Whether it is by her versatile acting, mesmerising blue eyes or her tremendously retweetable tweets – you certainly know Alexandra Daddario. From blockbuster babe in Baywatch and San Andreas to self-conflicted honeymooner in HBO’s new dark comedy series The White Lotus, Daddario continues to prove that she really can do it all — and do it authentically. Perhaps it is her approach to each character — “liv[ing] in the world that they live in” — that equips Daddario with an undeniable realness. The actress sat down with Schön! for a candid conversation about life in her 30s and the details of her various acting experiences over the years.
Hello – so excited to speak with you! How are you doing these days?
I’m okay. I’m doing better. You know, it’s been wild to watch everything opening. Getting the vaccines, then suddenly, wow, everything is back — traffic’s back, and people are going out to dinner. You have a little bit of whiplash.
I’ve heard people say, oh, you know what? I needed this. For me, it wasn’t like that. It was very challenging, and I’m really relieved to see everything open. I feel a lot more comfortable in the world now. I think as far as perspective, I just feel grateful for the things that we took for granted before.
Let’s throw it back to 2003 and All My Children. Did you always know you wanted to act? And how would you say soap opera life is different or similar to your other roles?
I sort of did know that I always wanted to act, but being an actress seemed like not a real job to me as a kid. It seemed like something that, like, aliens did on another planet. In the world that I grew up in, it seemed like actors were manufactured in a lab. Being a normal person, you could never be an actor.
I had this love for it from a very young age. I loved going to acting class — it was very cathartic for me, leaning into your emotions and doing these scenes. And in all these scenes, you were taught a lot about what it meant to be human, and they were all these interesting stories.
The soap opera life was great. I was 16 when I booked the soap — this was almost 20 years ago now. It’s all shifted, but it taught me how to memorise lines, how to find my light, how cameras worked, and how to kiss a boy on camera. Like, all these bizarre things that you must do, it got me used to it, and I was grateful for that job.
Fast forwarding, let’s talk about your time as Lisa Tragnetti on True Detective. What attracted you to that role?
I think that as an actor, there are times where you aren’t taken seriously, and you struggle — like everybody. I think especially at that time in my life, I was having trouble getting in for certain auditions.
With True Detective, I just thought, ‘I want to work with these great people.’ I didn’t know what was going to happen. The role was initially smaller, and I actually auditioned for a different role — I didn’t think that it was going to be as big of a deal for me as it ended up being. For me, it was just a credit… Something I could learn from. That was sort of how I approached it.
They didn’t provide me with the script before I booked the role, and then when I booked the role, I got to read it and saw how incredible it was. I knew that the director was great, but I wasn’t aware that that role was going to do the kinds of things that it ended up doing for me. I knew the show would be great, but I didn’t realise what an impact that role would have.
I think it opened up the door for San Andreas, for sure. And I think that San Andreas was also, besides just being one of these once-in-a-lifetime cool experiences every day, an opportunity where I got to do such cool things. It was an amazing chance to travel, see the world and go on a press tour! Working with Dwayne was amazing. I think he’s such an incredible man, and I’m very lucky to have had the opportunity to work with him and his team.
You are also Mary in the drama, Die in a Gunfight. What was it like playing Mary?
She’s a little bit of a beaten down character. I think she’s one of these girls with an incredible amount of fire that has sort of been put out by life, rejection or people who don’t really let her be herself. That’s how I approached her character.
The movie is a little bit of a Romeo and Juliet experience and, at the end of the day, Romeo and Juliet, when you really think about it, are two teenagers. Teenagers have no idea what they’re doing. It’s very much by impulse, instinct, hormones, and nothing’s really logical. So, it’s just these two star-crossed lovers doing this with no real thought. I think it’s sort of the spark and the revival that she needed after being beaten down for a while, metaphorically speaking, by the world.
And that’s very fun to play, I think — these two people in the movie who are doing things by impulse, versus being more thoughtful, because I’ve had both. Now that I’m older, it is more of a mature love, where you’re thoughtful and logical and think out loud. But that young love is also very fun to play.
Changing genres… you are currently starring alongside Connie Britton and Sydney Sweeney in the HBO limited series The White Lotus! Tell us about the show in your own words.
