DUBAI: What is “The White Lotus” about? That’s a question HBO’s hit series’ audience is still trying to figure out in as season two unfolds. The show — which took home a staggering 10 Emmy Awards for its first season — is at least easy to describe on paper: Each season is set in a different global locale of the fictional ‘White Lotus’ luxury resort, following a number of guests and staff as their lives start to unravel on their ostensibly relaxing holiday.
The show is satirical, with moments of slapstick hilarity that are bookmarked by quieter sojourns into real drama. But what is it actually about? Who are you supposed to root for? That remains open to interpretation — by design.
“Our creator Mike White is very interested in the gray area of life. He’s not sorting out the black and white, or judging the right or wrong — he’s interested in the in-between. I think that's what's so fun about the show,” Aubrey Plaza, who plays one of season two’s many hotel guests, tells Arab News.
“My character is on holiday with her partner and another couple, and with our storyline, you assume may assume one couple is noble, right, or smart at first. Then you dig deeper, and you find that the other couple may be the ones that have it all figured out — be it the world or their own relationship. Nothing is right, nothing is wrong. That’s much like what you get in life,” Plaza continues.
While the first season, filmed during COVID-19 lockdowns, was set and filmed entirely in a Hawaiian resort, season two moves the proceedings to scenic Sicily, Italy, allowing not only for an exploration of the interplay between rich and poor, man and woman, and young and old — though all of that is well covered — but of the culture-clash as well, as Italian characters begin to interact with the American tourists.
For the show’s new Italian cast, while the show comes from a limited American perspective, it was also refreshing in a way they weren’t expecting.
“What I found really surprising was that Mike White was able to write about three female Italian characters so far away from the stereotype, from cliche. Actually, I must say that these characters are so much more complex and interesting than many Italian characters in Italian movies. They are more progressive; they are more empowered. I was really impressed, and proud,” says Italian star Simona Tabasco.
While the series introduces a wide array of new characters each with their own eccentricities and peccadilloes, there is one returning character that, because of the outsized talent and presence of its performer, is a welcome one for all involved — Tanya McQuoid, played by tenured comedy actor Jennifer Coolidge, who won her first ever Emmy for the role earlier this year at the age of 61.
“Honestly, I never expected to win an award like that in my whole life,” Coolidge says. “I was so thrilled that it was for ‘White Lotus,’ as well — a project that’s so close to my heart. And now I have the double gift of being able to do another one, when it wasn’t supposed to be like that originally. I can’t even convey my gratitude for this show. It’s genuinely improved my life.”
While the show is a skewering of the types of ultra-rich guests who may terrorize the staff of resorts such as this, it is the kindness offered them that Coolidge most responded to, and her own deep empathy for her character is why she feels that people respond to her so well — and means that the laughs she elicits never feel cruel.
“I think maybe deep down I really love to play someone who’s kind of a mess — someone who’s ripped apart inside. She’s someone who loves things too much, and that eliminates her mystery. I think that’s why men don’t really want her. She’s too much. And I think aging helps play a character like this because you’re not worried about playing it safe. You’re not worried about going too dark. The closer you get to the grave, the more chances you’ll take,” Coolidge continues.
With a morbid sense of humor like that, it’s no wonder that Coolidge continues to define the dark comedy and underlying interest in the human condition that “The White Lotus” has in such plentiful supply — and that helped elicit the rave reviews the series continues to get as the mystery of its new story continues to unfold on OSN+ in the region.