NOC Interview: Jake Lacy Talks HBO’s ‘The White Lotus’

Jake Lacy stars as Shane Patton in HBO’s The White Lotus. All six episodes of the series are now streaming on HBO Max and the show was already renewed for a second installment. According to a press release, it ranked #1 this month among all series on HBO Max and achieved consistent week over week growth for both premiere as well as digital audience.

A social satire set at an exclusive Hawaiian resort, this six-episode limited 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.

Lacy and I discussed the character of Shane, the shocking finale twist, getting to film in Hawaii, which cast members he would have liked to work more with, his cameo idea for season two, and more! Keep reading to find out all the details.

Mario Perez/HBO

What originally drew you to the script?
Jake Lacy: Well, I mean, in all honesty it was an audition. They sent me the material and just from the sides when you get a scene or two to put on tape, I thought it was so fun and telling this line of people being like human and also grotesque at the same time. I was lucky enough to get the job and then they sent the first script and I thought, “Oh, this is incredible.” Then, didn’t read all six of them until I landed in Hawaii. An element, on a personal level, I was excited by is that Shane drives so much of that story and isn’t just in the passenger’s seat, but is actively going after something. The joy and fulfillment as an actor to be in that position is huge.

Was Shane the character you originally auditioned for? [Yes.] What attracted you to him?
The thing that I always found helpful was Mike continuing to be like, “They screwed him on the room and he wants to have a good time. He would have loved to be able to have this behind him, go to the buffet, then go to the pool, have sex with his wife, and go to a luau. Would love to be able to do that, but instead, has to take care of business the whole time.” Clearly, Shane doesn’t see that he’s making the choice to do that the entire time as opposed to just being like, “You know what, let’s just chalk this one up. I have a beautiful room, I’m on my honeymoon. Let’s have fun.” He’s making the choice to obsess and hound Armond. But, always with Mike’s help grounding it back in that thing that’s like, “They gave me the wrong room! It’s the wrong room.” As much as he maybe speaks to people in a disrespectful manner or isn’t really present for his wife or her wants and needs, he did get fucked on the room. And yes, he would like to have the room, but really I think wants to be acknowledged as a victim. He wants to have someone look him in the eye and say like, “We messed up and you have unfairly had to carry that weight.” That for him would be like, “Thank you!” Also, that moment that Murray has where he’s like, “You do have this room and it’s so lovely. There’s nothing we can do,” so Rachel and I leave the desk. Then, he turns to Lani and is like, “Lani, I think I fucked up. I double booked the Pineapple suite.” That turn from the very like public to very private of the service industry, and clearly, lying to a guest about a room. He gives such a wonderful performance.

Mario Perez/HBO

Shane and Rachel’s storyline was definitely one of the bigger ones. We didn’t really know how it was going to end. What was your reaction to seeing their journey throughout the season?
Well, I landed in Hawaii under the impression that Rachel was in the box. Then in starting to read the scripts– we didn’t have access to them until we got there– I was like, “Oh wow, I kill her. This is horrific.” It wasn’t until 12 pages to the end of episode six I was like, “I’m gonna kill Armond!” Mike is– not only is it a social satire, but he is also like playing with this format or the current popularity of rich people and a dead body. I guess Mare of Easttown was like poor people and a dead body, but he’s essentially being like, “Okay, everybody wants dead bodies. Here’s a dead body,” and then doesn’t address for five episodes. At the very end, he’s like, “Here’s the body.”

So, you went in completely blind in terms of that twist and you being the killer?
I was in quarantine, because at the time, Hawaii had a 14 day quarantine and then production through a whole system. It worked out a way that we can test out if we then didn’t leave the resort. So, we’re just all in our little hotel rooms with these binders with the scripts. I think I had Mike’s number at that point, probably, but I hadn’t met Alex yet, like I didn’t have anybody’s contact. So, I was reading episode six seeing like he takes a shit on my stuff, then I come in, and I was like, “OH,” alone in my room, swearing, and fist pumping at how excited I was. I didn’t have anyone to– I FaceTimed my wife and was like, “I kill a guy! It’s so great!” Then, actually I saw Alex when– you know, someone came to our room, five days later or something and knocked and said, “Hey, you’re out. You’ve tested out.” So, I just started walking around the hotel, but also didn’t quite realize that no one else was staying there because no tourists were going to fly in, quarantine for 14 days in a hotel room, and leave again. So, it was just us at the hotel. Then, it’s like midnight and I’m jet lagged still four days later, wandering around the Four Seasons Maui alone with a mask on in paradise and saw Alex. It was just weird after a year of not really seeing people anyways, then kind of winding up on an island at this job, and was like, “Hi! I guess we’re lovers.”

