The White Lotus is filled with perplexing characters one of which is Alexandra Daddario‘s newlywed Rachel, a woman who is clearly unhappy in her new marriage and has more than a few reasons to leave while on vacation at the titular resort, but ultimately decides to stay.
It’s Daddario’s conflicted portrayal that landed her one of the HBO show’s may nominations at this year’s Emmys. The actress is being recognized in the category of Oustanding Actress in a Limited or Anthology Series or Movie alongside her costars Connie Britton, Natasha Rothwell, Sydney Sweeney, and Jennifer Coolidge.
While the Mike White project is an ensemble working harmoniously together, Daddario’s performance definitely leaves viewers wondering, what could possibly be next for Rachel who takes her husband Shane (Jake Lacy) back despite the fact that he mistakenly killed tortured hotelier Armond (Murray Bartlett) — and this is after the fact that Shane complained about their lavish accommodations and even got his mother to join them on their honeymoon. Below, Daddario is offering insight into Rachel’s mindset, what it’s like working with Mike White, her first Emmy nomination, and hope for a potential return in The White Lotus universe.
How does it feel to be Emmy nominated?
Alexandra Daddario: The whole thing is insane. It’s very surreal. It’s one of those things I didn’t expect to happen. It seemed unattainable. So getting nominated… I really don’t have words. It’s wonderful. And being nominated with everyone else, it’s so fitting. We got to spend all this time together on this beach in the middle of the pandemic. And I’m just really proud of everyone and grateful.
Every character is so unique in The White Lotus with Mike White’s vision, how was the role of Rachel pitched to you, and what made you want to take her on?
Well, I wanted to be part of it before. You could have given me any role, you could have told me I was going to play the beach monster and I would’ve played it. So I was happy to join the project. I don’t remember what his pitch was. I remember reading the scripts on the plane on the way to Hawaii, and I remember really feeling a lot of sympathy for her. My thoughts about a character start to form instinctually. I don’t try to put anything on it. I just let it come to me a little bit. I felt like she was really sad and had gotten stuck in the situation accidentally. And I took it from there. There’s a lot to play with there. I thought it was really fascinating that she was more stuck than she needed to be.
In the end, Rachel decides to stay with her husband Shane and tells him she’ll be happy, that she’s going to try. Is she trying to convince herself or do you think there’s a scenario in which Rachel does end up happy with Shane?
No, I don’t think she ends up happy. I think it’s more of a, “I’ve tried to talk to you. I’ve tried everything within my current comfort zone to fix this situation, and the reaction from my husband is so negative.” He’s basically telling me that my feelings aren’t valid. So I think it’s Rachel’s way of making everything okay. “I will figure it out. I won’t be this way. I won’t be myself. I’ll be the thing that you want me to be. I’ll be the pretty happy girl that you started dating. I’m not going to really tell you how I feel.” So I think there’s a really innate sadness, where she’s going to try to pretend that everything’s okay. But I don’t think that’s going to last forever.
Rachel could have stayed behind after everything that happened. What went into her decision-making process of meeting Shane at the airport?
Initially, you could read the script and say, “Oh, this woman likes the money.” You could look at it that way. You could look at it from other perspectives like that. She likes whatever. I think that she’s feeling very insecure about where she is as a woman in her thirties. She has some money. She can obviously pay the bills, but she’s not where she thinks she should be in her career. I think that there’s pressure as a woman in your thirties, even if you live in a big city, to eventually get married. There really is that pressure. Not everyone feels it and not everyone absorbs it, but I think she’s one of those people that does.
So I think that there’s a quality of success to this marriage… that’s why she’s afraid to leave him. I think, more than she’d like to admit, she likes the situation. I mean, she’s being whisked off her feet and everyone’s looking at her like, “Oh my gosh, this is so wonderful for her.” And I think that feeling is hard for her to let go of. I don’t think it has anything specifically to do with him or the money, it has to do with her feeling of being a failure at what she should be as a woman.
If the career factor wasn’t a concern, do you think Rachel’s story would have ended differently?
I don’t think she would’ve been in the relationship in the situation in the first place. I think if she had a huge career and she was making money and felt like a success, I think that there’s a bit of insecurity and deep sadness and not feeling like she is who she should be. And then she starts to discover that she should be doing something different than what she’s doing. And this marriage is that. And I think if she had the career, I don’t think that she would feel the need to fall into a marriage with someone that she really isn’t compatible with.
What was it like working with Jake Lacy on the relationship and was it more difficult to get caught up in the emotional heights when you’re in such an idyllic location?
Yeah. I mean, it was beautiful and amazing, and we got to see all sorts of incredible once-in-a-lifetime things. It was like we were on this incredible vacation, but at the same time, Covid was still lurking. We were trapped in the hotel. We couldn’t leave. So people were stuck. There was still stress. It wasn’t like, we were so relaxed that we were just like, “Oh, I can barely make it to set.” We had some stuff to draw from I think. But Jake is just an amazing scene partner. And I’m so grateful for that. We didn’t need to over-talk things. I think we both had a really clear idea. It was really instant and it was the same with Mike as a director. It just all clicked.
Season 2 of The White Lotus is expected to arrive this fall, should Mike White decide to continue the show, would you ever like to return to your role as Rachel?
I’d work with Mike White no matter what. So if he had some idea, of course. But at the same time, I’m very happy with the arc and where it left off, and the story that we told. But yeah, I think Mike is just incredible and I really love working with him. It was one of the most wonderful director experiences I’ve had.
The White Lotus, Season 1, Streaming now, HBO Max