If “The White Lotus” were a competition show (much like, let’s say, Mike White’s alma mater “Survivor”), there would be two irrefutable winners: Mia (Beatrice Grannò) and Lucia (Simona Tabasco), the cunning locals who, using their sexuality, successfully scheme their way into a job and €50,000, respectively. Season 2 of the HBO series ends with the pair joyously prancing down the streets of Sicily, as Sam Cooke’s “The Best Things in Life Are Free” plays in the background.
The closing scene is White’s very last ironic jab at the entire premise of the show, whose characters are so consumed by attaining what they don’t have that they waste their lives feeding an insatiable desire — and becoming terrible people in the process.
Tabasco, however, does hold hope that her character has some good in her. “I would say that, in the end, she is a good girl and probably is pure at heart,” she tells Variety after the finale. But she does admit that she was “a little bit frightened” of her character and “thought she was a bitch” when she first read the script.
Following Sunday night’s finale, Tabasco sat down with Variety to discuss her thoughts on Lucia’s true intentions and hidden feelings for Albie — and how her own life has changed since “The White Lotus.”
Did you play Lucia as a villain or did you want to play her more ambiguously so the audience had a hard time figuring out what her intentions were?
As I was reading the script in the beginning, I never thought Lucia would be the villain of the story. But as I was reading her character, I saw that she is what you see on screen — she is an ambiguous person, this unhinged character. You never know what she’s after; you never know what she’s thinking. I was a little bit frightened by her in the beginning, in the sense that maybe in this particular aspect of her character, there could be a craziness lying underneath that could have something to do with that in the end.
But what I did to overcome that initial fear was to just rely on the irony of the character and how great and open she is — how Mike White wrote her basically, which is kind of similar to those Fellini characters that are a little grotesque.
What do you think Lucia’s backstory is?
I don’t even think she was even an escort before going to The White Lotus — I think that’s something that she concocted for the hotel, it’s something she decided to do for that particular situation. And so in the end, I think she’s a bit of a sellout to herself. When I read the script, I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, she’s a bitch.’ I know it’s not always a good thing to judge a character but I thought she was a bitch.
Why do you think the audience liked Lucia so much?
Maybe what people like, that resonates with them, is this idea of a woman that just is making and playing her game. She just grabs her destiny and does what she wants with it basically.
Do you think any part of Lucia has a love or sympathy for Albie?
When I read the script, I thought she was in love with Albie because I think what happened was she was not exactly sure she would be bumping into someone as pure as him. I would say that in the end she is a good girl and probably is pure at heart. I think it’s the story that she just decides which aspects of herself she wants to follow in a particular case. She sees an opportunity, she sees an occasion and she goes for it. She makes the decision. So, I do think she is a little bit in love with him but in the end the dream prevails, the objective prevails, the goal is what matters.
Why do you think Albie ended up giving Lucia the money even though he tells Portia he knew he was getting scammed?
I don’t know, maybe he was in love too. Because sometimes when you’re on holiday vacation you just feel your emotions in a heightened way. So, maybe he was in love. When I read the script, I dreamt about Lucia and Albie at the end, maybe in Los Angeles or wherever in the world. But together.
You and Beatrice Grannó (Mia) were friends in real life before being cast in the show. How did that enhance your on-screen relationship?
We definitely brought our friendship to the screen, especially because it wasn’t just that we knew each other from before but also because we were sharing this enthusiasm for the situation and this incredible project that we got to be in together. And then once we were there, we were building the characters and the relationship and also other things to make sure that came out on screen that can help us out – finding gestures and ways of saying lines and certain intonations, things that are typical to Italy because in Italy, each region has different little details that make that character shine through and let you see what the dynamic is between two people. So that was also fun to do on set. And together with our previous friendship, the joy for the thing that we were sharing, I think that’s what you saw on-screen and was delivered in the end.
What do you think is the theme of this season?
I think that the theme for this story is trust. I think that this is a story about people that go on vacation, they find out while there that their lives may be disrupted and they’re not maybe who they are.
Did you follow any of the TikTok or online discourse theorizing about the show?
I haven’t actively followed the threads but I received so many messages, especially before the finale saying “Please don’t die tonight.” So, everybody was worried that Lucia would be one of the dead bodies, which is funny because when I read the script, I kind of thought maybe she’d be one of the killers, not one of the victims. So, that was funny.
Given Mike White’s history on “Survivor,” who do you think figuratively won this season of “White Lotus”?
Definitely Mike White [laughing]. And definitely Mia and Lucia. But I also think Tanya [Jennifer Coolidge] because she finally found the courage to rebel in some way to the situation, to counter in some way what was happening to her. Never mind she dies — she was a winner in the end.
How has your life changed since “The White Lotus”?
It’s a crazy moment in my life. I’m so happy that people are watching “The White Lotus.” In Italy, they are watching it, but not as much as they would in the states. I’m receiving so many messages of love and support through social media, which is amazing and incredible. And also, of course, there’s people that are reaching out with some offers and other parts, which is all incredibly exciting. But it all feels a little far away from me right now.
For more coverage of “The White Lotus,” read our interviews with Jennifer Coolidge (Tanya), Will Sharpe (Ethan) and Adam DiMarco (Albie), Haley Lu Richardson (Portia) and Meghann Fahy (Daphne). Read a recap of the season finale here, and its series-high ratings here!