Jennifer Coolidge almost didn’t star in The White Lotus: ‘I had been self destructing’

There are no major spoilers for The White Lotus, however there are vague spoilers and I’m sure there will be some in the comments
The finale of The White Lotus aired last night. Apart from the heavy handed music and a couple of the more ridiculous scenes (if you watch it you know what I’m talking about) I
absolutely loved this series and it’s been a nice distraction. I talked about it at the beginning of this week’s Gossip With Celebitchy podcast. It’s about rich people at an Hawaiian resort behaving badly. It stars Connie Britton and Steve Zahn, but the true standout among the cast was Jennifer Coolidge, who plays a neurotic alcoholic grieving her mother’s death. The White Lotus was filmed during the pandemic but has no references to the pandemic. Jennifer Coolidge has an interview with The Guardian in which she says she almost didn’t take the project because she didn’t feel up to it. She said she had been depressed and eating a lot in lockdown and want to be on screen again. Thankfully a friend talked her out of that. I’m only going to excerpt part of this interview, but it’s absolutely worth reading at the source.

On her house in New Orleans
From my movies, people assume it’ll be all pink couches and fluffy rugs. They’re surprised I live in this very old, dark house with creepy oil portraits on the walls. It’s gloomy and cavernous. I have an antique automaton called Signor Blitz. When people come round for the first time, they feel like they’re on a haunted house tour or a fairground ride. Sofia Coppola shot [southern gothic film] The Beguiled here. I throw a Halloween party every year. But hey, it’s good to confound expectations.

She almost didn’t take the role, which showrunner Mike White wrote for her
I was really affected by the pandemic. It was an incredibly sad time. I was reading tragic news stories on a daily basis, had a fatalistic approach and assumed the virus was going to win. I knew people who lost their lives and was convinced we wouldn’t make it through. I wasn’t thinking about work, because I didn’t think we’d be alive. But then [White Lotus creator] Mike White called. His show about rich people on vacation had been picked up by HBO and he’d written a role with me in mind. I said: “OK, when are we doing it?” He said: “What do you mean? We just got green-lit. We’re doing it now. You need to get on a plane to Hawaii.” That was an impossibility to my mind. I’d been gorging and self-destructing at home for months, eating pizza all day. There was no way I wanted to be on film unless they shot me from the neck up. I’m sort of vain, so there was no fucking way.

On how she came around to taking the role
Mike texted me at 2am one night and it just said: “Are you afraid?” It was like he could read my mind and sensed that I was trying to get out of it. Then a great friend of mine told me to own my mess and just do it. I can’t tell you how close I came to ruining this whole thing for myself. It’s such a great lesson in life. I’d never have forgiven myself. I would’ve sat down to watch The White Lotus and said: “What the hell was I thinking? I’m an insane person.” A lot of us actors are so insecure and scared of failure, we blow our own chances.

On people saying it’s one of her best performances
Totally. Did I feel like I was nailing it on any level? No. Acting’s so weird. You can never tell when you’re in the midst of it. What helped is that my character, Tanya [a wealthy woman grieving her mother], had parallels to me personally. I’d been incredibly depressed during the pandemic. I lost my own mother at an early age. A family member passed away during Covid and we couldn’t hold a proper memorial. So I had all that going for me.

[From The Guardian]

There are so many lessons in that story about how Coolidge almost didn’t star in this role created for her. The times I have done things that scared me so much I wanted to quit have been when I’ve seen the most changes in my life. Also I love that advice her friend gave you, “own your mess.” I’m going to keep that in mind.

I’ve heard so many stories about how respected and loved Coolidge is in the industry. Plus she’s said to be hilarious in person. There are so few celebrities whom I care about meeting. Now that I know that Coolidge lives in a gothic mansion and throws Halloween parties I’m putting it on my bucket list to get an invite to one. Here’s a link to an interview which has a photo of her at home. Her house looks amazing.

