From creator/writer/director Mike White, the second installment of the HBO series The White Lotus is set at a beautiful resort in Sicily, Italy, where hotel manager Valentina (Sabrina Impacciatore) is ready to assist various guests in achieving everything they want out of their trip, whether that’s with family, for business reasons, or of a more romantic nature. After becoming newly wealthy, as a result of a recent professional success, Ethan Spiller (Will Sharpe) and his wife Harper (Aubrey Plaza) accompany his old college roommate Cameron (Theo James) and his wife Daphne (Meghann Fahy) on a lavish vacation that might ultimately have a hidden purpose.

During this interview with Collider, co-stars Plaza and Sharpe talked about who Ethan and Harper were before taking this trip, finding themselves in a relationship rut, Ethan’s distrust of Cameron, that uncomfortable moment between Harper and Cameron, and the experience of shooting at that incredible palazzo.

Collider: I could have watched a separate show just of your characters because I found their dynamics so fascinating to watch. When we meet this couple, they seem to be at a very interesting place in their relationship. They’re sort of resigned to certain things, and they aren’t really looking to change things too much. Who do you think they were prior to this trip, or even prior to everything that Ethan has gone through?

WILL SHARPE: That’s a good question. I guess they’re trying to work that out. Between us and Mike [White], we decided it was probably seven years down the line, and they’ve very much found their comfort zone, but that comfort zone is starting to feel uncomfortable and they’re in a bit of a rut. They tell themselves they’re very honest with each other and that they have a good relationship, but maybe they’re not honest with each other about the most complex, difficult things. What were they like? I definitely don’t think Ethan was ever a massive party animal or anything, but was Harper?

AUBREY PLAZA: It’s funny, we talked about this because I kept being like, “Harper has a wild side, we just haven’t seen it in a while.” We talked about that. I feel like they’re one of those couples that met in their twenties. They met young. They were friends. They’re soulmates. They’re best friends that fell in love and got married, and they’ve been together for a long time. There is an innocence there almost, even though they’ve been together for a long time. It feels like they’re those people. They’re smart and intelligent. They have good schooling. They do everything right. They’re right, but are they right?

What do you think this vacation would’ve looked like, if they’d just gone by themselves? Do you feel like it would’ve been a very different trip with just the two of them?

SHARPE: It would’ve played out differently, but clearly they had reached a point in their relationship where it feels like they’re in a bit of a rut. There’s a heaviness that they need to work out how to shake. In this series, it happens to be the fact that they’re thrown into this very alien world of wealth on this luxurious vacation, and they’re set against this very different couple in Cameron and Daphne. How those relationships bubble up exposes the cracks in Ethan and Harper. But maybe that would’ve happened, even if it was just them, just in a different way.

There’s a moment when Ethan realizes what Cameron is really after with him and that maybe that’s really the only reason he ever got invited on this trip. How do you think that makes Ethan feel?

SHARPE: Part of it, in that moment, is just thinking, “Harper was right.” She has a good read on people. And also, there’s a distrust of Cameron that’s maybe a reignited distrust in Cameron. It’s not like Ethan and Cameron ever had a very simple, straight-up friendship. They just happened to share a room in college and stayed in touch over time. I don’t feel like they were ever incredibly close. They just maybe shared some experiences together. He’s starting to question where he’s at with Cameron and how he feels about being his friend.

Aubrey, there’s something that’s so interesting about the moment when Cameron follows Harper back to her room to borrow a pair of Ethan’s swim trunks, and then just strips naked and changes in the middle of their room, totally oblivious to it. Do you think Cameron really is oblivious in that moment? Did you have conversations about whether or not he might have been manipulating that situation?

PLAZA: That’s a really good question. What’s interesting to Mike, if I could just make some wild assumptions for him, is that it could go either way, and that’s the point. There’s no real answer there. Maybe that’s up for Theo [James] to decide what his motivations were, in that moment, but I never discussed that with him. I really wasn’t interested to know because all I care about, in that moment, is what I’m going through and what I’m thinking there. That might have happened between the two of them, but for me, it was more like I’m reacting in that moment, deciding how I feel about it, as Harper. Whether he’s doing it on purpose or not, he’s dropping trou and that’s it. That was a really easy scene for me because it was just about reacting.

In episode three, Daphne and Harper leave the guys and end up spending time together at a palazzo. What was it like to actually be in that palazzo? Was it as incredible as it looks?

PLAZA: Oh, my gosh, it was breathtakingly beautiful. It was such a magical day. It was crazy. Before I even flew to Sicily to start the production, Mike had sent me some of the location scouting photos of the palazzo and was getting me excited. He was like, “Oh, my God, check this out. We’re gonna be shooting in this. Can you believe it?” Being in there in person was crazy, and then shooting there. I could have just walked around there all day, as a tourist, but actually getting to be there was so great for the scenes and for the work because you had so much to be inspired by. You were just surrounded by art and beautiful things, and it lent itself to more quiet moments between them. You could feel the history of that palazzo. It was overwhelming. And the pool was incredible. The pool that we swam in was right outside the palazzo. It was this beautiful lagoon, and it was dream-like.

SHARPE: It really felt like it gave scale, as well, to all of those conversations. Just watching it, it felt like it was an important exchange that was happening.

The White Lotus airs on Sunday nights on HBO and is available to stream at HBO Max.

Source: Collider