Wonderland.

JACOB ELORDI

Ater angelic roles thus far, this summer Elordi is stretching his acting ability as the volatile Nate Jacobs in HBO’s coming-of-age drama, Euphoria.

jacob elordi euphoria actor

All clothing LOUIS VUITTON FW19 PRE COLLECTION and watch OMEGA.

jacob elordi euphoria actor
All clothing LOUIS VUITTON FW19 PRE COLLECTION and watch OMEGA.

Taken from the Summer 2019 issue of Wonderland. Order your copy of the issue now.

It becomes clear my interview with Jacob Elordi is going to be a little different when instead of the usual two publicists, one assistant and 10 minute connecting tone rigmarole, I call the number I’ve been given and get through to the actor himself. I have to ask in disbelief to check it is him.

Then, he’s gone. It was all too good to be true.

A few minutes later and he’s back on the line from South Africa, greeting me with an apologetic “phones don’t really work anymore” before we agree technology is here to “eat your soul”. This should have been another clue; the 21-year-old gets surprisingly jovial about existentialism later in our Monday morning call. “I’m at the marina,” the Brisbane-born actor continues more sunnily, his Australian accent ringing through. “It’s beautiful, I’m making some movies, but right now I’m doing not much, just hanging out, eating food and reading books.”

A quick search online tells me the “movie” he refers to casually is in fact the sequel to the Netflix hit, The Kissing Booth. The 2018 teen rom-com, featuring Elordi and his pint-sized co-star and (ex-girlfriend) Joey King, was a sweet saga about high school crushes that morphed into a viral success on the streaming platform. Not that Elordi expected it to.

“I mean, I’m very grateful that people can find joy in it,” he says with modest hesitation when I bring up the film that established him in the industry, and the fandom that found him with it, “but I definitely wasn’t ready for the pandemonium that was the film when it came out.” Only Elordi’s second feature, the film won him a feverish following that’s now swarmed to 5.8 million on Instagram. Although, I doubt he’d amount the numbers to mean all that much – his posts are few and far between, preferring to live his life offline.

interview jacob elordi euphoria actor
interview jacob elordi HBO euphoria actor

All clothing LOUIS VUITTON FW19 PRE COLLECTION and watch OMEGA.

interview jacob elordi euphoria actor
All clothing LOUIS VUITTON FW19 PRE COLLECTION and watch OMEGA.
interview jacob elordi HBO euphoria actor

It’s something intoxicatingly unimaginable to those of us with three figure follower-counts, though. Just the thought strikes me with a sickening fear of being so exposed, along with a headrush, pondering unlimited instant gratification. “I guess it’s kind of all perspective,” Elordi says when I drop the inevitable “heartthrob” bomb on him. “For me personally, I abhor it… I abhor the idea of it… That’s probably why everyone is always trying to go against the grain when these things happen to you, because I don’t think anyone — unless you’re a complete psychopath — walks around thinking that you’re some kind of something… It’s counterproductive to being an actor, being considered like that. It makes it difficult to play the roles you want to play when people are constantly talking about how you look.”

Having started in theatre when he was just 12, being an actor is all that Elordi’s been trying to do for the last near-decade. Heath Ledger was his inspiration; The Dark Knight his trigger “when [he] realised that somebody was actually doing something quite important and special”. He reels off master of twisted fiction Stanley Kubrick and gritty provocateurs the Safdie brothers as his favourite directors, before telling me he’s “on an older kick now”, seeking out Fellini’s La Dolce Vita for the first time the other day. A self-confessed “cinephile”, he tells me with the slightest wistful romanticism, “the cinema, the movie theatre, is one of the grandest places you can go”.

“You’re sitting in a dark room with everyone and sharing this experience together,” he explains. “I think when we have it on demand in front of us in our rooms… you don’t get back what you would get in the theatre… It’s too easy. You need to work, because someone’s put a lot of time into something. I feel like you owe it to filmmakers and creatives and to you yourself as a human being, to get up and be like, ‘I’m excited to go to the theatre and buy a popcorn and sit down in the seat and hold my ticket in my hand’. You know? It’s an immersive experience.”

jacob elordi HBO euphoria show
jacob elordi interview HBO euphoria role

All clothing LOUIS VUITTON FW19 PRE COLLECTION and watch OMEGA.

jacob elordi HBO euphoria show
All clothing LOUIS VUITTON FW19 PRE COLLECTION and watch OMEGA.
jacob elordi interview HBO euphoria role

Sure, heading to the cinema is hardly a secret society, but in an age where everything has been overhauled to be easier, sticking with the big screen takes something of a purist who enjoys the ceremony of it all. “Exactly,” Elordi agrees. “Convenience is great, but it’s kind of that thing where convenience is probably going to become the death of us all. It’s like Wall-E!” He’s read my mind, envisioning our apocalypse at that precise moment with a Pixar filter, everyone floating around in a perma-lounge position.

“Just dying in chairs!” he carries on. “Not to become a doomsday fest,” he laughs, “but David Foster Wallace’s book Infinite Jest is literally about this. It’s about these entertainment cartridges, which are essentially television, killing people because they can’t get up from watching them… It’s a not too far future, and he wrote that in the 90s, so…” I tell him he’s setting me up for an optimistic week ahead. “Yeah, I’m just going to give you something to be really hopeful about,” he breezes sarcastically. Funnily enough, talking to someone who evades labyrinthine media training, who jokes about cult literature, and bothers to look far enough to see the results on both sides of their art, actually does just that.

