Euphoria’s Nate is the epitome of privilege, toxic masculinity, and queerphobic bullying. It turns out that actor Jacob Elordi’s portrayal of him may have come from personal experience—that of being on the receiving end of the kind of torment Nate inflicts on others. In a recent interview with GQ, Elordi opened up about the homophobic bullying he experienced at school and how he faced it down.
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From an early age, Elordi played rugby and performed in plays at school. For some people, those two things were mutually exclusive. “From the moment I did a play I was called gay at school,” Elordi explains. “But I had this abundance of confidence in myself. Because I could do both: I was quite good at sport and I think I was quite good at theatre. I felt like I was above it, or it made me feel older. It made me feel wiser. I never was worried that my peers would think that I was less than a man.”
Elordi went even further, welcoming the gay rumors during one particular performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Cast as Oberon, the King of Fairies, he embraced a gender-bending portrayal like a man on a mission.
“When they said I was gay, I remember leaning into the makeup,” Elordi says. “I was like, if I’m going to be the King of the Fairies, I’m going to be the fucking hottest King of the Fairies you’ve ever seen. I started welcoming those kinds of characters. I started welcoming the femininity. I started speaking with my hands. I started really playing the thespian.”
His Euphoria character, Nate, has the exact opposite response to homophobic bullying. He deflects any suggestion that he might be queer by adopting hypermasculine and aggresive behaviors. He is also bullied by his father Cal (played by Eric Dane), who is a closeted queer man himself, who ruthlessly stamps out any sign of femininity. Nate internalizes that abuse and redirects it towards others. Most notably, this is thrown towards trans character Jules (played by Hunter Schafer), whom he has an attraction to.
Elordi, on the other hand, took a different path. “I stepped away from beer culture and from sport culture and I was like, well, if you think this is gay, I’m going to be who I am when I was your friend, which is this hetero guy, but I’m going to play the arts,” he says. “I’m going to do it, and I’m going to show you that’s bullshit. I could never understand – how could you label anything, ever? How could you label sport as masculine? How does your sexuality inform your prowess as an athlete, or your prowess as a performer?”
As Euphoria goes on, Nate edges slowly but surely (…but for real, slowly) to some kind of reconciliation with his attitude towards others and his own potential queerness. Here’s hoping a little of Elordi’s experience rubs off on him.