There are no bad performances on The White Lotus. The entire cast, including Murray Bartlett (Armond), Connie Britton (Connie), Steve Zahn (Mark), Alexandra Daddario (Rachel), and Sydney Sweeney and Brittany O’Grady (Olivia and Paula), is great. But there’s one performance on the HBO series that stands above the rest — it’s the Pineapple Suite to everyone else’s still-incredible Palm Suite. That would be Jennifer Coolidge as Tanya, who travels to the White Lotus to spread her mom’s ashes. To say someone is giving a “career-best performance” is a cliché at this point, especially for someone who shined in Legally Blonde, Best in Show, and A Mighty Wind, but in this case, it’s absolutely true: Jennifer Coolidge is giving a career-best performance.
The thing is, she almost turned down the role.
“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,” Coolidge told the Guardian about being initially reluctant to take the role. “But then [The 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.” She continued:
“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.”
But after a close friend told her to “own my mess,” Coolidge accepted White’s offer. “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,” she added. To Jennifer Coolidge’s close friend, I say: thank you.
every week jennifer coolidge serves us with some scene so weird & specific & vulnerable it feels like she’s inventing acting on the spot
— Brennan Caldwell (@BrennanCaldwell) August 9, 2021
Indebted to Mike White for giving Jennifer Coolidge the space to give the performance of a lifetime.
— Michelle Collins (@michcoll) August 9, 2021
(Via the Guardian)