It’s a dark comedy, and I think a social commentary on the world we live in. It has a lot of very deep themes… It’s about these wealthy, privileged people going on vacation in Hawaii and not being fully aware of the racial undertones, and attempting to deal with their own issues and problems, all while sort of ignoring the things going on around them.
It’s very interesting, because they’re not necessarily bad people — just very consumed with their own issues. I think that there’s a lot of humour when you shine a light on this: wow, what are these people even complaining about? And look at what they’re missing!
Mike White, who wrote and directed it, is very, very good at that… He has this incredible sense of humour and incredible depth. This series really approaches the blissful ignorance that people live in, and thus, holds a mirror up to people. It is a laugh-out-loud funny and very dark series at the same time.
“Here’s to the greatest vacation of your life,” teases The White Lotus. We sense a hint of sarcasm. Tell us more about your character on the show.
My character Rachel is on her honeymoon, married to a wealthy handsome guy her age, and everything should be perfect. However, she is not happy with where she is at in her career, and she’s not happy with what’s going on in her relationship. She just isn’t really sure of why, either. Her main issue becomes very, very dark for her, because her husband sort of says, well, you’re rich now, you’re marrying me, so what do you need a career for?
As I am in my 30s, I can relate to this feeling of hustling and working at something for a long time — over a decade — and feeling like you haven’t had success with it. And what does that mean for you? Are you good at what you do? Is my job now to be someone’s wife? That can actually be a way more intense experience to go through than you think on the surface, which is how I approached the character. [With] every character I approach, I want to live in the world that they live in.
I think that there’s something too with the way social media is and the way that the world is now — we want it all, and everyone is portraying their perfect lives, and we have this, this, this and this. But when you really sit with yourself, a lot of the time, we forget the gratitude that we should have for the things that we have. We forget to ask, why are we making decisions? Is it because we think it looks good for Instagram? It’s a great show, and Rachel feels like she should be happy, but she is just not, and she is grappling with that.
Out of all your roles over the years, what has been your favourite to play and why?
This is such a cheesy response, but I love all of them, because I really had really interesting experiences, though not all positive, with all of the roles. I’ve learned a lot about myself and become a better actress from every single role I’ve done.
I do love this role I did in a movie called We Have Always Lived in the Castle. The role was a woman named Constance, and it’s based on a book by Shirley Jackson of the same name. Constance is agoraphobic but always trying to pretend that everything’s okay and everything is all right, but nothing is ever all right. And that was fascinating to play because I know, especially as women, we do that from time to time, some more frequently than others. That was a really interesting thing to explore, and it helped me recognise in myself how often I’ve done that in my life — where there’s this underlying anxiety and I’m just pretending everything’s great.
You always have the best tweets. “Cupcakes are literally just harder to eat cakes” and “If you wear the same thing every day, you do not have to do laundry.” Where do you get your inspiration?
I feel like I’ve been lacking on Twitter the last couple of years, but I mean, with that cupcake one… It was probably 2:00 AM, and I was laying in the living room trying to eat a cupcake that was meant for a child — and I shouldn’t have been eating his cupcake. And I went in the fridge and got icing all over my nose and I was just like, this is ridiculous. Why do we make these? Just make cakes. Like, these are hard to eat. You can’t cut them. There’s too much icing on them — shall I go on? So, that’s where these come from — just real life.
I’d say I try to be genuine, but I think it’s not even that I try. I think it just is my personality. I’ve also — you know, being an actress, you have a following, so I don’t think I ever got caught in like the trap of, ‘I need to have a bigger following.’ I like Instagram, but Instagram has always been interesting because I just woke up one day and I was like, wow, I have a lot of followers. How did that happen?
That’s how I approach it. Sometimes I write little weird things, or what’s on my mind. I obviously try to stay somewhat private, but I’ve become less private, to be honest. I think that things have sort of been swinging in that direction as we become more and more accustomed to social media. I really don’t force it. If something doesn’t feel right, then I don’t post it.
What are you working on next?
I have a few things that I’m working on, nothing that I think I can talk about that’s firmed up. But I have Die in A Gunfight… and The White Lotus, both of which you should check out! And more exciting things to come. Overall, I’m just grateful that the world’s opening and that we can all work and travel, and I’m also very excited to see what’s next.
The White Lotus is currently airing on HBO.
Die in a Gunfight is in cinemas and available on video on demand now.