On this Thursday afternoon, Elgort wears a hole-pocked Marines T-shirt, faded black skinny jeans and well-worn sea-green Nikes, and radiates the easy charm of someone who’s used to things working out in his favor. His goofy lack of self-consciousness has helped win him nearly 8 million followers on Instagram, where he mostly posts pictures of himself with Komyshan, or skateboarding and playing pickup basketball, or with famous friends like Martin Garrix and longtime pal Joe Jonas, who praises Elgort: “He’s so talented, with his acting career and now his music.”
He has also been buddies with The Chainsmokers since meeting them through his one-time roommate, the DJ Pierce Fulton. He later opened for them on their 2015 Friend Zone Tour. “It’s a prime example of how success makes everyone hate you if you’re not underground,” he says when asked about the perhaps inevitable pockets of backlash against The Chainsmokers. “And I’ve also been there. It becomes a meme to hate somebody. But don’t be like, ‘They seem like they’re so bro-y.’ They were never trying to fool anyone into thinking they weren’t bro-y.” He takes a deep breath. “Sorry if I sound heated. It’s just so easy to be a hater.”
Elgort has had his share of foot-in-mouth moments: oversharing in an Elle interview that it was easy to “get” a dancer at LaGuardia; telling Seventeen, in a misguided attempt to compliment Fault co-star Shailene Woodley, “I’ve never once wanted her sexually.” But talking to him today, it’s hard to imagine Elgort blurting out anything like that. He even frets, mildly, over his credibility in music. “There are a lot of things I want to do, and I never want people to be like, ‘Ugh, that guy singing? Desperate,’” he says. “Eventually, I hope I can have a career that’s uncategorizable. And that’s hard. I think that would be very difficult to do.” He pauses, thinking. “But I’m hopefully going to pull it all off.”
There’s a Steinway piano overlooking the street on the first floor of Elgort’s house. “In middle school, I really liked John Legend,” he says with a grin, sliding onto the bench and starting to play “Ordinary People.”
When he starts to sing, in a croon that sounds like Frank Sinatra meets Depeche Mode’s Dave Gahan, Elgort displays the commitment of a kid at theater camp, which makes sense. He grew up attending the School of American Ballet, and though he hated it, he decided to become a singing, dancing leading man after seeing Oklahoma! and 42nd Street on Broadway.