Albie and Portia.
Photo: Fabio Lovino/HBO
He’s a nice guy from Stanford. She is Jennifer Coolidge’s troubled and depressed assistant. Both are desperately trying to get away from the elderly people who surround them and have fun in Sicily, but they just can’t. Such is the story of Adam DiMarco’s Albie and Haley Lu Richardson’s Portia in the first few episodes of the second season White lotus. That is, until the fourth episode, when their characters’ relationship almost falls apart when Jack Leo Woodall, nephew of the luxurious British gay esthete Tom Hollander, enters the picture and catches Portia’s eye on Albie. Local sex worker Lucia (Simona Tabasco) in turn decides to flirt with Albie, despite having already slept with his father. At the end of the episode, Albie gets smoked by Lucia while Portia and Jack are in her room talking. It’s a set of romantic events that deserve it Love Island; to unpack the debacle of #PortiAlbie and the rise of new couplings, Vulture caught up with DiMarco and Richardson via Zoom to discuss the new romantic pairings, the terrifying way creator Mike White weaved their own personalities into his characters, and their own love of reality TV.
There’s a lingering antagonism where Albie and Portia feel almost obligated to get together because there are two young people at this resort, but it just doesn’t sync up. How did Mike direct you to play those awkward early scenes?
HLR: Every time Albie and Portia interact, there is the potential for it to be charming or endearing. They have these things that could theoretically balance each other out. But then it goes on its own [she moves her hands past each other, not touching].
ADVERTISEMENT: I know you shouldn’t read comments online but it was fun reading comments online because everyone reads every situation. In the last episode by the pool, I had a text from a friend in all caps when Albie went in for a second kiss and then asked Portia to come back to his room. He said: “I SHOUTED AT THE TV, ‘READ THE ROOM.'” But then some people say that Portia told Albie to be more aggressive and he does. Both are true. It’s just not an ideal romantic connection.
HLR: I did that with the first season, and I feel like people are trying to find the character or characters that are the most grounded or the most wholesome or the most reliable or the good. But I don’t think there’s a single character here who isn’t a bit obnoxious in one way or another or has deeply screwed up and self-serving motives. That’s kind of the point of the show, isn’t it? A few days ago I looked up my name and then I looked up Portia on Twitter and I will never do that again. It was so dark. People seemed to be really deeply upset with Portia after the third episode. Just the misery and self-pity she had. But I knew that from the beginning! The thing is, she’s stuck in Sicily at this five-star resort.
Have you read any speculation so far about who will kill or be killed? There are a lot of theories that Albie would snap and go after Portia.
ADVERTISEMENT: I think there’s a theory that every character kills someone and every character dies, which is pretty cool. Mike created this world where everyone is capable of murder.
HLR: You saw someone posted really hot photo with you on twitter a black and white picture where you are all moody and have a six pack? They thought, “If Portia doesn’t get it, she deserves to be one of the people in the body bag.”
HLR: I thought it was funny.
Let’s talk about the scene at the end of the episode where Albie and Portia are basically competing with Lucia and Jack across the bar from each other. What was it like filming?
HLR: We really improvised over the bar. A small piece of it was actually used.
ADVERTISEMENT: It got to the point where Lucia and Portia were yelling at each other across the bar. Did she call you a bitch? I can not remember. And then I have to add some Italian gestures to you. I don’t think it was in the script. And then I really liked Leo’s half-Italian, half-Spanish, half-English “Dos Jägerbombs.”
Was the Spaniard improvised?
HLR: That was all Leo. Jägerbombs are his favorite drink. One night we were out and he got us all Jägerbombs. It’s the most disgusting drink ever. We had to throw them in the bushes behind us.
ADVERTISEMENT: Yeah, I don’t think they knew what a Jägerbomb was at this club we went to in Sicily. But yeah, that scene is great because Albie and Portia find fire in other people. I don’t know what their elements will be. I think Albie would be water or maybe earth. What would Portia be like?
ADVERTISEMENT: Albie is a cross between land and water. Albie’s mud. Albie’s wet ground.
Because Mike does so much improvisation, do you feel like your characters are shaped by your own personalities?
HLR: Mike cast everyone psychotically perfectly. And as we started filming, yes, I noticed that he was encouraging us to add our energy to it and our own bits in between. And now I’m confused as to who is me and who is Portia.
ADVERTISEMENT: Those are my favorite moments when you see a glimpse of a real person. you are like Oh, it’s Meghann. That’s just Leo. It is their unconscious enhancement that they bring themselves to this, which is also very vulnerable.
HLR: Mike would often come up after the set and say, “Wow, great acting. I felt like I was watching a documentary.”
ADVERTISEMENT: And we think, “Is it good? Do you want to watch a documentary?”
So what do you see in Albie and Portia?
ADVERTISEMENT: Sometimes it’s just a look. You had one of the three where you see Albie kissing Lucia and you’re like, “That’s a twist.” It was very Haley.
HLR: I think Albie is a person with a very good heart and good intentions. And I think you do too. There is such a pure childlike look in Albie’s eyes. Your eyes are as big as marbles.
ADVERTISEMENT: I really draw my own eyes to the character. There is no CGI in it.
