Jennifer Coolidge has a Mike White vacation story that both rivals the absurdity of “The White Lotus,” and offers a theory behind the inspiration for part of her hapless character Tanya’s story arc on it.
Appearing at the HBO anthology series’ FYC event on Saturday at the DGA Theater in Los Angeles, the actress recalled how the writer-director “had a big trip planned with a lover, and then the lover couldn’t make it, so I got it!”
Coolidge, who first worked with White on the 2009 film “Gentleman Broncos,” bonded with the filmmaker over their love for animals, so the prospect of joining him on safari in Africa seemed like “such a cool thing.”
What she didn’t anticipate was just how much the vacation was geared towards romantic partners. “We stayed in these tents on the Serengeti, in Tanzania, and what I didn’t realize was that the intimate trip is in a tent with someone you’re intimate with. So you’re sleeping right next to the other person, you know, which was supposed to be someone else,” explained the actress. “So I was very worried about how this trip was gonna go because there’s just no hiding any problems or anything you have. It’s just all out there.”
Coolidge talked about one specific night where “Mike discovered, on this trip, that I was sort of sad I wasn’t in a relationship, and he saw me watching these wedding videos on my iPhone in the middle of the night,” an act befitting of her half-kooky, half-heartbreakingly vulnerable “White Lotus” character.
As the audience inside the DGA Theater laughed, the actress said “I swear to God, I think that’s where [Mike] got this whole idea of Greg,” the terminally ill Coloradan played by Jon Gries, who Tanya hooks up with in the back half of the season. “I think Mike was just hoping for me to have anything with anyone, and he wrote this part,” posited Coolidge.
Refuting a remark from the moderator that suggested the two characters were united by love and not just carnal desires, she added “I didn’t think about it, that he really liked me after all. But I do like that I got to, you know, make out with someone and stuff.”
Joining Coolidge onstage at the event were her co-stars Murray Bartlett, Alexandra Daddario, Fred Hechinger, and Brittany O’Grady, while White, still in Italy filming Season 2, sent over a brief video message.
“The White Lotus” Season 1 is now streaming on HBO Max.