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Interview: Alexandra Daddario on Connecting to Her Character in ‘The White Lotus’ and Highlights of Her Career

HBO’s The White Lotus is described as a social satire, featuring a group of wealthy guests at a Hawaiian resort. Among them is Rachel (Alexandra Daddario), who is on her honeymoon with her new husband Shane (Jake Lacy). When Shane can’t get over the fact that the resort didn’t give them the fancy room they booked and tries to convince Rachel to give up her career ambitions, cracks in their fresh relationship begin to show and everything starts to unravel.

Awards Radar had the chance to speak with Daddario about how her own work life has looked nothing like Rachel’s and the rewarding, unexpected experience of filming the show during the pandemic.

Alexandra Daddario in The White Lotus

Q: What did you know about this show before you signed on and what appealed to you about it?

A: Mike White, which is sort of an obvious answer, but true. I really wanted to work with him. It was also obviously a hard year and I was jumping at the chance to get back to work, especially on such good material that deals with some of the social issues that we’ve been discussing in our country and just getting back to work in general. I didn’t expect to work that year, so I was quite excited.

Q: How do you think satire does at handling difficult topics that, as you said, we’re talking about in society?

A: I think it’s a way of putting a mirror up to people. It can feel so cutting and so sharp at times but it’s strangely not as abrasive, even though it should feel more abrasive. I think it’s a way of giving you a reflection of your own behavior. And I think, when given with humor, it’s the medicine that you need to understand and process maybe your own behavior or your own perspective on things.

Q: Speaking of your own behavior, when you get to a hotel and something’s not right, what do you do about it?

A: I’ve always been like, oh, it’s okay. Obviously, I’m a human being, there’s things that I’ve been frustrated about before and usually, it’s not about the thing. Like they say, it’s never about the dishes. So it’s like, sometimes you’ll just be in a horrible mood and it’s just like, I’m going to take it out on whatever. But no, I’m not very picky. Something has to be very, very wrong for me to be frustrated.

Q: That’s more about Shane. What did you find the most challenging to relate to about your character, about Rachel?

A: I’ve been working consistently since I was a teenager, and I was in the service industry myself for four years, or longer, in various jobs. But I was at one place for four years. But besides that, I was still auditioning while I was doing that. I’ve always known what it is I want to do. I’ve always been an actress. So I understand, but I had to put more thought into, how would it feel and how frustrating would it be as a woman in your thirties not to know who you are in your career and to say, oh my gosh, I’m at this point and I’m marrying this rich man and I really don’t have a sense of my own career and my own money and my own identity. And how does that make me feel as a feminist? Am I a good woman? Am I a feminist? Who am? Just because in my own life, I feel more comfortable with my career, I guess. I’ve always works consistently. I think that she’s just has a little bit more, oh my gosh, where did I mess up, and am I ready to give up? Am I supposed to give up to marry this rich man, and this is it? This is supposed to be something that people want, but this isn’t what I want. So I put a lot of thought into it.

Q: Was there anything that you were surprised to learn about Rachel over the course of playing her?

A: That’s a good question. I was really genuinely confused. She’s so unhappy and I just leaned into, she’s unhappy because she isn’t who she wants to be, and I don’t think she likes Shane very much. I think that’s pretty clear. But I think that there was a fun part of Shane, and sure, the money was great, and you know, go to fancy restaurants, all the doors, big wedding, big ring, clothes, the house, the whole thing. And then I think there was a part of me that I was like, oh my gosh, she likes all the things she doesn’t want to like. She must be with him because she likes all these things that she claims she doesn’t need or that she wants to make it on her own and she’s so completely in conflict. When I realized, wow, she really likes all of this stuff – not that there’s anything wrong with liking that kind of thing – but I think that I wanted to see her as more grounded. And in the end, I couldn’t.

Q: Most of your scenes are with Jake Lacy. What is he like as a scene partner and does he support your career ambitions more than Shane does for Rachel?

A: Of course. Jake’s an amazing guy. He’s always prepared, he has a great perspective. He’s a really generous actor and person. And yeah, between the cast, there’s really no drama. We were all in this together. It was still quarantine. So even though we were quarantined in a beautiful place, we all really were very supportive and kind to each other. And Jake is no exception. I couldn’t ask for a better scene partner. He was the opposite of Shane. He did not complain about where we were staying or about the situation at all. He was lovely.

