‘The White Lotus’: Mike White on Sex Work, Coolidge and Italian Cinema

On the third episode of “The White Lotus” Season 2, a gaggle of American vacationers visits a location from “The Godfather,” which ends up in a multi-generational debate concerning the patriarchy. (“Males love ‘The Godfather’ as a result of they really feel emasculated by fashionable society,” current school grad Albie tells his dad and grandfather.) However Francis Ford Coppola’s Oscar-winning basic isn’t the one movie referenced in Sunday’s installment.

In truth, a putting second that includes Aubrey Plaza underneath the steps of the Noto Cathedral is a shot-by-shot homage to a scene in Michelangelo Antonioni’s 1960 movie “L’avventura,” starring Monica Vitti (who was name-dropped by Jennifer Coolidge in final week’s episode). In “L’avventura,” a girl goes lacking, and, amidst their seek for her, the girl’s lover and finest buddy strike up a romance. In response to “The White Lotus” creator Mike White, “L’avventura” is a “very elliptical, mysterious film about an existential psychodrama.”

In “L’avventura” and “White Lotus,” respectively, Vitti and Plaza stroll across the similar courtyard and start to really feel the eyes of a pair dozen ogling males surrounding them. Discussing the scene he mimicked, White tells Selection, “As somebody who watched it younger, I simply was like, ‘Is that this what it’s like in Italy? Are the fellows like this there?’ They’re so blatant and aggressive along with her, and there’s this type of menace within the air.”

Monica Vitti in “L’avventura” (1960)

Aubrey Plaza in “The White Lotus” (2022)
Fabio Lovino/HBO

He provides that as a result of this episode of “Lotus” is about “women and men and a number of the basic sexual politics dynamics,” it felt proper to “lean into the archetypal Italian males coming onto a girl on the road.” (Whereas the scenes in “L’avventura” and “White Lotus” are shot practically identically, you may most likely guess which one options the blunt commentary: “Numerous attractive dudes in Noto.”)

The thought to pay homage to Antonioni’s movie got here from cinematographer Xavier Grobet, as he and White have been taking pictures in Noto and realized they have been standing within the precise location the place they filmed “L’avventura.” With Episode 3 referencing that movie in addition to “The Godfather,” White says he discovered it match to color Sicily as an inspiration for traditional cinema, each Italian and American.

The thematic similarities between the 2 movies are additionally not misplaced on White, who says, “‘L’avventura’ is concerning the determined seek for the which means of life as a lot because the precise disappeared girl. Clearly, ‘White Lotus’ touches on the malaise of rich folks and that sort of seek for which means while you’re simply lounging by an infinity pool.”

Whereas Season 1 of “Lotus” was shot fully on the 4 Seasons Maui in a COVID bubble, the second season allowed White to develop the sequence exterior of the Italian resort and into town. “Sicily is so wealthy, it felt like it will be a criminal offense to not not less than attempt to expose folks to a number of the wonderful cultural locations, these loopy palazzos and Noto as a city,” he says. “There’s a lot there to point out off.”

Capturing within the streets of Sicily and close by cities was each a artistic selection and a sensible one. “At one level we received the boot from the resort,” he says. “I knew that getting in there was going to a be a sequence of weeks the place we would have liked to shoot however couldn’t shoot on the resort.”

To be able to immerse himself in Southern Italy, the showrunner moved to Sicily for a couple of months earlier than they started taking pictures Season 2. White wished to get a greater sense of town and the areas round it as a result of, he says, “In case you go to Italy, you’re not going to only keep on the resort.”

Under, White solutions a few of Selection‘s burning questions to this point about Season 2 of “The White Lotus.”

How did you combine Jennifer Coolidge’s character into the brand new forged and new location? Do you see “White Lotus” as an ongoing anthology along with her character returning because the throughline?

As a result of the seasons are so thematically totally different, the areas are totally different, the forged is mostly totally different, it felt like it will make sense to have someone be the connective tissue between the 2 seasons. And if we went to Italy with out Jennifer, she can be so mad [laughs]. Clearly folks cherished her, and he or she’s my buddy. So it simply made sense that it will be Jennifer. With Jennifer, I used to be like, “If we went to Italy, what would you wish to do?” And it was mainly just like the scene on this final episode that aired the place she was like, “I simply wish to be on a Vespa with quite a lot of scorching guys in sharp fits, attempting to love my cigarette.” In order that dialog constructed out this concept of her desirous to have this final Italian trip. Tanya is such a enjoyable character to put in writing, and Jennifer is likely one of the highlights of my expertise on this present in addition to my profession. So I’m undoubtedly open to maintain going with Jennifer, if HBO, lets us maintain going generally.

Episode 3 ends with Cameron (Theo James) and Ethan (Will Sharpe) partying with Lucia (Simona Tabasco) and Mia (Beatrice Grannò). As this season appears to be primarily targeted on intercourse and intercourse politics, what conversations do you hope viewers will come away with concerning intercourse work?

You’ll need to see how the present resolves itself. However any dialog about intercourse work is fraught and thorny… I’m not attempting to be coy, I simply don’t wish to give away the ending. I don’t look down on intercourse work, and on the similar time, I do know that always with intercourse work comes exploitation. So it’s essential to point out, or not less than focus on, each side of that. I don’t have a moralistic disapproval of it, nevertheless it doesn’t usually occur divorced from some sort of context that entails exploitation. Often people who find themselves engaged in it are doing it as a result of they want cash. They don’t do it simply because it’s enjoyable. However that’s not essentially at all times true. Typically folks simply get into it. Michael Imperioli’s character, I don’t suppose, usually acknowledges the context [of sex work]… Having [his son] Albie [played by Adam DiMarco] be capable of communicate to the elements of it which can be extra sophisticated, extra ethically, that I don’t suppose Michael’s character actually is participating. Having that be part of the dialog felt essential.

You stated beforehand that you simply wished the characters in Season 2 to really feel extra pure and “much less written” than in Season 1. How does that have an effect on your course of, and what particularly did you’re feeling was overwritten that you simply wished to regulate?

Effectively, it wasn’t essentially me criticizing the primary season. In Season 1, I knew we have been going to be in a bubble at a resort, and there have been all these mandates on protecting it a COVID-friendly manufacturing. There was extra strain to have the dialogue itself be the present. I didn’t have the power to have numerous plot twists and a giant canvas. The banter was the occasion. And with all of the Twitter-speak of the primary season, I didn’t wish to do one thing that we had already achieved. This season, a number of the plot turns are the place the concepts of the season are coming from, and fewer concerning the precise content material of the conversations. It’s a unique sort of strategy. So far as the characters, I wished to make it just a bit much less spiky and let their actions communicate for a number of the concepts I’m attempting to go for. What’s enjoyable for me is doing a shape-shifting present and attempting to not repeat. It’s essential have sufficient that it makes it really feel prefer it’s all of a bit, however the content material — and the shape itself — can sort of shift and be contemporary.

In Episode 1, Aubrey Plaza’s character says she doesn’t watch “Ted Lasso,” which grew to become an prompt meme on Twitter. Do you watch “Ted Lasso”?

I… [Laughs] I don’t actually watch “Ted Lasso,” to be trustworthy. However I haven’t been watching something. For the final 12 months, all I do is that this present. It’s not simply “Ted Lasso,” you could possibly ask me any present and I’d most likely say “no.”