Sydney Sweeney (Euphoria), Brittany O’Grady (Little Voice), and Fred Hechinger (Fear Street) star in HBO’s newest show, The White Lotus. The six-episode limited series is a social satire set at an exclusive Hawaiian resort and premieres on Sunday, July 11 at 9PM ET/PT. The White Lotus will air on HBO and also be available to stream on HBO Max.
The series follows the vacations of various hotel guests over the span of a week as they relax and rejuvenate in paradise. But with each passing day, a darker complexity emerges in these picture-perfect travelers, the hotel’s cheerful employees, and the idyllic locale itself.
I got to speak with the wonderful trio about building the relationship between their characters, what they learned from the project, filming on the island of Maui, what aspect of their character they enjoyed portraying the most, and much more! Keep reading to find out their answers.
So first, I wanted to ask what it was like getting to film the series on the island of Maui?
Sydney Sweeney: I feel like I always say how incredible it is and I want everyone else to be able to say it too.
Fred Hechinger: I agree, I really still can’t believe it. It was and forever will be one of the best experiences of my life. I mean, we talked about this a few times today, but we didn’t think that we would be able to work during this time, and to be able to do that alone was a massive gift. Then additionally, to do it with a script that was so incredible, a cast that was so open hearted, funny, and brilliant, and to do that in Hawaii — a place that I had never been, and honestly didn’t think I would go to — and really think about being there and meet all of the natives who were open about their history and understanding. Thinking about both living in Hawaii and then making a show that was in some ways questioning the history and importance for independence in Hawaii was just this truly remarkable, incredible, and unbelievable experience.
New episodes of the series will be released weekly rather than all at once; what do you think this adds to the viewing experience?
Sweeney: I mean, it definitely keeps the audience on the edge of their seat, wanting to come back for more, and really living in that moment of trying to figure out and decipher what’s going to happen next, where’s this gonna go, as well as allows the audience to kind of live in it a little longer and their own imagination of what the project is.
How would you describe your character and what is one aspect or quality that you enjoyed playing the most?
Brittany O’Grady: I think Paula is cunning; she’s cunning and I think I enjoyed playing that because I really am delicate with my words, I really do feel like you never know what you’re going to say and how it might impact someone, their own scars, and how they feel, but Paula doesn’t care. So it was kind of fun to lean into that.
Sweeney: I feel like Olivia is a very dry, sarcastic kind of teenage girl and it was really fun playing someone like that because many times my character is a little more soft spoken and keeps to themselves. Whereas I think she really is like, put it out to them and punch them with her words.
Hechinger: I love how surprising Quinn is and he reminds us that we are all more than we appear. When I’m nervous about anything that thought calms me down and it gives me a an element of hope. Then there were things that he taught me, like I got to learn how to scuba dive to shoot some of these sequences; that alone is this physical incredible thing that I now know how to do.
If you had to create your own tagline for the series, what would you pick?
O’Grady: It’s White Lotus Survivor.
Hechinger: Yeah, I lose all my electronics in it.
Sweeney: Like a tropical version of Clue. Clearly, this will not be our forte.
Hechinger: Originally, HBO was gonna have us come up with the tagline, but now because of this, we’ve lost that gig.
You three work off each other just so well and I loved your scenes as well as the connected storyline you guys have; what was it like creating that relationship between those characters?
O’Grady: It was easy. They make it easy.
Sweeney: Yeah, we were hanging out all the time and then we just dove into these characters and felt safe with each other. So that really allows you to explore more depths of the character, dynamic, and relationships. So it was easy, and it was fun.
Hechinger: I agree, yeah.
This cast is such a talented one, you guys obviously all included; is there anyone you wish you got to do more scenes with?
Hechinger: Everyone who I didn’t have as many scenes with. I wish I had more scenes with Jennifer, Murray, and Jake. We all got little glimmers and I would watch their work when I wasn’t filming, but it was like, truly everyone in this cast is — I would act all day with them. It would be the most fun thing.
Sweeney: Yeah, I almost got to work with everyone other than Molly. I don’t think we ever like one on one interacted with her and I really wish that we did. Working with everyone else was amazing, but I wish that I would have had scenes with Molly.
O’Grady: I didn’t get to do a lot of scenes or any interactions with Natasha Rothwell and I feel like our worlds always almost collided.
Sweeney: Yeah, cause she’d be like sitting next to us so it felt like she was with us.
O’Grady: Yeah, cause I feel like we have more interactions with Murray and I feel like Natasha’s character, Belinda, was the only one with a level head. I just wanted to know her reaction to the family. Natasha is a brilliant actress and creator. So I think I wanted to see how her interactions with the family would have been, you know?
Hechinger: I so agree because Natasha is a hero of mine. What’s wild is I would not be an actor if it wasn’t for her because she was my first improv teacher ever. So it was the most incredible full circle thing to be able to be on a set that she was on. It meant an enormous amount to me, but I really really agree with Brittany that I wish we had more scenes together because she taught me how to do improv truly.
Are there any lessons or takeaways that you either learned from this project acting-wise or that you hope audiences learn?
Sweeney: The whole thing was like a comedy bootcamp from the best of the best.
O’Grady: I love just watching everybody work and the way that they tackled their characters. So that was a true gift to work with fellow young, up and coming actors who just have this fresh take on the characters that they portrayed, then also working with veteran actors, and even working with such an incredible crew. I think I just learned so much. I think we all learn so much from each other, our own experiences, and brought that all to the table on and off the screen.
Hechinger: If you can be where the funny people are, your life will be good.
And of course, I have to ask you, with the premiere getting so close, what can you tease to hype up fans without spoiling anything?
Sweeney: There’s just a bunch of fun characters, a mystery, some drama, some comedy laced in a beautiful setting.
When you first read that script, what was your reaction? Is there an aspect that specifically attracted to you to it?
O’Grady: Absolutely. I love ensemble casts. I feel like being able to work off of other amazing people is some of my favorite jobs. I love having a good experience over maybe the success of a show. I mean, it’s nice to have success and people to appreciate it, but just the experience of learning and growing each time, I think that was such a plus.
Hechinger: I think when you read a script, and Mike does it every darn time, which is you feel that you can follow any character always, that they have a full life outside of the story and you’ve just been lucky enough to kind of catch it in a moment, then I think that’s always a script to run to. I think he always can do that. It’s just brimming with humanity and surprise, and I was like everyone, I was fascinated by everyone. I was like, “Whoever I could play in this, yes, yes, yes.”
Sweeney: I was reading everything and was like, “Wait, Jake’s character is really cool.” I love the characters.