As for The White Lotus, I have a lot of questions about what happened to certain characters and why one person was allowed to fly home. I guess he’s rich and white, which explains much of the plot of that show. Also there were two new actors (to me) whom I’m keeping an eye on now, Natasha Rothwell (Belinda) and Fred Hechinger (Quinn). Those were the only two characters I wanted to live. This show is getting another season on a different resort with a new cast, but I’d like to get a follow up on those two at least.

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51 Responses to “Jennifer Coolidge almost didn’t star in The White Lotus: ‘I had been self destructing’”

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  1. Darla says:

    What about Kai though? I thought the kid who played him was great, he is so gorgeous and he broke my heart with that damn pukka shell necklace. I really hated Paula for what she did. They were all horrible, but Shane was horrible in a hilarious way. I mean, that actor has such a punchable face, it’s funny. But Coolidge was AMAZING and I say she wins an Emmy for this. Her interview really spoke to me too. There are many times in my life I turned down things because I ate too much pasta that week. I so relate. Showing up means so much to your life. Just show up! If I could give my younger self any advice that would be it; girl, show up, always.

    • Esmom says:

      Yes, poor Kai. At best fired from his job and at worst off to prison. I really detested Paula for convincing him to do what he clearly did not want to do.

      Coolidge was indeed amazing, just chewed up every scene she was in. Some of the tiniest things she did were so damn funny and heartbreaking,

      • Darla says:

        Kai broke my heart. :(

      • bettyrose says:

        What really really pissed me off about Paula was that she didn’t even try to stop the Mossbackers from going back to the room. Even the smallest distraction would have made a difference.

      • Darla says:

        That was insane right? I was like just start puking over the side of the boat, start screaming, start claiming something bit you, get back to that hotel so you can trip her and get to the room first, do anything. I think a lot of the writing was meant to show us Paula is not a good person and it showed us her future. Just as I clearly saw Rachel’s future…an stereotypical Karen, one of the worst of them.

      • Sof says:

        I’m sorry, but poor Kai? He was not a puppet. He could have dismissed Paula’s plan. He could have pretended to be checking the room after seeing strange people or whatever when Mrs Mossbacher walked in. But no, he went ahead and chose to rob them.
        I think the point of the show was how all the charachters had a bad side in them, even those who seemed good at the beginning. Take for instance Belinda, she clearly saw how Tanya was not in a good place mentally and still tried to get her to finance her business.

      • Esmom says:

        Sof, good points. As for Kai, I agree he was really dumb in how he handled the break-in but I chalked it up to panic and not being an experienced burglar.

      • Anne Call says:

        Most of the plot lines left me rolling my eyes. Belinda actually believing that this clearly unstable women was going to start a huge business with someone she met once, Paula convincing this kid to do something ridiculously criminal in a high end hotel with cameras everywhere, rich parents not getting enough places for the kids to sleep at night and then completely unfazed by a 16 year old sleeping on the beach every night (hotel security would have stopped that first night), Rachael never noticing that Shane was an entitled douchebag. The ending was pretty flat and unsatisfactory. Yeah, those outrigger guys really needed that wispy minor white kid to help them paddle, but hey he somehow emerged as the rebel hero and the actual Hawaiian was victimized, arrested and never seen again. Ugh no spoilers but that last scene in Shane’s hotel room was absurd and gross. Loved Enlightened so I had high hopes.

      • bettyrose says:

        SoF – I somewhat agree about Kai, but I still feel bad for him because he’s going to be punished for this for the rest of his life in some way or another, far beyond what he deserves. Belinda, though, I don’t agree that she was taking advantage of Tanya. Sure she could see that Tanya was emotionally vulnerable, but Belinda was working on mutually beneficial business opportunity, not some scam. While Tanya was doing exactly what she said she shouldn’t be doing, controlling people with her money. She used Belinda and dropped her when a man came along, and now the man is using Tanya for a vacation home in Aspen, where he’s likely going to die in short order.

