Jacob Elordi isn’t just another heartthrob. The 23-year-old actor has the grit to travel to dark places on the HBO TV series “Euphoria,” where he plays Nate, a high school jock with anger management issues. More recently, Elordi switched courses to reprise his role as Noah in the Netflix rom-com “The Kissing Booth 2,” a sequel to the hit 2018 movie (a third installment has already been shot). Up next he stars in the indie drama “2 Hearts” (in theaters on Oct. 16) and in “Deep Water,” a thriller with Ben Affleck and Ana de Armas, scheduled for release later this year.
For Variety’s Power of Young Hollywood issue, Elordi talked over Zoom from his home in Brisbane, Australia, about preferring to play the bad guy.
“Euphoria” is set in high school. What shows about high school did you watch growing up?
I watched “High School Musical.” I was actually a big fan of that. I watched “Gossip Girl” start to finish. It’s intense. The soundtrack on that is crazy, by the way, if you go back and watch it. Also, Chuck Bass. What an irredeemable character. I believe he rapes two girls in the first episode, and then by the last season, you love him. How do you do that? What kind of arc is that?
What’s it like playing a morally questionable character?
When I was younger, I didn’t question it so much. I just wanted to work and make movies. If the script is acknowledging them — and they’re meant to be there, and not just an outcome of bad writing — then I think it’s much more interesting to play it. I’d hate to play someone who’s morally correct all the time. We do shitty things all the time to each other.
Did you have to audition for “Euphoria”?
It was super simple. It was really just like a conventional audition process. I went down to the casting office, fumbled through my lines and ended up getting called back. And yeah, it was just like that. Sorry, I have a cough. I think I have this asthma thing going on. It’s not the virus. Please don’t jump to any conclusions.
What can you tell us about “Euphoria” Season 2?
Sam [Levinson] changes scripts like a madman. I could tell you something now, and it would not be at all relevant to what I’m going to read when we go back. It’s ever changing, even up until the day that we’re shooting.
Did you work with an intimacy coordinator for your sex scenes?
Yeah, we did. It’s interesting. I feel like everyone is supposed to say what a wonderful thing that is, given the current climate. I do agree with it to a degree, because it offers a safety net to yourself as a performer and to the people around you that you can always fall back on, and you can have that mutual trust.
I could just be being an idiot, but sometimes it can make a scene feel forced and I feel like it can lose that spark, which maybe has to happen for a safe work environment. But I would often wonder if there’s another way, or if you could opt to have it or not to have it. Because if you have communication, like Alexa [Demie] and I had incredible communication. So we sorted most of all stuff out ourselves. I question what it does to the integrity of a scene, I suppose, in some instances. But it’s definitely a necessary thing, or a version of it, for sure.
Do you feel any pressure to look a certain type of way, given the physicality of your roles?
I wouldn’t say in a vain nature. During “Euphoria,” I started the show much bigger, and then decided to lose that muscle and weight as we shot. I know a lot of male actors — kudos to them — do pushups and stuff before a scene, even if it has nothing to do with the scene, just so they look like they’re in great shape. Which is
fine, but I wouldn’t say it’s my prerogative. I have a large frame in general.
Have you ever gotten your makeup done “Euphoria”-style?
I never got it done for my general life. I was meant to have it done for the premiere, but I was coming off of a plane. I would have loved that. There’s a movie called, I think it’s “Velvet Goldmine,” with Ewan McGregor and Christian Bale. This Iggy Pop thing. But they all wore makeup to that premiere. Everyone now is like, “Wow, ‘Euphoria’ has all this makeup. Look how far we’ve come.” But if you go back to that movie, it’s Christian Bale on the carpet with this gorgeous stuff on his face.
Let’s talk fashion choices. You were recently photographed in New York with gold nail polish.
I don’t really know if they’re choices, as just kind of wake up and do it. I’m pretty sure I’d just gotten a suit in New York that had these little gold cat ears on it and I just wanted my nails to be gold. My nieces sometimes paint my nails, so maybe it was just an extension of that. There’s also something, just to be candid, really nice about the lady that sits there, and you have a little conversation with her as she files your nails and puts the paint on it. It’s a great zen experience.
As for fashion, I’m pretty sure most of it comes from my idols or movies. I’ll see a character or something, and I’ll just want to be like them. I’ll just completely rip whatever they’re wearing.
Is there as much paparazzi for you in Australia as there is in L.A.?
Mm-mm [no]. This is the most beautiful place in the world. I had a run-in in Sydney once, strangely. That sucked. But, no. If I’m by myself, you won’t see me. I’m a ghost.
The plot of “Kissing Booth 2” revolves around a Dance Dance Revolution competition. Did you ever do DDR while shooting the movie?
Not even for a second. I don’t even think I would have been allowed. It would have been an insurance problem. I would have gotten a serious injury. They dance so hard in that. No, I’m so bad at that. Have you ever done that at an arcade?
Let’s talk about how “Kissing Both 2” ends…
I haven’t seen it. You’ve seen more than I have. I don’t know if I’m allowed to say that, but I haven’t. Do you like it?
Yeah, it was cute.
I thought it was better than the first one.
That’s so kind of you.
What was it like being on set with Ben Affleck while making “Deep Water?”
Like a dream. It was the most ridiculous thing ever. At first I just knew that Ben was in it. In my emails, it’s Ben Affleck, do you know what I mean? He’s one of the performers of my childhood, and just one of the all-time greats. We would do scenes from “Good Will Hunting” in acting school. I’ve seen every single movie that man’s made.
What can you tell us about “Deep Water”?
It’s why I hope the cinemas open. It’s such a Friday night movie to just go and see. You can get something out of it as well because it’s intelligent and it’s classy. I don’t have the largest part to play in it, so I can’t speak to the plot so much personally, but I just really like it. I think it’s such an important kind of movie for cinema and for movies. You would have seen it in the ’90s or the early 2000s. It’s such a movie. It’s got a strong plot. It’s intense. It’s got great actors in it, and a great director. I hope it’s the rebirth of these kind of movies again.
What do you think of the Twitter account dedicated to Ben Affleck and Ana de Armas updates?
I feel like the Internet is dedicated to that. I feel so bad for them. Let them walk their bloody dog.