It’s been almost two-and-a-half years since HBO’s Zendaya-fronted teen drama Euphoria wrapped its first season, and in season 2 (which began an eight-week run tonight), creator-writer-director Sam Levinson wastes no time giving viewers what they want. Only six characters out of the sprawling cast received the show’s signature backstory episode intro treatment in the first season, leaving fan-favorites like Angus Cloud’s softie-drug dealer Fezco waiting in the wings. The first season finale also left Fezco in a precarious, life-threatening position, in part because of Nate (Jacob Elordi) the jock-villain whose manipulations and transgressions, which verged on Lex Luthor levels of diabolical, went largely unchecked. Well, tonight’s premiere opens with a long-awaited, Scorsesian Fez backstory, and by episode’s end Nate finally gets a long overdue comeuppance at Fez’s hands.
Cloud has said he was cast off the street when a casting agent saw him walking in New York and thought he looked the part. He has parlayed that authenticity into the show’s most sympathetic character and contributes the most tender moments—despite being somewhat monosyllabic and reserved—as one of Rue’s (Zendaya) most protective friends and the person least judgmental of her drug habit. He also enables some of its darkest, as a drug dealer who associates with dangerous criminals, supplies high school kids, and delivers beatdowns.
Cloud, like his character, speaks slowly and softly and shares an affinity for Polo—but while the line between them is thin, it isn’t blurred. He swears he’s even more of a softie than Fez, a side that we’ll get to see more of on the show this season. Might that have something to do with Fez’s extended party flirtation with Rue’s friend Lexi? Cloud can’t divulge, but he did talk to GQ about filming the party scene, Tupac, and Fez’s original fate.
How was the premiere event for the new season?
That was awesome. It’s always a treat when players meet. So when all the cast is together, I’m always filled with joy because I got so much love for all those people.
What was it like being in a theater setting when the end of your episode goes down? Was the reaction crazy?
Well, with COVID we didn’t get to do the full premiere. So it was just a small group of us, but yeah, it’s definitely a shocker. Everyone goes quiet.
Obviously it’s a very brutal scene, but Nate … really kind of had it coming. Especially after all he gets away with in season 1, it’s actually kind of cathartic.
Yeah he definitely had it coming. It’s well deserved. It was good to read that in the script. I was like, “Hell yeah, there you go!” Snitches get stitches. Code of the streets right there.
Are we supposed to get the impression that Fez was planning to do that all night? Or was it a spur of the moment thing?
I don’t think he came to the party to do that, no. It was fun because he saw… That’s his enemy at that point, so he sees his opportunity and it had to get handled.
How was it filming that party scene with Jacob?
It was a hard scene to shoot, man. A lot of broken bottles and a lot of different movements. I was swinging my fist for like three hours. My arm was sore as shit, man. I swear to God, my whole shoulder, just from swinging fake air punches that weren’t even hitting anything.
It took three hours to film?
Oh no. It took way longer than that. I’m just saying that I was punching for like three hours straight. Yeah, that scene took probably eight or nine hours to film, just the fight. Because we did the countdown to New Year’s and then the fight. It was all split. We were filming there for five days and each day was 7:00 PM till sunrise. All solid all-nighters. But that fight scene took a good chunk out of one of those days, so it was at least like six to eight hours.
Like you said, Nate snitched on Fez in the end of season 1 and sent the cops to his house. But the root of their issue really stems from Nate’s problems with Rue. We see Fez’s backstory finally in this episode, but have you ever thought about, or discussed with Sam or Zendaya, just how Fez and Rue became so close? He even refers to her as family in this episode.
I think Rue just found Fez in a time of her life when she felt alone and had started turning towards drugs. And, of course, part of the reason why she connected with Fez was because he was a drug dealer. She was just kind of a misfit, so she ended up having a lot of free time and she wasn’t hanging with the kids at school and Fez just accepted her with open arms and said, “You can kick it with me. I like you. You’re chill.” And then they became very close because they just kick it every day.
How hyped were you to finally get a Fez episode, and it’s the season premiere at that?
I was super juiced up. Reading that script, I was fired up for sure.
When you didn’t get one in season 1, did Sam tell you, “Don’t worry. I got you”?
No, I was supposed to die in season 1, bro.
