SPOILER ALERT: This interview contains spoilers for the Season 2 finale of “Euphoria,” which aired on HBO on Feb. 27.
Eric Dane is having the time of his life on “Euphoria,” HBO’s wildly popular drama from Sam Levinson. “There aren’t words to describe how much I love the show,” he tells Variety on the Monday after the finale. “These kids — I’m calling them kids, can you believe that? These young adults are so talented. It blows me away every time I watch their work.”
The “Grey’s Anatomy” alum, once best known as McSteamy, goes by a different moniker if you ask Gen Z: Cal Jacobs. “It’s revitalizing and refreshing,” he says.
“Had last season been my only season, it would have been kind of weird, because it would have left an impression on them where there’s this creepy older man sort of character,” Dane continues. “But I think they understand Cal: I think this generation of kids growing up is so precocious, I think they get Cal. And I think they can identify with Cal in a weird way.”
The Season 2 finale of the high school drama, “All My Life, My Heart Has Yearned for a Thing I Cannot Name,” sees Cal enter a tense confrontation with his son Nate (Jacob Elordi) — before being busted by the police (also courtesy of Nate).
In an interview with Variety, Dane breaks down the emotional scene he shared with Elordi, learning Cal’s backstory, and what’s next for the Jacobs family patriarch.
This finale saw a very intense, charged scene with Cal and Nate. What was your reaction to reading that scene for the first time when you saw the script?
You know, that scene went through many iterations. When I saw that he had called the cops on me, I thought, “That seems a little harsh to do to your dad.” But I do think that the scene provided — before the cops came in — some closure that Cal got to acknowledge that he failed him as a father. I would think moving forward, there would be some healing between the two of them. I don’t know where we’re going to find Cal. We could find him in the SHU Program at Pelican Bay next season. Hopefully not. You know, he may not turn in that thumb drive, you know, and therefore the cops just grab me and then it’s all a big mistake. But we’ll see — whatever the brilliant mind of Sam Levinson comes up with. But, you know, we found Cal in a saw mill at a post-sex party.
What other iterations of the scene were there?
This scene was given to me with a parenthetical that said, “To be written better.”
And how did it change from that point?
It was written better.
When Cal admitted his failings to Nate, as an actor, were you playing that scene as genuine? Or was he telling Nate what he wanted to hear?
It was genuine. Look, had Cal been sober when he dressed down his family in the vestibule of his house, I think he would have added something similar to that. But I think he’s had some time to reflect, and he sees how hurt his son is, how conflicted his son is, how curious his son is about everything that’s going on. And I think he wants to be a parent. And I think the first step in becoming a parent is cleaning up the wreckage of the past and admitting that he had failed him as a father, but moving forward, let’s figure this out together.
I don’t know if you’re aware, but that monologue from Episode 4 made you a little bit of a TikTok sensation.
I didn’t know that! I’m not on TikTok.
It’s the clip of Marsha saying, “Put your penis away,” and Cal replying, “I am who I am.” I thought it was very telling that Nate turned that back around on him and said, “You are who you are” during the finale confrontation.
That’s true. There was a little recall there to that moment. I think he’s pissed. I think there’s a lot of emotions going on. Nate wasn’t very verbose about what had gone on in the foyer. Aaron was: “Dad, what are you doing? Put your dick away, blah blah blah.” Nate was just kind of quiet the whole time. So he’s taking everything in and it’s just kind of bubbling under the surface and stewing.
When Nate brings the gun, was it just a scare tactic? Or was there ever a situation in which you could see him pulling the trigger?
Oh, no, he didn’t know how I was gonna react to it. So I’m sure he brought that just in case. Who knows? He walks in and the last time I saw him was in the house and the conversation doesn’t go like it went where I’m contrite in my behavior. If that doesn’t happen, I’m sure he might might want to use the gun.
My heart was beating out of my chest during that scene.
Jacob’s just such a good actor. He’s so intense. And he’s so still. It just brings a just such an overwhelming level of intensity to every scene he’s in.
Jacob told Variety that he considers you his family, and that he’s learned so much from you, particularly with your patience on set. What was it like getting to share these emotional scenes with Jacob and getting to know him?
Well, I couldn’t think of anybody better to share these scenes with. We have a pretty profound connection. And I think of him as family. He’s just such an open, present guy — two characteristics which make a really great actor. He’s super sincere in his work. Sincerity is a gift if you’re an actor. And we just play well together. I think we both understand the craft. We both have a tremendous amount of respect for the craft and we bonded over that. I genuinely love Jacob.
This season, we got to dive into Cal’s backstory. How did that inform your view of Cal as a person and how you chose to play him?
Well, I can’t judge the character. That’s a dead end street for any actor. So I didn’t pass any judgments on Cal. But I did know that eventually there was going to be a moment of truth and some sort of redemption for him. I couldn’t wait for that to happen. Because Cal in Season 1 was so contained and so composed, and almost robotic. It was so nice to be able to kind of let them fly, for lack of a better phrase. The work last season informs the work this season. I mean, that’s what happens when somebody is living that lie and putting up that facade. You become almost mechanical in your approach to life. And it was nice to be able to put down the mechanics and just just be free.
Will we be seeing Cal’s story continue in Season 3?
Oh, of course.
I hope that we don’t have to wait as long for Season 3 as we did for Season 2.
I just saw something that said 2024, which kind of makes sense. I mean, we’ll go back and shoot maybe in November. I don’t know. I haven’t heard. It’s always going to be changing.
Do you think that there’s going to be a redemption for Cal, or do you think that he will go down for this?
There’s gonna be redemption. I mean, that’s the trajectory he’s on. I can’t imagine Cal’s life from solitary confinement. It’s tough to work Cal into the storyline when he’s behind bars.
Do you think that there is a possibility to repair the relationship with Nate?
I hope so. I think that’s, in a weird way, what was happening in that scene. When I said what I said in the foyer, you notice Nate didn’t say anything. He got a real chance to express himself with how he felt, even with the gun. The gun was his kind of way of saying, “I fucking hate you, Dad, for what you did to me.” He even says, “I’ve always protected you and you fucking hated me for it.” Because Cal felt like a piece of shit. He resented his son for that. But Nate gets a real opportunity to do what I did in the foyer.
Has anyone cleaned up Cal’s pee?
I believe I gave the directive in Episode 4 for one of those two guys to clean it up.
Well, it wasn’t cleaned up the next time we saw the Jacobs’ home.
I didn’t see it. Was it still there?
It really was.
Oh, my God. My boys don’t listen. They never listened.
This interview has been edited and condensed.