Elordi’s next project straddles serial viewing and the more cinematic experience. Joining a mammoth cast featuring Zendaya, Storm Reid, Algee Smith and endless more bright young things, he stars in HBO’s Euphoria. An American reboot of an Israeli series with the same name, the much-hyped show written by Sam Levinson (Assassination Nation) has been produced by zeitgeist independent company A24. And don’t forget the headline-grabbing addition of Drake as an executive producer, too. To put it simply, Euphoria is a Big Deal, but Elordi’s casting as Nate Jacobs almost never happened.

“I auditioned — this was at a point where the movies that I’d made hadn’t come out. I had no money, I didn’t have anything, I was practically homeless in LA — and I went to the casting and I forgot my lines.” He gave up any hopes of joining the show on the spot, he tells me, but got a callback that same day. “I had no name, I had no backing, you could not find any video of me acting anywhere. I was just a child, and they cast me. I was quite lucky.”

jacob elordi interview HBO euphoria nate
jacob elordi louis vuitton omega shoot

All clothing LOUIS VUITTON FW19 PRE COLLECTION and watch OMEGA.

jacob elordi interview HBO euphoria nate
All clothing LOUIS VUITTON FW19 PRE COLLECTION and watch OMEGA.
jacob elordi louis vuitton omega shoot

Lucky indeed. As one of lead characters, we meet Nate in the first episode which follows Rue (played by the captivating Zendaya) as she readies herself for the start of school – sounds innocuous, until we find out she spent her summer in rehab. Guided by her narration, her journey through the first party of the year segues into introduction to the rest of the cast. She’s still an addict, and straight back on drugs; our stimulated shepherd, leading viewers to meet the ensemble.

“Nate Jacobs is truly awful,” Elordi laughs about his own introduction, who’s the result of toxic masculinity personified in a volatile, 6’4” high school athlete. “You have to keep watching,” he encourages. Ringleader of the jocks, Nate commands a group of boys with the stature of a man, but with anger issues and an inclination to erupt at any moment, it becomes clear he’s perhaps the most juvenile and confused of them all.

“The show takes so many dips and dives,” he continues, promising what we’re presented with in episode one isn’t all that Nate is. “Even when we were making it, what I thought he was when I auditioned to what we finished with character-wise, I never could have hoped or dreamed for anything as brilliant or as engaging. The character changed as we made the show, I think. So I’m excited to watch it. I can feel a physical change in myself and a mental change throughout the process, so I’m keen to see if it translates.”

jacob elordi wonderland magazine interview euphoria

All clothing LOUIS VUITTON FW19 PRE COLLECTION and watch OMEGA.

jacob elordi wonderland magazine interview euphoria
All clothing LOUIS VUITTON FW19 PRE COLLECTION and watch OMEGA.

While it might be hard to grasp Nate straight out of the gate, we both agree instantaneously that it’s Jules, played by Hunter Schafer, who steals the first show. A trans woman — as Schafer also is — Jules defies society’s expectation for her to try to quietly fit in any space that’s made for her. She cycles around town on a clunky bike in knee socks, pink tips bleeding into her peroxide hair, defiant to shy away when she’s tested. The newcomer actor is electric, portraying Jules with a fiery charge just close enough to the surface to explode through the circuit every now and again. “Hunter and I got to work together a lot,” Elordi says, “so I’m pretty engaged in her process and I just think she might be one of the great artists of our generation. It feels special to have been able to be with her… As an artist, as a whole being, everything she does is just honest. And I strive to be like her after.”

In the same way the UK had Skins to mirror the millennial coming-of-age experience a decade ago, it feels like Euphoria might do the same for Gen Z in the US. Although incomparable stylistically, the UK drama is still remembered for showing how traumatic defining yourself can be as a teen. The first episode is an honest — if heightened — depiction of high school and with a diverse cast that shows an authentic microcosm of modern adolescence, a vast spectrum of people will see themselves represented on screen, whether that’s the LGBTI+ community, POC, plus-sizes or those struggling with their mental health or addiction. It doesn’t feel tokenistic. It doesn’t feel judgemental. It feels normal.

“I think it’s noticeable,” Elordi says when I ask if Hollywood’s real-life efforts to become more representative stand up to its claims. “I think if you feel whatever you’re saying in the depths of your stomach and you mean it, then I’m on board… You know, I don’t think it’s a cautionary tale,” he says. Perhaps we’re finally approaching an age where shows like Euphoria can just be entertainment, rather than be applauded for their efforts that should be standard. “I think what I get from it is it’s like a fucking sick TV show. If that’s what people say when they leave, like ‘that was a fucking sick TV show’, then I’m cool with that.” You owe it to Elordi, and yourself, to watch.

Photography
Luke Abby
Fashion
Sue Choi
Words
Lily Walker
Grooming
Patricia Morales using IGK Hair and W3ll People
Production
Federica Barletta
Photo Assistant
Dylan Gordon
JACOB ELORDI