HLR: Mike hears and sees everything. He meets you and sits in the back and jokes around and it’s easy, but you walk away and think Oh my god, I feel so seen but also a little judged. I don’t think Mike is judgmental, but he is so observant that you leave feeling vulnerable. He picked up on things about myself that I hadn’t picked up yet.
ADVERTISEMENT: If you play with the jacket or something, three weeks later he’ll say, “Do what you did with the jacket.” Like, What are you talking about?
In your separate storylines, you play veteran actors like F. Murray Abraham and Michael Imperioli or Jennifer Coolidge. What was it like working with them?
ADVERTISEMENT: Murray and Michael were the best kind of pseudo-family. I got into this feeling very scared. They really helped me feel confident and that I was meant to be there. We were texting in our little group chat this morning. I have to sign every text with “Adam” at the end so Murray knows who it is.
HLR: Jennifer is the wildest person I have ever met. Honestly: the most exciting, interesting and unique person. She made me laugh so much in scenes where I shouldn’t have laughed. I’ve always wanted to – I’d watch it Moderator bloopers and watching everyone cringe. Granted, I didn’t enrage her, so I still have somewhere to go. And she is so hot.
ADVERTISEMENT: We want to have that on the record.
Rear when I visited the setYou told me you had a karaoke night at the hotel while filming, but no one else I spoke to seemed to be there or sing. Simona was not there. Leo wasn’t. Meghann she said she didn’t sing. What happened?
ADVERTISEMENT: You ask a lot about karaoke because none of us were really sober and it was months ago. But I’m trying to remember. I know Este Haim sang.
HLR: Who was here? Meghann, we, Beatrice.
ADVERTISEMENT: Was Aubrey there? Theo? were they
HLR: I think Aubrey did—what do you call it? Irish goodbye?
ADVERTISEMENT: French exit or Irish goodbye. One of those European countries. Is that Italian ciao?
HLR: I sang the Spice Girls with Meghann and Este.
ADVERTISEMENT: The night started with the microphone working but the sound system not, and then Haley singing at the piano to a room of people who weren’t paying attention. I have a video of it on my phone.
HLR: I’m also deaf.
ADVERTISEMENT: Tone-deaf a capella singing. I was like, “We’ve got to get some real music going.”
Some of you were watching Love Island?
HLR: [Turning her camera.] Look at my TV. I literally paused Love Island to do this interview.
Okay, so if last season White lotus felt very Survivorthere is something about the plot of Portia and Albie that feels like Love Island. They are an established couple and then…
ADVERTISEMENT: Jack enters the villa and knows that Albie and Portia are a couple. He says, “I came for you.” We watched a lot of reality TV in Sicily, but Haley, you didn’t see it Love Island when we were there, right? I remember recommending it to you and telling you to watch the British series three.
HLR: Oh, I stopped the third series because I couldn’t get into it. I’m looking at five now.
ADVERTISEMENT: Three are the best. Kem and Chris are there. And it’s the last season when smoking is allowed on the island. Love reality shows have informed our characters a bit.
ADVERTISEMENT: It was one move from this show where someone on a date pulled out a chair at the dining room table and then the other person sat in it and then they went to their side, sat down but didn’t push the other person. a person’s chair, so they had to take it away. We stole it for show. It didn’t end up making the cut.
Haley, is that the bucket you crocheted that you’re wearing in episode four?
HLR: Yes, I crocheted a bucket hat. Did you like it?
Yeah. It’s looking great.
ADVERTISEMENT: What if he said, “No, it was careless.”
HLR: I love crocheting. I’ve been doing this since I was 8 years old. And I like to try to have my characters wear something I’ve created when it makes sense.
ADVERTISEMENT: Have you been crocheting since you started crocheting?
HLR: You’re going to be a great dad one day. You already have jokes for that.
This episode ends with a pair of sex scenes between Albie and Lucia and Jack and Portia.
HLR: How amazing is Adam’s orgasm? It’s honestly one of the best orgasms ever. First of all, it’s so perfect for Albie. It’s so believable. I saw it and immediately took a bunch of screenshots.
ADVERTISEMENT: Everyone will do it to me.
HLR: To have a camera on your face like that and do it and commit. How did you do it Adam?
ADVERTISEMENT: That was more vulnerable than showing my ass. Physical nudity is fine, but emotional vulnerability, especially when the camera is right in your face. I was just trying to pretend the camera wasn’t there. And then I don’t know, just a lot of practice, a lot of rehearsing on my own. How was filming your scene?
HLR: Well, I didn’t actually have a sex scene. We’ll just break up. But it was fun. Definitely less vulnerable than what you had to do.
ADVERTISEMENT: Yeah. It helps to have an intimacy coordinator for things like this. All of these sex scenes were filmed in Rome in a soundstage at the end of filming. It was one of my last days, so Simona and I really built up trust at that point, which helped. But yes, vulnerable. They say it’s a closed file and then it’s a skeleton crew, but everyone behind the walls can hear everything that’s going on.
With a show like this, you know it’s going to be closely watched, people are going to pick apart and create meme scenes like this. That must stick in your head.
ADVERTISEMENT: You start doing it and within the first few steps you’re like, Please, God. did you get it Let it end. But after, I don’t know, three or four takes, it just feels like any other scene. And you ask for more. You’re like, “Can we go again, Mike? I swear I can come better than that.”
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.