There’s so many shows that are incorporating COVID into their storylines, but this show didn’t do that. So, how did you get yourself in the moment and headspace for the show while filming? Obviously, you had all of the safety precautions on set.
Yeah, it’s interesting. Maybe if it was a period drama, I would have been more distracted by the masks, protocols, and the things required to keep us all safe, but given that this was like a dark, drama, comedy blend and that the material is so good from the jump, you’re not on set being like, “How do we fix this? Because this is not a good scene.” That protocol just felt like this is a thing we have to do and now that it’s done, we can get to work. I never really felt it as an impediment to some creative experience, process, or something. In a way, it was stressful when tourists did start coming to the resort again and we were halfway through filming because their testing protocol is very different than our testing protocol. There was also, I didn’t realize it at the time, but a real comfort in getting tested that often, because you know if you’ve got it or if someone has it. It’s like when that job ended, I flew back to New York and wasn’t being tested every second day, I was like, “This is weird that I might currently have it and not know.” Or the very pampered life of an actor being like, “I guess I have to find out how to get a test,” as opposed to someone at work being like, “Take this test now.”

Mario Perez/HBO

How was it filming in Hawaii?
Well, it was incredible to have a job, to be in this tropical location, and working with these people all on its own. Then, to have that happening in the middle of the pandemic was a blessing twofold and weirdly limiting because this show is making fun a bit of people who travel to a paradise and stay at the resort, who instead of going out to see heritage and majesty of the place, drink daiquiris by the pool. It’s like, you could just go to Vegas, you don’t need to be here for this. There’s no reason to come to Hawaii and just sit around. So, it was a little odd to be at the hotel and be like, “Wow, the most beautiful place on earth is just right over there.” At one point we were allowed to rent paddleboards from the hotel and because we couldn’t leave, we would take those paddleboard out. And we’d go, go, and go around the curve, but still was like I probably shouldn’t go to another beach. So, just paddle way out and then be like, “Alright, I guess I’ll go back in,” and paddle my way back in. So, it’s incredible and I just wish there had been a way to– I want more, I’m just being greedy. I want to work on this incredible show and be on vacation.

The show did so well that it was renewed for a season two. Would you want to do a cameo if the opportunity presented itself?
Yeah, if it was The White Lotus season two or some other entire thing, I want to be in the Mike White business. I just think what he does, like his writing, stories, and perspective are so much what I want to watch, but then to get to be within that world is thrilling. He is writing and commenting with a level of intelligence, knowledge, and reference that is beyond my ability. So, even as I’m watching our season of The White Lotus or other work of his, I’m like, “Oh, right. That’s what– you’re referencing this thing from the 17th century,” or you can also just watch it without any of that knowledge and be like, “Oh this is cringey and fun.” But if you want to investigate any of what he’s getting at or the reflection he’s holding up to you and be like, “How much of this is you?” You also can participate in that way. So, that’s the longest possible way of saying yes, I would love to. I keep saying like in the background or just a passing shot of Shane chewing some guy out at the hotel or an airport bar. Just think, at the rental car desk, seeing a guy like, “Come on man! How do have the reservation and you don’t have the reservation?” Anything to show this dude is still out there, no lessons learned.

Mario Perez/HBO

The cast was insanely talented and you all delivered in every aspect. Is there anyone you wish you would have gotten to work more?
Oh, that’s such a lovely question. I spent the majority of my time there with Steve and Fred because Steve and I are both married with kids and neither of our families were able to come with us for quarantine reasons, and Fred turned 21 while we were there, so does not have a wife and kids at this point. So, the three of us ate dinner together every night, but I only have one interaction with Steve. I mean, I love those guys, so whether it was more The White Lotus work or just other work, it would have been a lot of fun to be on set that way together. I was so fortunate, I mean, Alex is incredible and then getting to have those scenes with Jennifer, Molly, Murray– again, just being greedy, but I want more of the good stuff. I already have it so good and I’m like, “Keep it coming, baby!”

For me, as a viewer, I always enjoy the underrated and unexpected dynamics; I would have loved to see you and Fred in scenes together.
I just would want it to be like– have you ever had an experience where you’re maybe with a stranger or something and you think you’re on the same page, and then they say something you’re like, “Oh, I don’t think you and I are… oh, I see.” I was in a cab in New York one time, it was September or something, really hot, and the guy was like, “Oh, boy. Really hot out there.” I was like, “Yeah, you know they used to call that an Indian summer and I don’t think that’s really an appropriate term to use anymore.” He goes, “Yeah,” and I’m like, “Yeah.” Then, he goes, “Who knows what you can say anymore.” I went, “Oh,” like, I’m saying it can go away and it’s a good thing. You’re saying it’s going away and why do people get to tell me what I can and can’t say? So, I was just like, “Okay, we’re just two guys in a car.” But that’s the scene I would want to have with like Fred or Steve, where they’re bro-ing out and then they’re like, “Oh– I’m not sure that’s really what we mean, man.” Yeah, those guys, I wish I had more time with them, I suppose.