  2. Amanda says:

    Man what Tanya did was pretty brutal and coming back for her sunglasses while Belinda was sobbing made me hate her. I know that his parents will come and get him soon. What he did was prob seen as spoiled by some. But I’m glad Quinn got out for a little while. He seemed like he was finally happy in Hawaii and his family showed no interest. They didn’t care where he was sleeping and they probably didn’t notice he was gone until they landed.

    • Bettyrose says:

      I think it’s okay to root for Quin. He’s the only character who has positive emotional growth, even if we know he’s headed for a life of privilege. We can be happy that he’ll be a decent human and not another Shane.

  3. GreenQueen says:

    Last night I was just thinking about how if she doesn’t win an Emmy for this then it would be an actual crime. She was perfection.

  4. Lala11_7 says:

    I tried to binge it yesterday…but failed after the first episode so I read recaps & saw the last 5 minutes of the finale…I have been watching Mike White’s work since “Chuck & Buck”…love him as an artist…but a little of his work goes a LOOOOOOONG way for me😂

    The casting was ON point but I gotta tell you…the Tanya & Belinda character hit SO close to home for me….Lawd😝

  5. Bettyrose says:

    SPOILERS. I was crushed by the finale. It was social satire but ultimately it was just reality. I don’t know why I thought Kai would get a happy ending. And Shane … could anything in this world be more accurate than Shane wins at life? Tanya gets a moment of happiness after destroying Belinda but Tanya’s moment won’t last long. One way or another Greg won’t be in her life for long. Not sure what will become of Paula after what she’s done. Maybe she’ll become a public defender or something and spend her life trying to atone.

    • Darla says:

      No, Paula will spend her entire life being white-adjacent and will marry a wealthy white man. Paula is one of them, that’s what I took from it anyway. She threw away the pukka shell necklace I thought that let us know what we needed to know about her. I thought the finale was amazing in that a bunch of white people landed on shore, wreaked destruction on the native population, and left the same as they came. It was definitely social satire, but sadly very on the mark.

      • TIFFANY says:

        What was amazing about it was that this staff was use to dealing with entitled, white people. But this group finally broke them.

        When we saw Belinda’s face waiting for the next group of tourist, you just knew something changed in her and those tourist ain’t gonna get what we were use to seeing.

      • Darla says:

        That’s a great point Tiffany! This group broke them and even killed one of them.

      • Sue Denim says:

        yes, Paula literally and on many levels screwed Kai, even if w good intentions, and then got to just leave. The scene of her reading the book at the end showed her pretensions. Like maybe she used Kai the way her friend used her. I wanted to root for her, but in the end, she may have been one of the worst of them. At least Tanya tried to make it right w Belinda, however awkwardly, but she was a self-admitted nut. And I think Shane, and Rachel, may be changed for the better for this, hope so. And the M family too. Though prob not. Haha I know they’re just characters but I’m v invested!

        Also I LOVED Coolidge in Austenland, a great summer watch if you’re looking for something fun.

      • TIFFANY says:


        Shane will become a better person? He got away with manslaughter. He will get worst.

    • TIFFANY says:

      Shane leaving for Tahiti pissed me off so much. But that was the point, he was always going to win. There was not on iota of empathy for what he did and that episode of just a build up red flags and I am baffled Rachel left with him for a island in the middle of the Pacific. I mean… know what went down, right? But again, that was the point.

    • Sue Denim says:

      Just back here to say, the actor who played Shane agrees w you basically, Tiffany. That Shane will likely get worse, play the victim and thrive. Lots more insights. Anyway, I thought the interview w him in the NYT today is an interesting read. I still hope he’d reflect and grow but that’s prob not in this guy’s dna…

  6. Case says:

    I found the finale to be very underwhelming but she was great in it, and Tanya’s story went exactly how I expected it would.

