Fans of Kissing Booth breakout Jacob Elordi will be pleased to know that he's heading up HBO's Euphoria as another elusive bad boy. In keeping with the network's R-rated brand, though, Elordi's Euphoria character, Nate, isn't just a bad boy, he's a terrible boy — as in he's a genuinely terrible person. But that's also the point, as the show deconstructs character tropes and subverts expectations of what a teen drama can be.
Euphoria marks Elordi's first TV role following his starring turn in Netflix's teen rom-com The Kissing Booth. Based on a book by the same name, Elordi played Noah, the leather-clad, motorcycle-riding love interest of naïve protagonist Elle (The Act's Joey King). Though Netflix CEO Ted Sarandos claimed the film was "one of the most-watched movies in the country," it was skewered by critics and viewers alike, and many saw the relationship between Noah and Elle as toxic. Noah was portrayed as scarily controlling, but his behavior was never addressed in a meaningful way, which was worrisome considering it was a romantic movie marketed to teens. Instead, his possessiveness and proclivity for violence were written off as character quirks that he and Elle's romance had to overcome. In the end, Noah went off to college, and Elle mused that a part of her will always belong to him. "In another film, the sentiment would be a romantic one. In The Kissing Booth, it feels like a cage," Kate Erbland wrote for IndieWire.
Those who were frustrated by Noah may initially find themselves at odds with Euphoria's Nate. The character feels a lot like Noah, but dialed up to 11. He's aggressive, has reductive views about women, and is pretty possessive of his girlfriend; Elordi's work in The Kissing Booth was basically a perfect audition. In a rom-com, Noah's toxic machismo should feel out of place. But in Euphoria, a bleak drama interested in taking a hard look at the risqué and tragic underbelly of teen life, Nate's angry disposition is right at home.
However, according to Elordi, there's more to Nate than meets the eye. The character may come across as a stereotypical, one-dimensional jock — and outright bully — but he has his own dark, painful secrets to contend with. In later episodes of Euphoria, Nate reveals another side to himself — one that feels like a complete departure from how he's initially introduced.
Nate's story required Elordi to go into a pretty intense headspace. In talking about taking on Euphoria's bleak subject matter, Elordi told Entertainment Today, "I learned a lot about myself. I had to kind of readjust and make myself into a blank canvas, I suppose, coming into playing the character because he's so different to who I am as a person."
So while it may seem like Elordi has been typecast to play a jerky, unlikeable jock, it's clear the beautifully shot, skillfully acted, and complexly written Euphoria has more in store for Nate. Fans used to seeing Elordi in lighter fare may find the show devastatingly grim, but it's worthwhile viewing for those interested in seeing Elordi really stretch his acting chops and authentically capture the struggle of what it's like to be a teen today.