How Angus Cloud Survived a Broken Skull and Became ‘Euphoria’s’ Stoner Icon

Photographs by Greg Swales

Every scar has a story. Fans of Angus Cloud, the 24-year-old actor who plays the affable, brooding drug dealer Fezco on “Euphoria,” have long speculated about the curved mark that runs along the left side of his scalp. Over a brunch of vegan breakfast burritos in Mid City, Los Angeles, Cloud reveals where it came from. “It’s real,” he says, slouching in his seat and making intense eye contact. “I broke my skull on Friday the 13th.”

As Cloud tells it, in 2013, he peeled off from a group of friends who were walking through downtown Oakland, where he grew up. Alone and in the dark, he didn’t notice the construction pit in front of him until he was already falling.

“I woke up 12 hours later at the bottom,” he says. “I was trapped. I eventually climbed out after — I don’t know how long. It was hella hard to climb out, because my skull was broken, but my skin wasn’t, so all the bleeding was internal, pressing up against my brain. But they wasn’t gonna find me down there. I found myself. Or God found me, whatever you want to call it.”

Angus Cloud Power of Young Hollywood Variety Cover

With broken fingers, Cloud pulled himself up out of the ditch, which was at least 10 feet deep. “But I didn’t feel no pain,” he says. “I was in survival mode, you feel me?” After he escaped, his vision blurry, Cloud took the bus to his mother’s house. “Because I was a kid! I was 14 or 15. She thought I was on drugs, ’cause my pupils was hella dilated. I was trying to tell her what happened, but I could only start a sentence — I couldn’t finish it. So I was like, ‘I’m just gonna go sleep in my bed.’”

Thankfully, his mother didn’t let him. “I would have died,” he says. “She gave me some water, and I started throwing up hella mouthfuls of crimson red blood. Shit was crazy. So then my mama took me to the children’s hospital, and they saved my life. That’s what the scar’s from. They cut my head open, they put some screws and a plate over where I broke my skull and — shit, sealed me back up, and that was that.”

Cloud is stoic as he tells this story, at once grateful to be alive and uncomfortable acknowledging how much he’s overcome. “The brain is so fragile,” he says. He shrugs off the recovery process: five days in the ICU “loaded off morphine,” then a few more in non-intensive care units before going back home. “It was damn near like nothing really happened. I’m so blessed to just have minor brain damage. You know, it’s so minor it ain’t even really worth speaking about.”

Then again, Cloud is a man of few words. There’s little he does feel the need to speak on at length. That’s not always the easiest persona to maintain when you’re suddenly starring in the second-most-watched HBO series of all time after “Game of Thrones.” On social media, where tens of thousands of “Euphoria” fans analyze every episode after it airs and seek intimate details about the actors’ personal lives, there’s a common perception that Cloud is Fez, particularly because of his voice: full of gravel and sloth-like in delivery. He speaks like he has all the time in the world.

But let’s be clear: He’s playing a character. “It does bother me,” Cloud says, “when people are like, ‘It must be so easy! You get to go in and be yourself.’ I’m like, ‘Why don’t you go and do that?’ It’s not that simple. I brought a lot to the character. You can believe what you want. It ain’t got nothing to do with me.”

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Greg Swales for Variety

“Euphoria” is Cloud’s first acting job, and he was literally plucked off the street for the role. “I was with some friends,” he says. “We were just hanging out.” Casting scout Eléonore Hendricks, who specializes in street casting, spotted him while walking through Brooklyn one night. He then found himself reading for casting director Jennifer Venditti, who was eager to populate creator Sam Levinson’s series with naturalistic actors. “People think, ‘Oh, he just shows up. He’s just this lazy stoner,’” Venditti says. “Angus doesn’t get enough credit.”

On “Euphoria,” Fez is dragged into the brutal family business, but this dealer has a heart of gold. From the very first episode, he looks out for Rue (Zendaya) like an older brother as she battles addiction. Later in the series, he develops a caring situationship with the straitlaced Lexi (Maude Apatow). And in Season 2 premiere “Trying to Get to Heaven Before They Close the Door,” Fez — good boy that he is — runs after his grandmother, who is using a crowbar to beat the shit out of a con man. Then she accidentally clocks him in the head.

But now we know that Levinson was borrowing Cloud’s scar for Fez, not the other way around. “I did some physical therapy,” he says about the period after his fall. “And actually, some speech therapy, but that’s about it. Only for a couple weeks, ’cause I was like, ‘Ehh.’”

Can Fez’s cadence be traced back to Cloud’s accident? I ask whether he thinks his speech has changed. “Probably a little bit slower,” he says. “And I mix the front of one word with the back of the next. I’ll scribble-scrabble two words together. Mix-match.”

• • •

Most of the talented young actors on “Euphoria” — Zendaya, Sydney Sweeney, Jacob Elordi and Alexa Demie, to name a few — have embraced the new spotlights they’ve been given. But Cloud, who deeply values his privacy, isn’t them. In the two hours we spend together, my tape recorder is filled with long stretches of silence.

Cloud isn’t easy to pin down. After more than a month of back and forth with his publicist, we don’t arrive on a meeting place until the evening before our interview, when Cloud suggests the Mateo’s Ice Cream & Fruit Bars on Pico Boulevard. The classic L.A. haunt was a favorite of his when he stayed in this neighborhood before moving to Koreatown, where he now lives with his “homies from the Bay.”