I don’t know, but apparently, because they cast me off the street, I guess the character of Fezco was [never meant to stick around]. I don’t even know how. I never saw that script. No one ever told me. It was one day when we were filming the pilot that I think Jacob told me, he was like, “Oh yeah, you didn’t know? Your character gets [imitates brains getting blown out].” And yeah, it never ended up happening. I think that they liked what I did and so they decided to keep me alive and let me rock. I don’t know how I was going out, but hopefully I would’ve gone out like a G.
So as someone who didn’t really even think about acting before this, how does that feel to know what you were doing, just being your natural self, resonated so deeply with the creators and the fans that they’re changing the whole plan for you?
I don’t know. I still don’t understand it, to be honest with you, man. I really don’t because I still get up and I’m like, “What the heck? What am I doing here? Why did they not hire a professional actor?” I just had to come to terms because during the filming of the pilot everyone would compliment me and say, “Oh you’re killing it, man.” And I was like, “No, I’m not, but thank you for trying to make me feel better.” Because I just felt like I had no idea what I was doing. I felt like I was doing a terrible job. So yeah, it gave me that solid evidence that was like, “Damn, actually I guess I must be doing something right.”
I mean, you are a professional actor now.
Yeah. I guess I am.
You’ve said during the audition process that you changed some of Fez’s dialog to make it sound more like you. Do you still do that, or does Sam have your voice figured out at this point?
He tries, but we always get a chance to work together and figure out what would sound most natural coming out of my mouth. He asks me sometimes, “What would you say in this situation?” And he just wants me to feel comfortable, so I’ll just check with him and I’ll say, “What do you think about me changing this up here?” And he’s always open to working together on that.
I don’t know if you remember from season 1, but you have this tense scene with Nate in your store and then you ring him up like, “That’ll be $5.75, playboy.” That line became a big hit.
Yeah, I don’t think that was in the script. I think that was me.
Fez is always dripped out in some Supreme or some Palace or something equally fly.
Yeah. You see this shirt I’m wearing right now? I wore this in the pilot. This is my shirt. But none of that Supreme or Palace is mine, but yeah, they kind of got my style. They love to work with the actors and ask them what they’re comfortable wearing.
Zendaya was killing that Tupac in the opening scene, she was going bar for bar.
You know what’s hilarious. I came on set one day and I was singing it. For some reason, it was just stuck in my head, that opening line, “That’s why I fucked your bitch, you fat motherfucker.” And I just said it on set, and I think Zendaya was like, “Oh, you saw the opening sequence.” And I was like, “What? No.” She was like, “That’s the song they used.” I was like, “No fucking way.” I’m like, “What?” I literally came on the set [singing it] and they were like, “Wow. We didn’t know we showed you that.” It was just such a trip, always, the fact that they find me in New York to bring me back to Cali to work on a show with someone that went to the same high school as me blows my mind. It’s like, what the hell?
What other music are you listening to these days?
I listen to mostly just rap music from the Bay, to be honest. I listen to J. Stalin, Lil’ Blood.
So I know you can’t talk about any specifics, but what can you tease about what’s ahead for Fez in season 2? What can we expect for Fez that you’re really excited for us to see?
I’m excited for y’all to see how he kind of comes out of his hard shell a little bit and he kind of exposes his softer side. You see a little bit of his innocence and you see that he’s kind of been forced into this life, but he’s… What am I trying to say, exactly? He’s still a kid like everyone else. He might be a year older, but he had to act like an adult from such a young age. But his inner kid is still in there and you get to see it come out slightly.
Was it fun to play that softer side?
It’s nice, because I’m not the most serious guy in real life but on the show I’m usually not smiling. So it was nice to be able to just stop furrowing my brow. At the end of a long day of carrying the angry, serious face, it’s nice to relax on that intensity.
Do you have plans to keep going with acting outside of the show?
Oh yeah. We’re all in. I just finished a movie the other day and now I’m headed to Oklahoma City tomorrow to work on another movie. So we’re trying to keep the ball rolling. I love this job. The only part that sucks is that you have to get a new job every time one ends. Acting is… I always have a great time. So I want to keep making cool projects and just keep being a part of just making cool art.
Are there any actors who you’d like to model your career off of or use as a blueprint?
I love the work that Tom Hardy does in all his films. But yeah, I’m a pretty goofy guy in real life, so it’d be fun to try and see If I could bring that goofiness to the camera. Also I want to be in something like “Flame on” [imitating Fantastic 4 superhero The Human Torch.] I want to do some “Wingardium Leviosa” [imitates a Harry Potter wand flicking] I’m ready for it all man. There’s like infinite universes that you can be a part of.