After a first season dominated by the Internet, The White Lotus is back for season two, now set in Sicily, with an all-new cast — and the return of Jennifer Coolidge.
“Jennifer is my friend, we’ve been friends for a long time – 15, 17 years – and we’ve always talked about working together. Then the last season happened, she was so well received on the show, so I said, ‘We can’t go to Italy and not bring Jennifer, she’s going to kill me,'” said creator Mike White. The Hollywood Reporter at the show’s Los Angeles premiere Thursday of the decision to bring back Coolidge’s unknown millionaire Tanya McQuoid.
This season, Coolidge — fresh off an Emmy for last year’s show — finds her character married to Jon Gries’ Greg Hunt and on a romantic vacation where she’s snuck in her nurse (played by Haley Lu Richardson). .
The star said she was thrilled when White asked her to return, noting that while filming in Sicily, “I had this amazing adventure – the role was really cool, the story is amazing, Mike wrote this incredible, epic story. It’s a very complicated story, but it’s exciting, and I’m so proud of Mike and so happy to be involved in something like that, ever.”
Gries said that when he got the call to return, though, “It was a surprise. The truth is, I thought I was going to come back, but I thought I was going to come back as a box of ashes for Jennifer to scatter in Sicily.”
Newcomers to the show include Aubrey Plaza, Theo James, Meghann Fahy and Will Sharpe as two very different couples on an international road trip together; F. Murray Abraham, Michael Imperioli and Adam DiMarco as three generations tracing their Sicilian roots; and Federico Ferrante and Sabrina Impacciatore as the employees of the White Lotus Hotel.
“I like a mix,” White said of how he chooses his casts for the show. “It’s fun to work with actors you’re familiar with, and I believe in the audition process, and I want to know what people are going to bring to it. I tend to not only offer tracks, but certain people that I’m just a big fan of – like Murray Abraham, I know he’ll be able to do it.”
And while Hawaii’s season one story focused heavily on wealth and privilege, this season is more about relationships, the cast said.
“His Italian, his location, changes what is existential. It’s about the collision of American and European, Sicilian and Italian,” James said. “It’s about sexual politics, it’s very much about gender and gender roles. Obviously they were peppered, but they were different themes in the first season, whereas I think this season those are the predominant themes and Mike tackles them the way he does so well. It’s funny, but it’s also quite hyper-political and very rich in social satire.”
Gries added: “It’s about people’s inability to communicate properly, it’s very subtle and slow – it’s like taking a long walk with a pebble in your shoe.”
Gries also promised that this season “will shock people more than the first, especially the last two episodes … a few faces will be frozen in total shock.” But will there be a moment to rival Murray Bartlett’s now famous poop-in-a-suitcase scene?
“I don’t know if it’s going to be as scatological as this, but I think the finale will definitely have some cooler moments,” White teased.
At the premiere, which was held at Goya Studios in Hollywood, White revealed in his pre-screening speech that he had just shown the final episode two days ago and became emotional during his comments.
“I know there’s certain people here that I didn’t come for, which are my friends and my family, because I’ve just been completely gone and AWOL, so I just want to say thank you for sticking with me,” he said , while calling his mother his rock. “Thank you all for being here and let’s party tonight.”
The White Lotus premieres on HBO on October 30.