He shows up in the parking lot of the strip mall, but walks in the opposite direction until I call his name and introduce myself. “I’m finna go in the store right quick,” he says. “You need anything?”

We enter a convenience store, where he stops at a rack full of black baseball caps with neon pink and green brims that say “San Francisco” in bedazzled letters: “These are fire — what the fuck?” He tries on a pair of $7 sunglasses — “You fuck with these joints?” — before picking up two water bottles, a can of V8, a pack of Marlboro No. 27s and two lotto tickets, paying for the scratch-offs in cash. The rest of his impulse buys, I put on my debit card for $26.47.

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Greg Swales for Variety

We decide to get a real meal before dessert and walk to the Grain Cafe, where a server bashfully admits she’s a fan. She asks for a picture. “Do we look cool?” Cloud asks me as they pose. (They do.) He orders a cup of carrot juice with his burrito, rapping a Young M.A. lyric: “‘Double cup of carrot juice / That’s my savage juice.’ Me too, M.A.!”

There are interludes throughout the conversation, offbeat tales that only Cloud can tell. For example, about his casting interview with Venditti: “They were asking me weird questions, like, what’s the funnest thing I ever did. It’s hard to answer. I do a lot of fun stuff.” He doesn’t elaborate until I mention that Venditti has already told me the story of how he once broke into a zoo. “Yeah, that happened a couple times. You just go over the fence at the zoo. Go into the kangaroo cage. See some animals. And get kicked out.”

After brunch, we finally make it to Mateo’s, where he gets a chocolate sprinkle cone with one scoop of coffee ice cream and one scoop of horchata, 12 popsicles to bring to the crew at his cover shoot and four Mateo’s keychains. (He tries to buy a hat like the ones the employees are wearing, but they don’t have any extras.) We walk back outside to eat.

Our time together now is almost wordless. It’s late July. Cloud takes off his shirt; the sun disfigures his ice cream cone until it falls to the ground. He picks it back up and wipes off the dirt, covering his fingers with ice cream in the process. I ask him if he’s sure he still wants to eat it — we could go back inside and buy another scoop. “Five-second rule,” he says, and slurps it down without missing a beat.

As he finishes, I hand him a stack of napkins and go back in to get some more. He soaks through them all. I offer to run inside again, but Cloud gestures to the water in our shopping bag. He cups his sticky palms in front of me. I pour, and he washes them clean.

On the 20-minute car ride to the photo shoot, he falls asleep next to me. He holds a to-go cup of carrot juice in his hand. Somehow, it never tips over.

• • •

As deadpan as Cloud is about most topics, he’s more of a vault when it comes to “Euphoria.” Levinson, who declined to be interviewed for this story, is known for running a chaotic set, rewriting storylines until the last minute and keeping his cast and crew working late — sometimes through the night. According to Cloud, a day on “Euphoria” can run anywhere from 10 to 16 hours. He’d worked on his feet at a chicken and waffles restaurant in New York before being cast, and after the grueling demands of the service industry, he didn’t expect that acting would be so exhausting.

“It surprised me,” he says, “because I’m not in there sweating and busting my ass, but mentally, I get off work, get in the car and go, ‘Shit! What the fuck? I’m tired as fuck, and not even doing shit!’ I’m a pretty easygoing, goofy guy. But Fezco doesn’t laugh or smile too much. I’ll be like this all day” — he scrunches his face — “and I gotta release my eyebrows.”

Angus Cloud Power of Young Hollywood Variety

He says he has no idea how long the show will run, and he hasn’t seen a single script for Season 3 or heard any plot details. (The second season concluded on Feb. 27.) As with many of his castmates, his remarks about the future of the show are vague. “I’m just excited to see what Sam comes up with,” he says, adding: “He not gonna drag it on like ‘Lost.’”

Beyond “Euphoria,” he’s still finding his way. He recently wrapped shooting on the thriller “The Line,” which he describes as a “frat movie” that sees him using a different accent. “They wanted me to sound like I was damn near from the South or something,” Cloud says. “I hope I did a good job. I ain’t try’na be no one-trick pony. But if I did shit, then it is what it is. I don’t know how to act. I’m in rooms with people that have been acting their whole life, and I’m like, ‘Why am I here?’ I got impostor-type shit.”

But the more he talks about his insecurities, the less crushing they become. “I didn’t spend my whole life trying to be an actor, so I’m not finna be devastated if I didn’t do a good job on some shit where I have no idea what the fuck I’m doing,” he says. Now he’s laughing: “It’s not like I fucked my whole life up. Y’all hired me!”

Cloud is keenly aware that he’s got his entire future in front of him. “It’s the best job I ever had,” he says about acting, “but there’s plenty of other stuff I could see myself doing.” Like what? “Buy a boat. Find an island. Post up in a tent. See what happens next.”

Earlier in the day, mid-burrito, he looks down at the table at one of the lottery tickets he bought. He pulls out a coin and begins to scratch. “Oh, hit!” he says, celebrating his big win. “Twenty bucks! Pow! Easy money! Fuck out of my face. Just like that.”

Styling: Danyul Brown/The Only Agency; Set Design: Lucy Holt; Grooming: Barbara Guillaume/Forward Artists; Look 1 (cover all pink): Jacket, top, pants and shoes: Valentino; Look 2 (with popsicle): Shirt, turtleneck and trousers: Prada; Look 3 (orange shirt): Shirts, jewelry and pants: Versace; Look 4 (tight portrait collar shirt): Denim shirt: Louis Vuitton