There's been much to herald about the new season of HBO's 'Euphoria,' but chief to its success has been the star turn of one Angus Cloud. In this FRONTPAGE interview, we speak to the actor about success and his bravura performance.
Angus Cloud is tired. When he joins our Zoom meeting, the actor’s distinctively languid monotone is even more sluggish and sparse than usual. “I ain’t been getting much sleep,” he admits. Understandably, Cloud has been busy. The Oakland native recently wrapped shooting two feature films and is in the midst of promoting Season Two of Euphoria, the provocative HBO series in which he plays the beloved Fezco.
In the three years since Euphoria debuted and became an instant pop culture phenomenon, generating feverish hype for its pandemic-delayed sophomore season which finally premiered in January, Cloud and his character have garnered a particular fondness amongst fans. A drug dealer whose sweet side ostensibly runs counter to his criminal dealings, Fezco’s lifestyle attunes him to a broader reality than his peers at East Highland High. Street life has imbued him with a principled mindset and unflinching directness, while at his core beats an empathetic heart.
That a felonious adolescent with a Scarface poster hanging on his wall serves as something of a moral compass in Euphoria says a lot about the nature of the show, in which writer/director Sam Levinson submits his ensemble of teenage characters — and consequently, the audience — to increasingly traumatic spirals involving sex, drugs, and various forms of violence.
“The show’s heavy,” Cloud affirms. “I don’t know how people watch all the episodes in one sitting.” Well, Cloud’s presence helps a lot. His easygoing disposition and benevolent deadpan, which he generously lends to Fezco, makes him Euphoria’s most reliable instrument of comic relief and good nature. Amidst a raging tempest of lies, heartbreak, winged eyeliner, and prosthetic dicks, Fezco’s level-headedness and desire to take care of others — his grandmother, his pint-sized sidekick Ashtray, Rue — mercifully offers some solid ground to stand on.
Even in his most dramatic moments, Fezco often functions as a sort of wish-fulfilling surrogate for the audience; whether he’s delivering a hard-earned beating to the villainous Nate (Jacob Elordi), kicking a manic Rue (Zendaya) out of his house for attempting to steal drugs from his sick grandmother, or opening his heart to the strait-laced Lexi (Maude Apatow), Fez tends to stand in gratifying contrast to the other characters’ collective disinclination to make honorable or empathetic decisions.
A highlight of Season Two has been the slowly-blossoming romance between Fez and Lexi — dubbed “Fexi,” by fans — which has permitted the audience to take some wholesome respite, however fleeting, between all the barbs, bitterness, and barfing-in-hot-tubs. You’d be hard-pressed to find another moment in the show so pure or so placid as when the pair hold hands after watching coming-of-age tearjerker Stand By Me together in Episode 6. “They both see the kindness in each other… the openness, the non-judgmentalness,” Cloud says of the characters’ attraction. “I feel like it aligns with how [Fezco] accepts people for who they are and how they present themselves, more than what they have done or what it may look like.”
That good faith is at the core of what makes Cloud’s character resonate. To Rue, Fezco is a surrogate big brother who assumes a certain responsibility for her. Even when he has to physically eject her from his house — a painful moment in Episode 5 that punctuates Rue’s rock bottom — he doesn’t hesitate to make the only sound decision he can. “He didn’t want to do it,” Cloud says of the scene. “But there was no other choice to be made.”
Cloud’s personal relationship with Zendaya — who also hails from Cloud’s native Oakland, where they happened to attend the same performing arts school — is certainly nowhere near as heavy, but it is similarly familial. “That’s my sister,” he says. “We don’t get to hang out that much, but I got so much love for her.”
Cloud later moved from Oakland to New York, where he was working in a restaurant and decidedly not pursuing a career in entertainment until a casting agent approached him on the street to audition for Euphoria. “I didn’t have any aspirations to act,” he says. “I didn’t have aspirations for much at all, to be honest. I was just trying to go with the flow [and] do whatever I felt would make me happy at the time.” Needless to say, he nailed the part. In fact, despite his inexperience, Cloud’s embodiment of Fezco turned out to be so captivating that Cloud says Levinson altered his initial plans to kill the character off in Season One and opted to keep Fez in the story indefinitely.
As exciting as Cloud’s serendipitous success is, the immediacy of his ascent makes it understandable that his stamina for stardom might be less than that of his seasoned castmates, most of whom had experience in the entertainment industry prior to Euphoria. Especially for someone who had no ambitions to be an actor, let alone be a fixture on one of TV’s most-watched and consistently trending series, there’s a level of whiplash that comes with going from zero to 100. Reticent as he is, he makes it clear that there are elements of the job he has yet to acclimate to.
“Can’t never go back to being a regular person that nobody gives a fuck about,” he says, somewhat wistfully. He doesn’t cite any bad experience in particular, but rather a general discomfort with being the center of attention. “Everyone’s cool, but I don’t like feeling more special than other people. I’m not better than nobody,” he says. “It just feels weird to be treated like I’m important.”
Coming from a more trained celebrity, a remark like this might come off as fake humility, but Cloud lacks the artifice (and the energy) for that. “You feel paranoid. You don’t know who to trust. You feel like people might not be acting the way they would normally act to you if you were just a regular person,” Cloud says. “I would much rather meet and talk to somebody who had no idea who the fuck I am than somebody who had seen me on TV, because it's a different type of interaction. It's more real.”
For better or for worse, there’s no sign things will slow down or reduce scale anytime soon. Days prior to our interview, it was announced that HBO renewed Euphoria for a third season. The news coincided with Cloud wrapping photography for a coming-of-age thriller movie called The Line, for which he spent the past month “holed up in a hotel in Oklahoma” alongside castmates Alex Wolff and Halle Bailey. He also recently shot Your Lucky Day, a film in which he plays a “street oriented drug dealer type guy" in the same vein as Fezco.
Is he concerned about getting type casted? “Yeah, if I had the option, I would rather not play a drug dealer everytime,” he says, but otherwise, he doesn’t have specific parameters for the type of projects he hopes to pursue in the future. “I just want to make cool art, whatever that may be,” he shrugs. “Maybe like some magic stuff. Who knows? I’m open to anything, really.”