Murray Bartlett and Jake Lacy Reflect on The White Lotus’ Intimate Scenes – The Hollywood Reporter
With 20 nominations, HBO’s The White Lotus is the most honored limited or anthology series at this year’s Emmys, with eight such names for various members of its ensemble cast. Two stars of this impressive cast are Murray Bartlett, who plays chipper hotel manager Armond as he burns in a shocking drug-fueled spiral, and Jake Lacy, who plays Shane, a trust fund baby with a bad attitude who complains after he and his new wife (the contestant named Alexandra Daddario) are placed in the wrong luxury suite.
The series is set almost entirely within the confines of the titular five-star resort, where issues of class, race, family, and sexuality are all explored in humorous, deeply nuanced, and provocative ways. Creating the show was a once-in-a-lifetime experience – the cast and crew stayed at the Four Seasons in Hawaii amid the COVID-19 pandemic, as HBO tasked showrunner Mike White with crafting a project that could be filmed within the confines of quarantine.
The result is a chillingly contentious clash between Armond de Bartlett and Shane de Lacy, grounded in the carefully calibrated and constantly growing tension of the two actors that ultimately turns into one of the most shocking and satisfying televised finales of all. time.
Talk to THRthe two actors unpack the thrill of playing the dynamic White wrote for them, their gratitude for such a unique filming experience, and what it was like to figure out how to film some of their most intimate scenes. together.
There’s tension all the time, but you can build it up over the episodes. How to calibrate this arc so that it is not a single note?
MURRAY-BARTLETT There was a calibration process that happened with Mike, where in my first scene — and I think it’s happened to a few other actors — he made me do it a million ways, because we don’t never worked together. We had barely spoken. It was COVID, and I thought I was wrong and couldn’t give him what he wanted. That may be true, but there was also another element, which was that he was getting to know the character, the way I was going to play him, pushing me in different directions to get a sense of who I am as a film actor. I remember coming up to Jake afterwards and saying, “Whoa, that was really intense.” I remember you made me feel comfortable. You were like, “Yeah, he’s doing this to all of us.” And I was like, “OK, so I can stop — or ease — my spiral into insecurity.”
JAKE LACY [The first scene we shot together] was the bedroom switch. You say, “We have another suite, there’s an extra toilet, but there’s no ocean view. I remember we did that a bunch. We shot in blocks, due to COVID issues. Alex and I were shooting for about 10 days straight when we got there. I had been through the same thing – Mike was like, ‘Dial all the way up, dial all the way down.’ [I’d] had the benefit of filming a few days before with him, and there’s this calibration that happens, but it also feels like that result is really rewarding. I didn’t feel suspicious. I wasn’t like, “Oh, this is a mess. We do it 1,000 different ways and no one knows what’s going on. It was like, “Oh, no, he knows exactly what options he wants to have.” The tension I think is built into this edit is that they pick the best versions of what Mike had us do and put them together. I know in our early scenes, narratively, I was coming on a little hot, and he had to say, “Hey, you’re just a guy on vacation. We’ll see you’re an asshole in a moment. You don’t need to come with blazing weapons. If you start coming in saying, “Give me my fucking room!” there is nowhere to go.
BARTLETT I remember in our first scene together, you were coming at me like a bull. I found that really exciting. We came knowing this shit, can’t wait to go. And even if I think you’re right, you had to find the levels, there was something really fantastic about that. Mike had to muzzle us, which is a great way to go with those scenes, and those are some of my favorite scenes on the show. You can still feel them growling at each other, ready to cut each other’s throats.
How do you decompress that class dynamic between the characters?
OF LACE A lot of the characteristics or circumstances that separate us as characters are really in the writing. Somehow, I’m able to rely on the writing – and at that, I look like a WASP-y dick. Between the polo shirt and the Cornell hat, it informs or fleshes out the facts about who you learned Shane is, in terms of being born with a silver spoon, and [having] inherited this position from son of commercial real estate scion. So really, this is all accomplished on my part by pursuing these goals, which is just to get this room. And to crush this guy along the way.
BARTLETT Somehow, even though you might not identify with these characters, there are pieces of these characters in all of us, and Mike maneuvers it in a way that you can relate to. to each of them, even in an instant. It’s enough to draw you in and not pull you away from them. I feel like I brought a lot to it, but I also feel like I was embarrassed to take credit for myself because it looked good on the page. For me, a character like Armond was probably always bullied by characters like Shane throughout his life. Fortunately, I didn’t fully experience this as a child, but there were times when I saw others, and I saw other people being victims of it, and therefore in Plugging into it, it was a very recognizable setup for me.
The big scenes between you two that come to mind are when Jake comes across Armond having sex with Dillon (Lukas Gage) and then at the end – the stabbing, the poo. What was filming those scenes like?
OF LACE Where I come across Murray and Lukas engaged in various positions, various entertainment… This stuff gets so technical, both comedy and camera, and it’s so rewarding for me to work on these little things. There’s a handful of sockets where [Belinda, played by Natasha Rothwell] try to close the door, and I hold it open to see what happens. We’ve probably done this 15 times, just to say, “What do you like?” What do you want to have in the edit? »
BARTLETT Find what would be a [sex] the most shocking position for these people was really funny. Working with Lukas, who’s great and has pretty fluid boundaries in a great way – we were like, “What can we do?” We went up to Mike and said, “And that?” He had this kind of evil smile on his face. He was like, “Can we do this?” Yes we can. The scene at the end, the shitty death scene, it was like we were shooting a French farce. There was all this dancing, and it was really fun.
Did you film this towards the end of filming? Was it a catharsis of the end of the conflict?
BARTLETT We were supposed to [shoot] something else that day. I think someone had a positive COVID test [and production rescheduled this scene] early. Which was great, in a way. Not that I’ve ever had this experience before, but, like, you don’t think too much about shitting in a suitcase.
OF LACE Because we lived where we worked, it felt a little easier to say, “Okay, we’ll do it now. It’s one floor from where I live. I love Murray, and I’ve loved working with him from the jump, and so all the tension and animosity and quiet cruelty that these two have towards each other, at least to myself …my level of comfort in expressing these things authentically is actually because I was very comfortable and safe with Murray and was like, “Oh, you can be as ugly as you want to be. or as subtle as you want to be, and he will be there and take it. “I didn’t feel a catharsis of, ‘Oh, finally this tension is over.’ It was just rewarding to work on that and create this thing together. I just wanted this recorded, that I love working with you, Murray.
BARTLETT It is a unique experience that we will probably never return to. It was so crazy that I felt guilty telling people about it, because I was like, “How can I have one of the best experiences of my life with this extraordinarily talented and wonderful group of people, and is everyone in a pandemic?” It was unfair to me, but at the same time, I honestly woke up every morning and looked out the window at the palm trees and almost cried, like, “Oh my God, what is I did to deserve this?” I’m so happy. I was jumping out of bed and going to poop in a suitcase.
Interview edited for length and clarity.
This story first appeared in an August issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.