  7. Anna says:

    She is amazing. The best thing about this show. The white teenagers give me a migraine and I have to scroll through their parts, idgaf if I miss plot lines or dialogue. Even watching entitlement is just too much, especially now, let alone having to experience it in daily life as a BIPOC and what what toxic whiteness is doing to our planet and to BIPOC people. I wonder who this show is for since as a BIPOC individual, I find it really hard to watch, satire or not. Then again, unless it’s specifically a Black cast, we are never the audience for film or tv. Look how they underestimate us constantly… I guess I just have zero tolerance left anymore for the self-indulgence of film and tv that in any way shows harm to non-white people. I don’t care if it’s supposed to be an indictment of rich white culture. It’s not funny and nothing is changing.

  8. YAS says:

    She was exceptional. I think she always delivers, but this felt transcendent and on a different level for Coolidge. I hope her work is recognized come awards time.

  9. lemonylips says:

    The only character who got out of it’s loop is Quinn. In a way Armond did too, although I’m speaking growth vise here. Everyone else stayed in their lanes. I would like to think Belinda broke hers but am not sure. She definitely did change some things. Small steps. Anyway I liked the show, especially Coolidge but might be in minority thinking that it wasn’t all that great.

    • Esmom says:

      I’m not sure about Quinn getting out of his loop. Being only 16, his escape can only be temporary. I am afraid that it won’t take long for him to be reabsorbed into the same family patterns. But hopefully once he is of age he really can walk away from his family’s toxic bullsh^t, not to mention their money.

      I think that everyone staying in their lanes was kind of the point of the show. So much talk of enlightenment…but that’s all it is, talk. I can see why Armond lost it once and for all, poor guy.

    • Drea says:

      I enjoyed Quinn’s story. He seemed to be the only person actually enjoying the small moments. But he only really got pushed out of his loop because he didn’t have a phone, so I’d imagine it won’t take him long to get absorbed right back into his loop again.

    • Sof says:

      I don’t know, Quinn behaved like a spoiled brat at the end, he was 16 after all. He replaced his phone with being in the ocean all day with his new friends, that’s all. Realistically, no one changes so much in a week. Perhaps this was the beginning of his new life, perhaps he’ll grow up to be a new Shane.
      But his was the dream, wasn’t it? Escaping from a life he didn’t like to live in an eternal vacation, as long as his parents finance him I think.

  10. Norman Bates' Mother says:

    Spoilers ahead!

    Everyone says that Quinn was the only character from the guests, who was not terrbile but what about Rachel? I was rooting for her – she made a huge mistake but she seemed like a nice person. I was screaming at the screen when she came back to her douche of a husband but that’s realistic, unfortunately. She chose a very wealthy and miserable life.

    I couldn’t believe that Armond was the one who died. I think he was as bad of a person as his guests (he drugged and sexually used his subordinate, he didn’t care about the intern who gave birth, he stole from guests and abused drugs while at work) but so entertaining to watch! I wished he would appear in the second season.

    I’m not surprised that Shane was let go free. Everyone talked about the incident with jewelery theft and assault on Mosbachers so the police would regard this as a reasonable self defence. I’m not American though so I’m sure it’s more nuanced and would be different for someone who is not rich and white in your country.

    • Bettyrose says:

      I struggled with Rachel, but eventually I felt like she was straddling the line. She knew that she’d married into wealth and her pretense of not wanting him to pay off her debt or take his name was counter to her having taken two months off work to plan the wedding. Clearly he supported her while she did that. She was legitimately conflicted but I placed my bet on her choosing his life, and that bit didn’t surprise me at the end.

      As for Shane, yes ultimately he would’ve gotten off. No question. Guys like Shane just do. Not that quickly. He would’ve had to stay on the island while the investigation played out but for artistic license they sped up his inevitable exoneration so he could go back to not even caring about anything outside his orbit.