Q: What were some of your favorite plotlines to step into with some of the other characters?

A: Coolidge on the boat. I mean, everyone loves Jennifer Coolidge. I loved everyone, but the boat scenes in particular, I was really looking forward to them. Just because, a, she’s such a hoot obviously, and one of the kindest people I’ve ever had the good fortune of coming across, but we are also on this beautiful boat, it was whale season, so all the whales were jumping all around us as we were shooting the scene, so you had that on top of this amazing actress and these hilarious scenes with these amazing people. And Natasha was on there with us, and she’s incredible. I loved doing scenes with them.

Q: Are there any characters you wish you had the opportunity to interact with more where it just wasn’t part of the script?

A: I wonder if I had had more of a reaction to Fred’s character, Quinn. I wish that Rachel and Quinn had had more of a chance to interact. I just feel like she’s just so weirded out by him. And he’s just such an interesting character, and the two of them, I feel like there’s no real reason for them to really interact, and that’s what makes it so funny.

Q: What was it like filming in Hawaii?

A: Great. I mean, Hawaii is gorgeous. If you’re going to be quarantined in a place, you might as well be quarantined in a hotel in Hawaii. It’s your beautiful prison. It was gorgeous every day. You go out to the beach and you swim with these huge turtles and it’s just really peaceful. I didn’t get to see much of Hawaii. We went back and did some extra shooting and then I got to see more. Sydney, Lukas, and I hung out. Sydney and I went to the road to Hana, and that’s beautiful. Hawaii is a place, I haven’t really spent a lot of time there. It’s a beautiful place.

Q: I loved your work in season one of Why Women Kill in a very different role. Do you have any fond memories to share from that experience of making that show?

A: I loved everyone on that show. I love Marc Cherry. That was a fun show. That was the first time I’ve really worked long-term in LA, so rolling out of bed and driving fifteen minutes to the lot and going to work was, I’ve never had a structured day job in my life. So that was the closest that it’s come to that ever. You’re shooting on a stage, the call times are the same every day, and you go and do work, and you know what time you going to be back. It was very, very reasonable. I’ve never really had that experience before. And also just a delight to work with those people.

Q: Is it fun having your brother then stay and keep the family in the show in season two?

A: Oh, it’s great. Yes, it’s so cool.

Q: What is it like with this show and that one, knowing that you’re coming on only for a specific amount of time and that it’s a closed-loop part rather than a series that might have the potential to continue and bring your character back?

A: I think it’s great. I think that TV the way that it is, is so different than it was. Every single pilot I ever tested for, you’re signing a seven-year contract and you don’t know what it’s going to be. Now, TV has so many different branches, I like to think of it as. It’s like doing a movie that’s done in several parts. It’s great. It allows you the freedom of doing something else, if that’s what you’re looking for. For some people, it sucks because you don’t have job security, but there’s really no such thing as job security in this business anyway.

Q: It was also fun to see you in Die in a Gunfight, which was released in the US last week. That film has a similar amount of backstabbing, but more physical violence. What was the making of that film like?

A: Really fun! I again enjoyed the people I worked with. I’ve been lucky the last few years. And I love doing a good love story. I didn’t participate in as much of the violence. I didn’t do a ton of stunts or anything, but I thought it was a really beautiful script and a really beautiful story. I’m a sucker for a good love story.

Q: You’ve had a lot of great roles in your career. Do you have any that stand out as favorites or that you find people recognize you from most?

A: It’s funny, because I’m thirty-five now and I did Percy Jackson when I was like twenty-two, twenty-three. And so there’s this whole new generation of adults who are like, oh my god, Annabeth, I grew up with you. It’s funny to see a twenty-year-old, who looks to me like a kid, being like, oh my god, I loved you when I was growing up. So Percy Jackson a lot, but it’s definitely changed from kids to now adults as I’ve gotten older. And one of my favorite movies that no one saw was called We Have Always Lived in the Castle. It’s with Sebastian Stan and Taissa Farmiga. It’s a little beautiful movie based off of a Shirley Jackson novel. And I love that movie. No one saw it, but go check it out if you’re listening to it.

Q: What projects do you have coming up?

A: That’s it for now. The White Lotus, airing on Sundays! I hope everyone checks it out.

The White Lotus is streaming on HBO Max, with new episodes premiering every Sunday at 9pm on HBO.

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Written by Abe Friedtanzer

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