They also discuss that moment between Cameron and Harper, and filming in the palazzo.
From writer/creator/director Mike White, the second one installment of the HBO collection The White Lotus is set at a stunning resort in Sicily, Italy, in which resort manager Valentina (Sabrina Impacciatore) is ready to help various visitors in attaining the whole thing they need out of their trip, whether that’s with family, for enterprise motives, or of a greater romantic nature. Cameron (Theo James) is a completely successful businessman from a rich family who decides to invite his newly wealthy university roommate Ethan (Will Sharpe), as well as Ethan’s wife Harper (Aubrey Plaza), on a getaway with his personal wife Daphne (Meghann Fahy).
During this interview with Collider, co-stars Fahy and James mentioned why becoming a member of Season 2 turned into a no brainer, the experience of taking part with White, how the wedding settlement between Cameron and Daphne impacts their relationship, that uncomfortable second between Cameron and Harper, the dynamic between Daphne and Harper, operating in that exquisite palazzo, and having their own little ensemble in the large ensemble.
THEO JAMES: I’d seen it and loved it. That first season was fantastic.
MEGHANN FAHY: Yeah. I would’ve played a maid in it, or a bartender.
JAMES: It was a no-brainer. I just wanted to be involved, in some way.
What was it also like to work with someone like Mike White, who’s created this, writes it and directs it, and it’s really solely his vision? How did you find your place in that, as an actor? What is it like to collaborate with someone him?
FAHY: Mike is pretty lovely, and he makes it feel really easy to get into the groove of the show. I think that’s in part because he has such a clear vision of what he’s looking for, and he’s a really good leader, in that way. He just made everything feel really accessible. We didn’t have to think too hard about things. We just trusted him enough to fully give ourselves over to him and let him guide us.
Meghann, we learn that Daphne is more aware of who her husband really is than it first seems like she is. What did you think about the fact that she is aware of his behavior, but instead of confronting him about it, she just deals with it in her own way?
FAHY: I think they’ve got an agreement. They have terms of their relationship that I think, for the most part, genuinely work for both of them. Mike, pretty early on, let me know that he really felt like Daphne was not a victim of her circumstances. We see a lot of relationship storylines, especially between men and women, play out where the woman is like, “I’d rather be with him this way than not at all,” and I don’t think that’s what Mike was feeling was true for Cameron and Daphne. I thought that was really refreshing and interesting because it empowers her in a way that you’re not fully expecting it to.
Theo, how do you think Cameron feels about all of that? Do you think he takes Daphne’s feelings into account? Do you think he’s oblivious to what’s going on, if she’s not directly saying something to him about it?
JAMES: He thinks that he loves her genuinely and deeply, and he thinks that’s enough. In his arrogance and his place of privilege, he thinks that money allows certain people to do what they want to do, which is obviously a completely toxic place to think from. That’s what Mike’s commenting on. But the other thing that Mike is commenting on is that this couple, as messed up as they are and as toxic as they are, get off on these games. Not only are they in love, but they have an incredible sex life. They’re highly attracted to each other still, after several children and being together for many years. It’s a strange and terrible place to be, but it’s also a place that works and is intoxicating.
There’s something interesting about the moment when Cameron follows Harper back to her room to borrow Ethan’s swim trunks, and then he strips naked in the middle of the room to change into them. Is he really oblivious, in that moment? We see Harper being shocked and bothered by that, but he just seems to have no awareness of it. Does he do things like that because he knows he’s being watched, or is he just oblivious to that kind of thing?
JAMES: I think that’s one of the many questions of all the characters. It’s asking you how oblivious to it you think he is. I think he’s probably more calculating than you first think. But one thing that I wanted to make sure, and I said it to Mike, was that it doesn’t feel predatory, in that moment, because if it feels predatory, then you know who this guy is, from day one. But if it is on the boundaries of appropriate and accidental, then it becomes a gray area which is dangerous, interesting, and discombobulating.
Meghann, there’s such an interesting dynamic between Daphne and Harper. They seem like they couldn’t be more different, but then they seem to actually get closer. What do you think Daphne actually thinks of Harper? Does she want to be friends with her?
FAHY: Yeah. At the beginning, it feels very much like Daphne’s eager to connect with Harper. She also mentions in one of the episodes that she has a hard time making and keeping female friends. The irony of her little speech, in that moment, is that she feels like they stab each other in the back. She asks Harper, “Can I trust you?,” and Harper is talking about her, the whole time. Both of the couples are really talking about the other, the whole time, which is pretty true to normal dynamics. I think the journey of that friendship is really interesting because, in episode three, in the scene where Daphne’s being really vulnerable, I think Harper is too. She doesn’t really divulge anything personal, but it’s still a softer, more energetic vibe between the two women that we hadn’t seen, up until that moment. I do feel like it’s a sweet moment between the two of them, even though they’re polar opposites, in every way that you can imagine.
What was it like to actually be in that palazzo and to find yourself in that experience of working there, with as incredible as it is to look at?
FAHY: Yeah, it was a really beautiful space, and it had a really special feel to it. Shooting there, especially for the nighttime scenes, it just felt like there was a different vibe than any of the other places that we had been. They’re so old and beautiful, and everything in there is the way that it always has been. That’s part of the charm of it. It was a special space.
What was it like to work with Aubrey Plaza and explore the dynamic between your characters?
FAHY: Oh, it was great. The characters are built to have opposing energies, so some of the work of that comes naturally, based on who we are as people, and I just think that’s really fun. Aubrey was great. I had most of my scenes with her, it feels like, and we had a blast. Playing with those two different vibes of characters, it was as fun for us to play as it is to watch.
Theo, this show has a big ensemble, but you also have all of your own little ensembles within the show. What was it like for you, to go through this with Aubrey and Will Sharp, and to have them to bounce off of?
JAMES: Yeah, it is strange because we have little stories within stories, and for the four of us, we don’t have massive overlap with some of the other stories in the show. It was very much the four of us. It was good. It was an evolution because the characters are so polar opposite, not only Daphne and Harper, but also as couples. They’re supposed to be. They’re designed to be the antithesis of one another. So, playing that was sometimes difficult because they’re coming from such different viewpoints in the world. And Mike deliberately writes the dialogue that is both fluent, but then will grind to a halt and make the audience feel like, “Oh, God, this is excruciating.” At times it was tough, but generally, we had a great time. We were very lucky.
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