All about ‘The White Lotus’ season 2: Sex, perception and narcissism

The cast of Mike White’s sharp social satire ‘The White Lotus,’ including Sabrina Impacciatore and Adam DiMarco, on their experiences shooting the opulent show

November 11, 2022 06:06 pm | Updated November 12, 2022 02:25 pm IST

Sabrina Impacciatore as resort manager Valentina in the second season of ‘The White Lotus’

Sabrina Impacciatore as resort manager Valentina in the second season of ‘The White Lotus’ | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Sabrina Impacciatore, who plays the resort manager, Valentina, in the second season of Mark White’s exquisite social satire, The White Lotus, did not sleep for weeks after she got the role. “I was scared to death,” the Italian actor said, addressing the media over a video call. Sabrina had some pretty big shoes to fill considering she was taking over from Murray Bartlett’s extraordinary Armond in Season 1. “He is a genius. He became an icon of the show. I was so terrified. When we started shooting, he had just won the Critics’ Choice Television Awards,” she says, adding that after being in a ‘blue funk’ for weeks, she calmed herself. “I told myself, this is a different character. Bartlett’s character explodes while Valentina is implosive.”

‘Like eating cherries or chips’

Adam DiMarco as Albie in ‘The White Lotus’

Adam DiMarco as Albie in ‘The White Lotus’ | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

When she got the call for the self-tape, Sabrina says she had not watched the series. “I even told my agent I could not do it as I was busy with a movie I was shooting in Italy. He told me, ‘You have to watch the series before making a decision’.” Sabrina heeded her agent’s advice and binged the first season in one night. “I couldn’t stop. I was astonished by how brilliant this series was. It was a satire, a thriller, a drama and a comedy. It was a cruel portrait of contemporary society.”

Postcards from Sicily

The second season of The White Lotus is set in Sicily where another bunch of white people behave obnoxiously. Curious about White’s vision of Italy, Sabrina says, “He works in an inspired, inspirational way. There are some things that belong to a postcard, but at the same time, he has also created these three powerful and original, female Italian characters.”

Everything about The White Lotus is opulent from the location to the costumes, which has characters flaunting $4,200 Bottega Veneta totes, a Louis Vuitton raffia tote, a bright floral Gucci blouse, divine Emilio Pucci swimsuits, Valentino bags and Versace shades.

Clothes that tell a tale

Meghann Fahy and Theo James as Daphne and Cameron in ‘The White Lotus’

Meghann Fahy and Theo James as Daphne and Cameron in ‘The White Lotus’ | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Beatrice Granno who plays Mia, one of the ladies at the resort says, “Alex (Bovaird), who was the costume designer, gave a story to everyone. A costume that works, is one that tells a story without saying anything. You see it and you already know something about the person.”

Before the shoot, Sabrina says, she and Alex had discussions and exchanged pictures on their and White’s ideas on Valentina. “When we met, half the work was already done. In the first episodes, Valentina keeps her shirt buttoned up to the neck. I asked a jeweller I know in Italy, Marco de Luca, to make me a necklace with a V, which I could wear with my shirts. When I told Alex about it, she was immediately on board.”

In the first episodes, Sabrina says Valentina is very proper and buttoned up and as her character starts to unravel, so does her costume. Towards the end, Sabrina crumpled up Valentina’s shirts to such an extent that Bovaird commented it is probably too much, Sabrina recounts laughing.

Five-star implications

Race and privilege are implied in Season 2, by the fact that the characters are staying in a luxurious five-star hotel, says Adam DiMarco who plays the kind and gentlemanly college graduate, Albie. “Mike has gone into these other themes of sex and perception.”

Haley Lu Richardson who plays Portia, Tanya’s (a sublime Jennifer Coolidge) harried assistant, chips in saying, “All these people could be in a similar situation but see it differently. It has to do with these people just being so in their own heads and not emotionally aware of the reality, which plays into the unawareness of wealthy people. There is a lot of narcissism in this season.”

Haley Lu Richardson as Portia in ‘The White Lotus’

Haley Lu Richardson as Portia in ‘The White Lotus’ | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Meghann Fahy and Theo James play Daphne and Cameron, the rich couple who have invited the newly-rich Harper (Aubrey Plaza) and Ethan (Will Sharpe) on a week’s vacation at The White Lotus in Sicily.

Love to hate

“Cameron is quite clearly a version of someone you dislike,” Theo says with a laugh. “My take from my early conversations with Mike was that Cameron may be on the boundaries of the black, but he also needs to be charming. My character does represent a fairly high level of male toxicity. He also is hyper competitive in the finance world, which is rife with toxicity and amorality.”

The show is about the constant shifting of understanding and perceptions of how functional or dysfunctional couples work, says Theo. “That is one of the great things about Mike’s work. That is what Mike does, subvert your expectations.” 

Darkness behind perfection

White sets them up as the perfect couple, Theo says “We seem wealthy and in love. We have ticked all the boxes, but with the evolution of the show, we fall down the rabbit hole and start unravelling the complexities of the relationship and the darkness behind it. Although there is love, there is also a high level of toxicity.” 

One of Meghann’s favourite storylines is the three generations of men and the conversations that they have on toxic masculinity. “Albie reflects a modern perspective while his grandfather, Bert (F Murray Abraham) has an old-fashioned take,” says Adam. “Bert’s son and Albie’s father, Dominic (Michael Imperioli) is influenced by both of us. He is somewhere in the middle where he believes he has some old-fashioned tendencies when he’s trying to be more progressive. He has the biggest struggle there.” 

The White Lotus is currently streaming on Disney+ Hotstar

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