As we prepare for the 29th Screen Actors Guild Awards, Backstage is breaking down this year’s film and television ensemble nominees for your consideration.
Main Cast: F. Murray Abraham, Jennifer Coolidge, Adam DiMarco, Meghann Fahy, Beatrice Grannò, Tom Hollander, Sabrina Impacciatore, Michael Imperioli,
Theo James, Aubrey Plaza, Haley Lu Richardson, Will Sharpe, Simona Tabasco
Casting by: Meredith Tucker, Barbara Giordani, and Francesco Vedovati
Created by: Mike White
Distributed by: HBO
The second season of a hit show is as exciting for fans as it is terrifying for showrunners, and “White Lotus” creator Mike White certainly had his work cut out for him when it came to matching the success of his social satire’s first outing. Working in his favor was the formula that won the show five Primetime Emmys: dead body + luxury resort + rich, beautiful people = awards gold. On Season 2, White introduces a glamorous new setting in Sicily and a fresh cast of wealthy degenerates. The result is both box-fresh and a brilliant return to form.
As the sole Season 1 alum, Jennifer Coolidge sets a high bar for the rest of the ensemble—on a Vespa, no less. It makes sense that the extravagant Tanya McQuoid would book a stay at another White Lotus resort; it was at one of its other locations where she met her husband, Greg Hunt (Jon Gries), after all. While Tanya 2.0 might appear to have it all, deep down, she’s as messy as ever. Good thing making audiences want to watch inherently unpleasant people is the name of this show’s game.
As the overbearing manager of the resort, Italian comedian Sabrina Impacciatore has big shoes to fill. Her predecessor, Murray Bartlett, took home an Emmy for his Season 1 turn as spiraling hotel boss Armond. Though Bartlett laid it all out from the get-go, Impacciatore’s straight-talking Valentina is a closed book that you’re desperate to open, thanks to the actor’s subtle—but no less memorable—performance.
Credit: Fabio Lovino/HBO
The second season adds a host of big names, including Oscar winner F. Murray Abraham, Emmy winner Michael Imperioli (“The Sopranos”), and “Divergent” star Theo James, who are pitch-perfect as very different but equally toxic men. The show’s pacing ensures that they never overshadow on-the-rise actors like Haley Lu Richardson, Adam DiMarco, Beatrice Grannò, and Simona Tabasco.
Richardson and DiMarco give us the series’ first meet-cute when Portia, Tanya’s assistant, crosses paths with Albie Di Grasso, who’s suffering through a vacation with his egotistical father (Imperioli) and grandfather (Abraham). The pair’s youthful desire for each other only adds to this season’s sex appeal. Turning that game of lust up to 100 are Grannò and Tabasco as Mia and Lucia, two sex workers (one of whom is an aspiring singer) seeking opportunities at the hotel. These two are more than a mechanism to draw out the guests’ basest behaviors; the duo’s onscreen friendship gives the season a sweetness that cuts the show’s acidity.
But what “The White Lotus” does best is push boundaries—and buttons—via toe-curling group conversations that leave a bad taste in your mouth. Enter two newly acquainted married couples vacationing together. At their first dinner, Ethan Spiller (Will Sharpe) and his wife, Harper (Aubrey Plaza), discover that their companions—Ethan’s old college friend Cameron Sullivan (James) and his partner, Daphne (Meghann Fahy)—don’t watch the news. To make matters worse, Daphne can’t remember whether she voted in the last election. This clash of beliefs sets the stage for some of the show’s most compelling dynamics.
Plaza serves up an unhinged determination to have a good time with sides of jealousy, sensuality, and revelation, while Sharpe excels at playing the straight man. Paired with James’ arrogant Cameron, Fahy is a cocktail of naiveté that finishes with just the right amount of savage cunning.
There’s more to unpack on this seven-episode season than there is in Tanya’s entire luggage allowance. With Season 3 already greenlit, and we can’t wait to see how the next cast measures up against this standout ensemble.
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