In person, Jake Lacy is humble and warm. He speaks with a metered deliberation, frequently interrupting himself to offer praise for others. As he chats with us from his parents’ home in Vermont — a temporary residence while he prepares to move away from Brooklyn, New York — a smile rarely leaves his face, and the word “blessing” comes up often.
If you’re only familiar with Lacy from his recent role on HBO’s runaway hit The White Lotus, this may come as a bit of a surprise. The White Lotus has Lacy playing one of the most memorable, and hateable, figures on television today: Shane Patton, a rich-kid-grown-up whom Lacy cheerfully describes as “petulant, impatient and selfish.” Starring opposite Alexandra Daddario — Patton’s new wife who’s having second thoughts — the two actors play off each other beautifully to create an emotional, frustrating and undeniably addictive spectacle.
Now that the season one of the series has concluded — and a second season has been announced — Schön! spoke with Lacy about Shane, which character he sees himself in most, the show’s climactic end and more.
You play a perfect asshole in this series. Did you have any worry about playing a character who’s so easy to hate? I feel like I’d apologise to my costars every time they said ‘cut’.
[laughs] Yes. Thankfully, [writer/director Mike White] helped me work through that. I think my way of apologising was, I sort of treated Shane like a pretty brazen asshole initially, and then Mike helped me pull it back into something more casual — which, to me, makes the assholery that much worse. You know, with someone who’s a caricature of an asshole, you’re sort of like, ‘oh, this guy’s a joke.’ But someone who’s just a straight up dick is a whole other thing. I think Shane is petulant, impatient and selfish, but I also think, particularly in the last episode, you see him get hurt or feel hurt in a way that he’s never dealt with. It’s like a guy who’s never had to take an L, you know what I mean? He’s just never really had a loss: he’s never been broken up with, he’s never not made the team, he’s never not been first. You see him, in his own way, take a hit for the first time.
You see him experience his first consequence.
Yeah, and it’s his first, ‘I’m not enough.’ His first, ‘I don’t get it my way, I don’t get it how I want it, when I want it.’
And that’s incredibly interesting to watch. Are there any upsides to playing an asshole, maybe from just an acting perspective?
Oh, yeah. There’s sort of a freedom within the parameters of the scene, like I can do whatever I want — but not in unfocused, chaotic way… Maybe that’s more credit to Mike than just playing someone like this. [Mike] would sort of let me go for it, and then he would either dial it up or dial it down… I don’t know that playing an asshole frees you up — the thing that freed me up was great material, a wonderful director and a great costar. Those are the things that really give you space to be like, ‘oh, I can move in here and pull it up or pull it back, or go this way and go that way, and feel free to make those choices.’ But no, I didn’t walk away from doing The White Lotus like, ‘I finally found my voice. After playing a dick for two and a half months, I feel like I finally found me again.’ [laughs]
Thank goodness. About the setting of the show — it’s incredible, both in the interiors and exteriors. I know you were dealing with the odd circumstances of COVID, but how was filming in Hawaii?
It was like two trains running on parallel tracks. You have the first, where we’re in the middle of a pandemic and we’re working under these safety protocols, and you can’t leave the hotel, and people can’t come in. I went to Hawaii while my family stayed back here. That alone is a lot of circumstances that are tough to navigate. And then the second, the experience of filming and being in Hawaii — and, honestly, being tested regularly and knowing that I didn’t have COVID and the people around me didn’t have COVID was such a gift. It was such a blessing to be safe and in a bubble and working — and getting paid after not pulling a paycheck for like a calendar year. You worked these long days with a crew who were just kicking ass left and right, and then at the end of the day, you got to go sit and have dinner with Steve Zahn, or go for a sunset swim. That’s pretty incredible.
There’s a lot of talk about class in this series, and obviously setting it in Hawaii really drives that point home. Did you talk with Mike or any native Hawaiians who were working on the show about the class aspect, or the choice of Hawaii specifically?
Well, I think the choice of Hawaii was threefold. It has this history of colonialism and capitalism laid in there as a foundation to its story and to people living there, their experience. Also, I think Mike has had a place in Hawaii for a long time, so he was happy to film there because he treats it like a second home. There were talks of shooting it in Fiji, Bali, but it was also, like, ‘where is a resort that’s shut down where we can cut a deal to film,’ you know? It all worked out well, but I feel like there were a lot of pieces to being there.
I didn’t speak with Mike about this directly… [but] my maternal grandmother was born on Molokai, and she was half Hawaiian. So, I was aware and engaged in the history of the people there in a general sense, and the effect of colonialism, Western culture and the US government coming in.
Separately, that story exists in this world, and we are dealing with those themes, but I’m just a pawn within that game. My focus as Shane is really just the hyper-local, not the global. I’m exclusively worried about my room, my wife, how I’m perceived, and these two college chicks at the pool. Like, those are the things that Shane cares about or is focused on. The larger themes are certainly at play, but I’m just a piece that you get to observe within that system.
Yeah, and your character’s ignorance of those issues helps create him.
