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[This story contains spoilers for The White Lotus season two.]
Whether it’s romantic pursuits or social standing, James’ problematic alpha male character has had a history of one-upping his former Yale roommate, Ethan (Will Sharpe), and despite the latter making a fortune recently, little has changed for the now-married men during their couples vacation in Sicily.
Cameron’s wife, Daphne (Mehann Fahy), knows all too well about her husband’s ongoing lack of impulse control, so she’s learned to even the score over the years, raising questions about the paternity of their son. Daphne had previously shown Ethan’s wife, Harper (Aubrey Plaza), a photo of her son and daughter, with the former matching the description of Daphne’s personal trainer. This led to a moment in the season two finale where Cameron reluctantly stopped flossing in order to FaceTime with his son.
For James, he can’t say definitively what’s what, but in his mind, Cameron is unaware of his son’s true father.
“Honestly, I’m not sure, but I never thought he knew, “ James tells The Hollywood Reporter from the set of The Gentlemen TV series. “I think he can’t know because his whole being is made up of bravado and assuming he’s the king of his small jungle.”
Earlier in the season two finale, Daphne again carried out the “don’t get mad, get even” saying once Ethan confronted her about Harper and Cameron’s tryst in episode six. While James believes that Harper is not telling Ethan the whole truth, he remains convinced that Daphne and Ethan got back at their spouses when they wandered off to Isola Bella.
“Well, I assumed so. It was implicit in the script, really. But I remember asking [creator] Mike [White] and his retort was, ‘I don’t know! I’m not sure,’” James says. “So he wanted it to be as cloudy as possible, but what else is she leading him to do? Are they going to look at some rocks or something? I doubt it. But yeah, it’s probable.”
During a recent spoiler conversation with THR, James addresses the rest of those burning questions about the White Lotus season two finale, including a potential season three in the Maldives.
Well, let’s cut to the chase. Cameron’s son is calling for him as he’s flossing, and he delays his response just long enough to potentially imply that he knows he’s not his child. So where do you weigh in on this story point?
Well, interestingly enough, the flossing was an ad lib, and then Mike [White] was like, “Oh, that’s interesting. I like that in a kind of Cameron way. There’s something carnal about whatever the mouth and the teeth represent.” So the idea that he takes his time to come in suggests that perhaps there’s some disgruntlement there. Honestly, I’m not sure, but I never thought he knew. I think he can’t know because his whole being is made up of bravado and assuming he’s the king of his small jungle. So the idea that he would be aware that he had been cuckolded might send him into spasm, although, if he has knowledge, that’s also some interesting layering.
Daphne (Meghann Fahy) clearly knows that Cameron cheats, but instead of getting mad, she gets even, something her trainer proves. So once Ethan (Will Sharpe) came to her with the revelation about Cameron and Harper (Aubrey Plaza), do you think she again got even during her island trek with Ethan?
Well, I assumed so. It was implicit in the script, really. But I remember asking Mike and his retort was, “I don’t know! I’m not sure.” So he wanted it to be as cloudy as possible, but what else is she leading him to do? Are they going to look at some rocks or something? (Laughs.) I doubt it. But yeah, it’s probable. The thing about Daphne is that she has a domineering husband who she deals with. They love each other, but she has to survive in that relationship. And she’s learned how to survive, which is to enjoy life. I can’t remember what the line is, but essentially, she says to Ethan in the end, “Don’t make yourself a victim.”
But at the end of this holiday, she’s probably been pushed fairly to the limit, within the boundaries of this strange, functioning yet dysfunctional relationship that is Daphne and Cameron. So there must be an exasperation on her part now that Ethan has come to her and called it what it is. Not only has Cameron clearly fucked a random person on their holiday, but now he’s potentially slept with his friend’s wife. So getting even would make sense and, in a funny way, perhaps it’s a narrative that Cameron understands. Perhaps it’s the only one he understands.
Is Harper telling the truth about what happened between her and Cameron?
My interpretation of it was no. I don’t think they fully got together, but the way she lies is probably the idea of giving something away, without giving everything away.
Do you think Cameron and Ethan will ever see each other again?
Yeah, I think they’re going bowling on the Friday they get back. (Laughs.) I think they probably will [see each other again]. In a very fucked up and strange way, they’ve broken a friendship, but they’ve also rekindled a friendship. Cameron is clearly interested in Ethan’s newfound wealth, and he said to him, “You should invest with our fund …” And someone who is as ravenous and shameless as Cameron is, doesn’t give a shit. So he would definitely call him when he gets back to say, “Hey man, look, we’ve got some great opportunities here, and we had a great time. Let’s make this happen.” Whether Ethan returns the favor is the question, really, but for some reason, I have a feeling that they will probably see each other again.
