, or the next thing to better our life,” he says. “We’re a part of the Earth—the same as a dog, a tree, or a bird, and everything we need is out there. So my whole life has been: if you have a cold, you go outside in the sun. I grew up like that.”
As he finds himself back in the complex and competitive cosmopolitan sprawl of Los Angeles, he is ready to plant a new seed, ready to do what he loves after restoring his energies. He recently wrapped up filming the third and final installment of the The Kissing Booth. The final chapter is a bittersweet end to a journey that defined the actor’s career, but he is glad to put a bow on it and bring the fanbase a heart-tugging conclusion. Now, Elordi will focus on filming the second season of Euphoria, one of the more painfully delayed by the pandemic pieces of entertainment out there. In so doing, Elordi hopes for new beginnings and the ability to connect with others on a more personal level this year. “It’s so different, because one of the biggest parts of acting is just talking to everyone and sitting with the crew and eating with the crew and stuff like that. And all of that has kind of changed,” and he adds optimistically, “I hope we can get back to normal.”
On his way back home from a recent walk to the waterfall in Australia, Elordi notices a large lizard slithering near his bare feet. When he gets home, he googles it, and learns that the fish-looking lizard is a land mullet, and in order for it to have been as big as the one he saw, it would have to be around 20 years old. “While I’ve been doing everything I’ve been doing,” the actor ponderously concludes, “this lizard has just been in this forest growing.” Perhaps an allegory for the mismatched lives we all live, ones that sometimes intersect and sometimes never do, but that all play a role in the ecosystem around us.