  11. ME says:

    I enjoyed the show. One thing I could have done without was that damn suitcase scene. I hope no one was eating while watching that. I mean did they really have to show it coming out lol?

    • Sue Denim says:

      ok quick q — do you think it was real? it seemed it, so yeah, blurch… :( but v funny too! Like I wondered how they’d escalate things to the point of murder in the context of the show’s overall sense of humor…

      • ME says:

        I don’t think it was real but damn did they do a good job of making it seem real. But then again, who knows right?

    • Anne Call says:

      We were eating dinner and I got up and walked out. Really gross and who can do that on demand (haha)?! Maybe peeing in the luggage…whole thing was ridiculous.

  12. Case says:

    @ME Beyond just being gross I felt like they included that just to be “trending” on social media and I really don’t respect that.

  13. Sof says:

    I got carried away thinking about the characters that I forgot to comment on the acting. Great performances! Especially Jennifer and the guy that plays Shane (don’t know his name, I’m sorry).
    Her scene on the boat, the way she delivered the speech about her mother was amazing. And Shane, his face changing as Rachel told him how alone she felt with him… I almost felt bad for him.

    • Esmom says:

      I think the whole cast was really strong, lots of nuance and subtlety in their performances. I especially disliked Olivia the character but I think the performance of the actor who played her was really great, so sharp.

    • Sue Denim says:

      I know, on Shane, Tiffany above didn’t agree w me and thinks he’ll get worse, it’s possible too it was v good acting but to me, when he realizes what he’s done, he looks stricken, like “Rachel was right, I took this way too far.” And it didn’t feel like it was just because he was afraid of the consequences for him, but the humanity. So I think that could potentially change him for the better, and maybe recalibrate their marriage too. I also think the potential of losing her, shifted his perspective as well. There’s also sort of the shadow of the failed guy he talks about w his mother. He doesn’t want to be that, so he might be called on to grow. But he needs to get away from his mother…! So many awful but interesting characters… (and btw lol, I know I’m v invested in these people right now…prob to avoid my actual work)

  14. BothSidesNow says:

    I haven’t watched it, as I just finished watching Physical with Rose Bryne after you guys mentioned it, which it was incredible.

    In regards to Coolidge, I have liked her since “Best In Show”, so I always gravitate towards her work. I think she is an exceptional actor and will now start watching The White Lotus, after I watch CODA. They had Marlee Marlin on CBS Sunday Morning yesterday and I have always loved her since “Children of A Lesser God”.

    You guys always have great recommendations for watching/reading material!!! Thanks!!

  15. LeonsMomma says:

    On another note — I have been to Jennifer’s house in New Orleans and it’s amazing! I had been in it before she bought it (previous occupant), while it was being renovated, and a few times after.

    She did a great job with it. And she is a great hostess and super nice. (She is also good friends with a good friend of mine, so I am somewhat adjacent!)

  16. tealily says:

    I just love her. She attended a fundraiser I went to for work a couple of years ago, and she was just absolutely magnetic. I couldn’t take my eyes off her!

  17. minx says:

    Natasha Rothwell plays a completely different, ballsy character in Insecure. She was so subdued and gentle in WL.

    • Mandy Purr says:

      I was very impressed by her. I loved her character in Insecure and really enjoyed seeing her play a different kind of character. I hope her career flourishes.

  18. Lady Luna says:

    I just started watching the show and I love it! I was at the hotel a couple of years ago and I loved it!

  19. Stef says:

    I absolutely adore her and will happily watch anything she’s in. She was brilliant here and deserves an award nod for sure.

    I liked how this show explored the lives and behaviours of wealthy tourists and the people who serve them, and how their lives intertwined. Great casting and a thoughtful series.

  20. Kittycat says:

    Armand was one who kept me riveted! He was delightful.

  21. J ferber says:

    Watching the authorities shaking Shane’s hand after he kills someone feels very authentic. And depressing.