Cal Jacobs might not win Father of the Year for how he treats his sons or his wife, but you have to give him points for honesty and directness. In one of the most memorable moments from Euphoria‘s second season, Eric Dane’s Cal gets blind drunk and tells his family not just that he sleeps with men, but he reveals how much he despises his life. It’s a confrontational, ugly moment tinged with pitch-black humor, and we are with Dane every step of the way. Cal has done a lot of horrible things in just two seasons, but we finally get to see him live out loud for the first time.
In the voiceover of the season two premiere, Zendaya’s Rue says of Cal, “If you dislike your kid, it’s kind of your fault.” There are a lot of reasons as to why Cal would not like Nate. Cal has made Nate the brooding, dangerous young man that he is, and you never know what kind of interaction the father and son are going to have with one another. Dane reveals that it’s deeper than a superficial dislike.
“On the surface, he does dislike Nate, but it’s more of a reflection of Cal and his son. Cal resents Nate in the way that Cal raised him. If Cal had existed within his truth from the beginning, he might’ve had different children. To say that he dislikes Nate might be dismissive. What he hates so much about his kid is how much Cal sees himself in his son.; Cal despises how much he’s had to create an entirely different existence.”
When I asked Dane if he thinks Cal resents his youngest son for the time he grows up in, he instantly agreed.
“Absolutely. He resents that Nate grows up in a time where there would’ve been considerably less resistance,” Dane added.
For a straight man playing a gay character, Dane was interested when I started revealing the inner conflict of “masc for masc” in the gay community and how white gays needs to held more accountable on social media platforms. Cal is a masculine presenting gay man, but that might change the next time we see him. He has been performing as a straight man for so long that he doesn’t know who he truly is yet.
“I don’t know how masculine Cal is actually. It’s part of the character that he’s created. He’s a builder-developer and his career is very masculine. Both of his boys play sports, and he was going to make sure they sports no matter what. His wife is very, for a lack of a better word, wife-y. I don’t necessarily know that that’s Cal. When you see Cal in his element, he’s trying out a bunch of things. I don’t know that he’s set in that ideal of being that masculine guy. Inside of Cal, there is a flamboyant, very gay man.”
One of the most haunting images of Cal’s journey is when he is kicked out of his beloved gay bar, and he can only stare at the life that he could’ve had. The neon lights glow on his face as he peers into the diamond-shaped window, and he realizes that there is no place for him. Even though so much of his identity was formed as a young man at that bar, Dane confirms that Cal hasn’t thought about going back in nearly three decades.
“He put that in a very solid lockbox, and he threw away the key. I don’t think he’s thought about it all. He’s created his own bar in that hotel room, and he’s taken a piece–whatever symbol it is–of it into the room where he meets boys and girls and trans femme women. Cal is one of those guys that can compartmentalize, and he really only revisits it when he’s in that hotel room. In that shot, he’s looking into the world he could’ve had. He’s not accepted by the straight community anymore, and he’s not accepted by the gay community.”
Before he drives away from the bar back to his family, there is a brief glimpse of a mural featuring John Wayne. Cal almost locks eyes with the legendary actor (and notorious homophobe) before making the decision to come out to his wife and kids. What Cal sees on the mural is all he knows–the masculine, attainable, American dream.
“He finds the courage to tell the family who he really is. He doesn’t give a fuck what anyone thinks anymore. Cal is thinking, ‘I’m John Wayne. I’m going to go back to my house, and pee all over this bullshit I’ve created. I’m going to tell you exactly who I am, and I don’t give a shit what you think about it.’ That’s his John Wayne moment.”
The scene where Cal wakes up his family is absurd, sad, funny, and shocking. His head is still bandaged from a beating from Ashtray, and he’s still totally wasted as he decides to urinate all over the floor. “I think I’m lonely,” Cal says to his wife, Marsha, and Dane details how angry and revealing Cal truly is in that moment. Dane had a ball with the scene.
“I’m essentially delivering the monologue in the foyer. Sam is a dynamic director, and we figured he would go up to confront his family. When he gets to the first landing, and he confronts their perspective of their homophobia. If he went out to a strip club and had sex with a woman, his kids wouldn’t be one tenth the amount of appalled as they are. It’s accepted if I cheat with a woman and not a man? Fuck you, guys.”
“I had a lot of fun with that scene, but it was daunting, I have to say. We took an entire day to shoot–that was the entire workload. I could tell you how present everyone was, but, at the end of the day, it is Cal holding his truth in one hand and a spear in the other. He is literally skewering his family, but it’s almost acceptable. This is what you get for it. Somehow it’s their fault. Despite the heaviness of the context of the scene, it was so funny. Imagine being able to say that to people after 25 years, because you think they have boxed you in. To be able to say that to them is so liberating to Cal–no matter how it comes out. ”
Euphoria is streaming now on HBO Max.