‘Euphoria’s’ Javon Walton Shares Last-Minute Changes to Season 2 Finale: ‘Ashtray Wasn’t Supposed to [SPOILER]’

Javon Walton as Ashtray "Euphoria" finale
Courtesy of Eddy Chen / HBO

SPOILER ALERT: This interview contains spoilers for the Season 2 finale of “Euphoria,” which aired on HBO on Feb. 27.

Played by 15-year-old Javon Walton, Ashtray is simultaneously the cutest and the scariest thing about Sam Levinson’s “Euphoria.” The unofficially adopted brother of Fezco (Angus Cloud) is a whiz kid when it comes to selling drugs, converting black market cryptocurrency and predicting the moves of the shady figures that haunt his suburb. No character in “Euphoria” goes an episode without incurring new trauma, but Ashtray is more hardened than even Fez and Rue (Zendaya), because he was the earliest to be robbed of a childhood.

After a mix of drugs, abandonment and violence forced an elementary school-aged Fez into the position of raising baby Ash by himself, Ash grew up with a deep well of anger and a fearlessness of violence. Twice in the show’s second season, that manifests in his split-second decisions to brutally kill people. When Ash stabs Custer (Tyler Chase) in the neck for working with the police to take him and Fez down, Fez begs his little brother to let him handle it, determined to take the fall himself. But Ash refuses to surrender, and ends up in a shootout with a SWAT team. He inevitably loses. We hear the thud of his body hitting the floor. (Though it may be important to note that we never see it.)

But Walton doesn’t define his character by his violent streak alone. “He is a really hard worker. He is very loyal to the people he loves. And he is smart and very, very confident,” he says. After a long day of classes, the young actor logged onto Zoom to tell Variety about his hopes for Ashtray’s future and how his boxing career landed him a role in the hottest teen drama on television.

What grade are you in? And how was school today?

I’m a ninth grader. And school today — it’s school at the end of the day. Math is a struggle. I’m not the biggest fan of math. And overall, I’m not a big fan of school. But I do like my sixth period. It’s called Team Sports, and basically you just mess around and play basketball. It’s great way to get your energy out. So I love that!

Do your classmates watch the show? Does it feel weird to be in classes while you have this whole other life?

Sometimes it does a little bit, but people are usually super respectful about it. It’s usually not a thing. Some do, no doubt, but they don’t really talk to me too much about it. Because they know — I’m a really private person.

Let’s get into the episode. It seems unlikely, but some people think Ashtray might still be alive. Is there any hope?

There’s definitely hope for Ashtray to still be alive. Because if there’s somebody who could take a bullet in the show, it’s Ashtray. Ashtray is one badass kid. He’s not playing around. I believe he has a shot about being around for Season 3.

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Ashtray’s background is such a mystery. Have you spent much time thinking about where he comes from?

I’ve definitely thought about what his backstory could be, the character and everything that’s behind. His family, his dad, his mom, because we don’t really get to see any of that. But anger comes from him, so he definitely comes from a really angry side. That’s something that is the main thing about him. He’s just an angry kid.

Some of the things I’ve imagined [are] when he was really little, how his parents would treat him. Because he’s even way angrier than Fezco. There’s definitely a story behind all that. I might not be super clear on exactly what that could be, but it’s definitely something super deep.

How do you prepare for your more intense scenes, like the SWAT team shootout?

Honestly, especially for the finale, you have to really hone in and have your own space for a minute to really go there. Because it’s this deep space that you have to connect to. Ashtray, he doesn’t have a lot of dialogue, right? But you can tell what he’s saying just by looking through his eyes. You can see the story behind them without him having to talk.

It was pretty sad shooting that last scene because I knew that would be my last time on set, which sucks. I knew I was gonna miss everybody there. But during the shootout, when I was in the bathtub, it was pretty crazy because I was getting dust all over me. They had to pour the dust to make it look super realistic from the bullets flying in. It was a sad day, but also a good day. Because I knew I was going to make a strong last impression.

Fez tries so hard to take get Ash to let him take the fall for killing Custer, but Ash still takes on the SWAT team by himself. What do you think about their relationship in that scene?

He really just wanted to protect me, and he wanted to die for me. It’s either you go to jail or you die at that point, when SWAT teams are blazing bullets through the whole place; there’s not much you can do. And he really just wanted to protect me, like how I wanted to protect him.

Ashtray decided to do his own thing, because he wanted what was best for him in that moment. And that was selfish of him. At the end of the day, he’s a kid, you know? A lot of people see him as this adult, but he’s very vulnerable. And we really see that at the end of the last episode. And he does not want to go to a foster home. That’s another thing.

It’s interesting that in Ashtray’s big moments, he’s always acting on instinct. He decides to kill both Mouse and Custer right in the moment.

He grew up in a world with just all violence. He wasn’t taught any better but to kill. I can almost see where he’s coming from, even though [I know] how messed up it is. All he knows is to protect Fez.

Angus told Variety earlier today that you originally did have lines in the script, even though Ash remains completely silent in the final version of the episode. Do you remember some of the things you said?

That was so long ago now, like six months ago, so I don’t remember the exact dialogue. But there’s been a few times like that, where Ashtray was supposed to have certain dialogue and Sam just decided to cut it because he likes [that with] Ashtray, there’s a lot of mystery behind him.

How do you feel about the silence?

Honestly, I kind of liked it. But at the same time, I do wish I had more dialogue in certain parts. But I really just was following Sam’s vision. I just wanted to follow that because that’s what he thought was best. And I thought it worked as well.

If you could write for Ashtray, what would he be saying?

If I could write for Ashtray… it would be some like super gangster shit. Like when he was hitting Cal in the head, it would just be some super G stuff the whole time. [In the finale], I don’t think there’s much he could say. “I’m not gonna leave you like this.” That kind of stuff. Telling [Fezco] he’s sorry for what he’s about to do.

There’s been a lot of talk of script rewrites throughout the season. What changes happened that involve your character?

Just how much more violent he really got. He got a lot more violent this season, because last season, he was younger. But as he’s matured, he’s really changed almost for the worst.

And Ashtray wasn’t supposed to get shot. That was another thing. He wasn’t supposed to get shot! It was Fez that was supposed to get shot at first, which is crazy. And then, like a day before, they changed the storyline to me getting shot.

What about when Ash accidentally shoots Fez? Was that originally in the script?

I don’t think that was always there. It was kind of written — the whole thing — like a day before.

Let’s end on a happier note. What has been your favorite scene to shoot?

My favorite scene was all the way back to Season 1. The very first scene I shot. I was talking to Rue, she was buying drugs, and I was trying to stack my cash, pay off our mortgage. That was the very first scene I ever shot. And it was with Zendaya! Just a really cool moment. It was like, “Oh, is this how acting is?” Because I didn’t understand it at the time!

Tell me more about the early days of “Euphoria.” I know this was your first acting project. Had you been auditioning for things for a long time?

Oh, no, not at all. I’m a boxer. That’s what I’ve done pretty much my whole life, and I was on Steve Harvey’s show for boxing. And this casting director named Jennifer Venditti, she saw me and she was like, “Hey, do you want to try acting? There’s this role called ‘Euphoria.’” I was like, “Sure.” I didn’t even think that it was something that I would even think of.

I ended up trying out for it, and I got it immediately. [Levinson] loved my look. He was going for a bigger kid, but he liked that I was smaller. And then I was just so gangster with it. And I was one of the only kids that was pronouncing the drug names right!