Sam Levinson has spoken out about accidental overdose death for the first time euphoria Lead actor Angus Cloud reveals the efforts made to help Cloud recover, including an intervention, an HBO-paid rehab stay, and series rewrites to keep his character alive and keep Cloud excited for the future.
Levinson gave his first interview since Cloud’s death on July 31 in an emotional interview People published exclusively on Monday. The report follows news Thursday when the Alameda County coroner confirmed his official cause of death as an accidental overdose resulting from intoxication due to the combined effects of methamphetamine, cocaine, fentanyl and benzodiazepines.
Written by Danielle Bacher, the story paints a rich, layered and sometimes devastating portrait of Cloud’s life and includes interviews with his mother Lisa, his uncle Kevin Cloud, his friend Daniel Aguilera, who was with him in the hours before his death, and euphoria Collaborators Levinson and Emmy-winning star Zendaya. Cloud, who struggled with grief after his father’s death in May, is best known for his role as drug dealer Fezco in two seasons of the gritty HBO series about a group of high school students who having to deal with relationships, trauma and abuse, friendship and substance use.
Levinson explained that he originally planned to kill off Fezco’s character at two points during the show, but kept changing his mind. “Angus was supposed to die at the end of season one, but I loved him so damn much,” Levinson revealed. “The first thing I noticed about him was that he had those Paul Newman eyes… and his audition tape where he said his name was Angus Cloud and he was 5’10” tall. “It killed me . He was perfect. I think part of the problem is that sometimes I put actors at the forefront of the show. So I thought, ‘Okay, I can’t kill him because then what does he have to look forward to?'”
It’s impossible to ignore the similarities with the series’ storylines and the experiences of the creative team. euphoria is inspired by Levinson’s own struggles as a teenage drug addict. Zendaya’s character Rue struggles with addiction in the first two seasons, and her struggles include the loss of her father. Another actor on the show, Dominic Fike, recently revealed that he is a drug addict and was almost fired because he was so “shitty” during all the filming. Cloud’s best friend Lilita claimed that she and Cloud smoked weed on set after his first scene with Zendaya. “I was like, ‘Brother, this isn’t happening,'” she said People. “But he says, ‘It’s good. The actors are cool as long as the little shitty errand boys don’t see us.” Levinson responded to the claim that he was unaware of such drug use. “I would have kicked him off the set if he smoked weed,” he said.
But its use became obvious. His mother, Lisa, said her son sustained an injury during the pandemic while running from police after almost being caught flagging in Los Angeles. He broke his calcaneus, the large bone in the heel, and required further treatment, including surgery. Cloud refused, his mother said. “I think that was actually the trigger for his drug-addicted behavior. It was extremely painful. I pushed him. I’m thinking, “You’re not going to start season two for at least four months.” Get that heel surgery. It’s a four-month recovery. “Do it now,” she said.
Sometime early in the second season, Levinson realized his actor was in trouble, so he suggested rehab. “I looked into his eyes and knew he wasn’t feeling well. At the same time, I’ve experienced situations like this before where you’re trying to clean someone up. And I just said to him, ‘I love working with you and we’ve got this great season planned and stuff, but I need you to be sober because I can count on you.'”
According to the magazine, HBO arranged for Cloud to attend a 30-day inpatient rehab program. After completion, Cloud returned to the set and continued treatment in an outpatient program for three months. “I always had the feeling that he didn’t want to [sobriety] as much as we all wanted for him,” Levinson explained. “Then it becomes difficult because the whole world can want it for you. But he didn’t want it. It’s just the self-destructive side of addiction and it outweighs everything. But you can’t give up on people. I didn’t want to let anyone give up on him.”
Sometime midway through the season, Cloud suffered a relapse, prompting Levinson to stage an intervention. After the fifth episode concluded, Cloud, wearing Rue’s red hoodie, got into a car with Levinson and his pregnant wife Ashley, an executive producer on the series, and they took him to rehab. Although the timing is unclear, Levinson informed Cloud of plans to have Fezco die in a hail of gunfire in a later episode. But again, Levinson changed his mind when he saw Cloud’s reaction.
“I could just see the blood running from his face. I think the hardest thing when you have addiction issues is finding your meaning and purpose in life. The only thing I knew was that he loved doing this show. He loved the crew. He loved the actors. He loved everything about it. And I just thought, if this goes away, I don’t know what’s going to happen in his life,” Levinson said. “We have to keep him with us. He’s too special. It doesn’t matter what the damn story is.”
Instead of Fezco falling victim to gunfire, his younger brother Ashtray, played by Javon Walton in the series, dies in the season finale. After production wrapped, Levinson said that he and Cloud took a four-hour walk at Levinson’s home during which they discussed sobriety and the need for Cloud to be clean in season three. He recalled the actor telling him, “’No, no, I’m fine. I’m doing well.’ I noticed that at this point it seemed like he wasn’t interested. “He wasn’t planning on doing anything, and yeah, he didn’t want to do it,” said Levinson, who at one point also refused to let Cloud come to set unless he came clean.
Zendaya told Cloud via email People saying that “he was one of the most unique and pure people” she had ever met. “He immediately felt like a little brother; “It’s ironic because we played characters with the exact opposite dynamic,” the actress wrote. “I’m lucky because I got to experience the most beautiful parts of him. I got to watch him create and watch him discover the fact that he was an actor. And damn well, and no matter how many times I told him that or praised his performance, I don’t think he ever really believed it.”