Deep down, does Cameron genuinely believe that they’re friends?
I think he does. This is the distinction between Cameron and Ethan in a way. Ethan has old memories of both warmth and anger, but he also felt that he was belittled and overlooked at university. Cameron was the jock, the irritating alpha, and as Ethan says in this series, he’s interested in getting even in some way by showing his rise in power. He knows how status and wealth are at the forefront of Cameron’s being, and even though he is seemingly relaxed about it, he knows that this change of status will feed into Cameron’s understanding of the world. Thus, it will rock Cameron’s boat, and in doing so, Ethan is able to grow in magnitude and in status against someone who he’s never been able to rise above.
But with Cameron, for all his magnitude of faults, I always wanted to play a lovability in a strange way. He’s a highly toxic, very manipulative person. He also has the potential for danger because he’s fairly unpredictable, but there are still things that you like about him because he’s fun to hang out with, sometimes. He’s also quite complimentary and effusive, and he loves wholeheartedly within the boundaries of his own strange morality. He loves Daphne, without question. That was clear from the script, but as we evolved the relationship between Meghann and myself, it was clear to both of us that these people enjoy each other’s company. They laugh at each other’s jokes, they find each other attractive, and that’s very real.
And the same thing with Ethan. I think Cameron actually views Ethan as a younger brother that he has camaraderie with in some way. And he does love him. I haven’t seen all the episodes, so I don’t know what made it in, but there were a couple of scenes where he says to him, “I love you, man.” So I always took a reality from that.
Will Daphne and Cameron last at the rate they’re going?
I imagine there’s a reckoning to be had in that relationship. Clearly, Daphne is playing a role, but she has greater wisdom than perhaps she lets on. And for someone with more depth than just a Stepford wife, there’s probably going to be a breaking point. However, having said that, there’s a certain old-school quality about their relationship, and sometimes, with a relationship like that, if there’s enough enjoyment, then the idea of rocking the status quo is something that keeps a couple together for a long time.
I know that actors typically have to defend their characters no matter what, but how do you begin to make a case for this guy? His father must’ve been a real piece of work as well.
Well, you don’t have to defend him because I was looking forward to playing someone of such deplorable morality. Other than the murderous Quentin [Tom Hollander] and those guys, he’s kind of the villain. He’s villainous, so I obviously wanted to embrace that, but of course, you have to find empathy. You have to connect the dots to yourself, or you at least have to find a way of understanding him. I always assumed he was from a wealthy family, but had a father who left when he was young to have a second family. So he’s had this deep chip on his shoulder for years, and he’s never really had a full father figure. But he has this shadow of a hyper wealthy, hyper successful father who essentially didn’t want him but wanted another family. So you have to begin with pieces of a person that you can vaguely puzzle together, which makes them real in some way.
So his wildness is defendable, but his brazenness is not. When he’s stroking Harper’s leg at dinner, that was pretty tricky because it felt so wildly brazen. Meghann [Fahy, who plays Daphne] and I thought, “How do we do this in a way that isn’t highly obvious to [Daphne] since they’re a married couple?” His worldview is also antiquated and defunct, but there’s a commentary in it, as is everything with Mike. It’s not necessarily Cameron’s political views, but there’s a commentary on living life. Cameron gets most things wrong, but the one thing that Cameron and Daphne do is live life. They do everything they can. They take every moment for what it is, and they enjoy every moment of living. So that’s part of the thesis of the two warring couples and how differently they look about life, especially in the first few episodes.
No, not really. Firstly, our storylines are pretty separate, so in a funny kind of way, you felt like you were doing your own little play amongst other plays. But secondly, it felt very natural and fitting for her character. Jennifer is such an iconic actress, but she’s also created such an iconic character. So to do her character’s climax in a highly bombastic and operatic way, but with a huge amount of physical humor mixed in, it felt like a perfect ending for her. So it was never really discussed.
Jennifer’s character also proves that a return invitation is at least possible, so have you started packing Cameron’s bags for the Maldives yet?
Yeah, I packed his bags. He’s going to be wearing volcanic red hot boy shorts and a pink g-string. (Laughs.) No, who knows. I don’t even know if Mike has settled on where he is going to shoot [season three]. And in terms of which characters are returning, if any, I couldn’t tell you. But obviously, to work for Mike again, with his great directing and amazing acidic writing, sign me up. [Writer’s Note: White hinted after the season two finale that season three could be set in Asia, and the Maldives just so happens to be located in South Asia. However, the rumor mill says Japan.]
Lastly, are you shooting The Gentlemen TV series right now? Is that next?
Yeah, I’m shooting The Gentlemen. I just came off set, and I’m going to meet my sister for some dinner.
The White Lotus is now available on HBO Max. This interview was edited for length and clarity.
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