Or his — you know when people say, ‘your silence is deafening?’ That’s more Shane than anything. I think that if you asked him, do you care about colonialism on the islands? He’d just be like, ‘well, what do you want me to do about it?’ His general outlook is an aggressive indifference to other people’s problems.
This is a bad transition, but Mike White was recently asked in an interview which character he sees himself in most, and he hesitantly responded with ‘Shane’. Did you hear about this?
[laughs] No, I didn’t!
Yeah. He said there was a ‘little bit of [him] in all of the characters,’ but that he felt that he has a lot of the same traits as Shane, which he was ‘embarrassed to admit.’ Which character do you think you relate to the best?
It’s probably Steve’s character [Mark]. Just a guy who’s trying to be present and honest and real, and just missing the mark every time. I guess, in a way, who you relate to most is just who you’re most uncomfortable watching, because that’s probably the person you’re closest to. With some of the other people, I can kind of be like, ‘Oh, I have such sympathy for them,’ or I can sort of observe them but not feel tethered to their thing — but when Steve gives that toast at dinner and is like, ‘you know, if you think about it, we’re just being reborn into each other… Anyway, that’s just some stuff I’m thinking about’ [laughs]. He’s just trying to have a connection with his family in this really beautiful way — and, you know, that’s true! We are present again and again and again — but dude, wrong place, wrong time, wrong audience, no one asked for this! And then when he’s finishes, like, ‘I don’t know, whatever,’ — that to me was so much sadder. I felt that [laughs].
[This section contains spoilers for The White Lotus]
What was your reaction when you found out the ending and the role that you have in it?
They put the scripts together in binders, and we got them when we landed on Maui, and we went into quarantine for some days because of state protocol. So, I could sit in the hotel room and read all these scripts that we hadn’t had access to before. With every new binder, I was just more and more giddy about the story, what I got to do and where it was all going. Then, in episode six, to see how it plays out and how it all finally knots together — I was alone in my Four Seasons Hotel room being like, ‘Yes! Oh, yeah! Oh, yeah!’… I was just over the moon to get to be a part of it, and of course, I had also believed in this directional prompting, like, ‘when do I kill my wife? Where’s the part where I murder Rachel?’ I actually watched episode six last night for the first time, just because I knew we were going to do this [interview]. I’d been sort of saving it because I just loved working on it, and after watching it last night, I love the end result so much. And also, I was so happy with the shit. It’s gross and great.
The White Lotus was conceived as a limited series — but would you be down to be a part of the second season?
I would. Yes. I just love Shane, but also I would do anything with Mike… If they want to have me be a part of it for any amount of time, I’m there 100%. Shane kills again? I’ll do it. Shane dies? Fine. I’m all in.
I quickly want to ask you about your role in Aaron Sorkin’s upcoming film, Being The Ricardos. How is it working with Aaron Sorkin? I would imagine it’s a bit different than this show.
Well, yes, totally. It is a bit different. First, it’s amazing. It’s maybe not easy, but… it’s one thing to appreciate Aaron’s work, his vision, his skill and his storytelling as a viewer, but then to get to be a part of it and see that process is, for me, equally or more exciting — to have him come in and say like, ‘I think you need to add the word ‘well’ at the beginning.’ Great. And we do it again and he’s like, ‘okay, I think it’s, ‘well, technically.’’ He can hear what’s not there and what needs to be there, or what he had four drafts ago and what he’d like back in, so it’s really exciting to be there for that. And then, to watch someone like Javier [Bardem], and the soul and grace that he has as an actor matched with Aaron’s razor sharp, rhythmic writing — pairing them together is this remarkable thing to behold. I have just nothing but gratitude for being there for it, and for getting to see people at that level doing what they do. That’s everything to me.
Last question: it can be short term or long term, but what are you looking forward to right now?
I guess, personally, I just moved. I just left Brooklyn after being there for thirteen years… I’ve left on my own terms each time, but it’s the first time I’ve been like, ‘I think I’m moving on from this lifestyle.’ And so, I’m excited to figure out what the next ‘version’ is — maybe something a little more chill and a little quieter. Or, I go completely nuts not being in the middle of it all.
Right. You can’t go to the grocery store at 2 AM anymore.
Yeah. And just stepping out on the street and seeing people you know. Now it’s like, ‘I guess I’m in this house now… [long pause] I’ll go for a run? I don’t know!’ As an actor, unless you’re working, you’re just, like, unemployed — you’re hanging out waiting to work. There’s stuff you can do, but for the most part, you have to fill your time. So, that’s what I’m looking forward to: figuring out this next thing. But I’m excited. I feel like there’s going to be a lot more kayaking and ice skating and just, like, ‘living life’ stuff. Who knows, man?
The White Lotus is currently streaming on HBO Max.
photography + film direction. Sasha Kasiuha
fashion. Nicolas Eftaxias @ Factory Downtown
talent. Jake Lacy
grooming. Rheanne White @ Tracey Mattingly Agency
camera operator. Tanner Carlson
thanks for cooperation. PublicHotel Soho
words. Braden Bjella