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[This story contains major spoilers from the season two finale of HBO’s The White Lotus, “Arrivederci.”]
Leo Woodall broke the internet on the fifth episode of The White Lotus‘ second season, where it was revealed that his character, Jack, and his supposed uncle Quentin (Tom Hollander) were sexually involved. Immediately, questions began circulating about the truth of their relationship. By the end of the season, it became clear that their sexual relationship wasn’t even the most suspicious thing about Quentin and his friends, who had wormed their way into the lives of Jennifer Coolidge’s heiress Tanya and her assistant Portia, played by Haley Lu Richardson.
In the season two finale, fans of The White Lotus were unpleasantly surprised when a theory that had been circulating about Tanya being in danger proved to be true, as it was revealed that the body Meghann Fahy’s Daphne had found at the beginning of the season belonged to the fan-favorite Tanya. And while Tanya ultimately — regrettably — accidentally fell to her death, their original intention was much more sinister.
Tanya and Portia were introduced to Quentin, his “high-end gays” and his alleged nephew Jack in episode four, and they all quickly hit it off. When the men invited the ladies to a palazzo in Palermo, they accepted and were eventually separated, with Portia and Jack deciding to explore the town and Tanya staying behind at the palazzo for a party. In a drunken state, Jack told Portia that Quentin and his friends are actually out of funds but are about to come into a lot of money, which doesn’t sit well. Meanwhile, at the palazzo, Tanya engaged in a cocaine-fueled romp with local mafia member Niccoló and found a picture of a young Quentin and a man who looks just like a young version of her husband, Greg (Jon Gries), causing her to wonder if they know each other.
The following day, Portia tells Tanya everything Jack told her, and the women slowly piece together Quentin’s plan. He must know Greg, and they’re working together to kill Tanya, so Greg can inherit all of his wife’s money and give Quentin a portion of it. When Niccoló appears on Quentin’s yacht, where he and his friends are having one last meal with Tanya, she suspects something is wrong, steals Niccoló’s bag, gets his gun and ends up killing three of the men on the boat. In a panic, she tries to flee the yacht on a dinghy but slips on the edge of the yacht, hits her head on a metal bar on the way down and sinks to her death.
In a conversation with The Hollywood Reporter, Woodall reveals how much Jack knew about Quentin’s plan, the true nature of Jack and Quentin’s relationship and why Jack’s indebted to him, and how he really feels about Portia.
A question on everyone’s mind: Who really is Jack?
Is that the question on everyone’s mind? (Laughs)
Well actually, there are a lot. But that’s one of them.
Right. OK. Who is Jack? That is a big question. There is a bit of mystery about him, isn’t there? His relationship with Quentin obviously never got fully explained. But I remember at the start of the gig, I sat with Mike [White, creator], and he just kind of said, “Look, Jack’s just a working-class boy who’s suddenly been given loads of money, and he’s on his own little adventure with a couple of” … Mike didn’t say this next bit, but one of the conversations was whether his relationship with Quentin is straight-up transactional. Even that was a bit of a mystery.
Jack broke the internet at the end of episode five when there was a shot of him having sex with his supposed uncle. Who is Quentin to Jack?
Mike didn’t say straight-up what it was. He sort of let me make up my own mind about it. But, to me, it was clear that Quentin wasn’t actually his uncle.
Can you break down the plot, as far as you know. What was the plan? Was Greg the instigator? Why have such an elaborate plan, instead of just killing Tanya outright?
I remember us all kind of having conversations about it. I had a lot of conversations about it, but it was unclear to me why they were doing what they were doing, the way they were doing it, and why, like you say, they didn’t just kidnap her and kill her. Maybe because it was meant to be a bit more covert than that. But I remember reading the moment where Tanya sees the photo, and it was described as someone that looks like Greg, and I just thought, “Wow, I love that it’s not fully, fully revealed that it’s Greg,” but you’ve seen the picture. You’ve seen the picture.
I think some people may have missed it when the picture was first shown. I was watching with someone and they didn’t realize that it was Greg, and I immediately was like, “That’s Greg.”
What?! I thought it was obvious.
In their last scene together, Jack warns Portia that “they” are “powerful people.” But who are “they,” and how powerful are they, really?
That was something that wasn’t fully explained to me. It was more about the ominous description of them from his eyes and that’s the thing that scares the life out of Portia. It scares him as well. But I guess maybe, they have very powerful connections, and they’re very dangerous, and they will do just about anything to win and to get what they want. I think where the power comes in could be power in numbers. Maybe they’re friends with princes who are friends with Sicilian assassins or something. But yeah, whatever it was, it worked. Portia did what she was told to do.
In that same scene, Jack also warns Portia not to go back to the hotel. Why do you think he did that? Does he end up caring about her?
I think deep down he did, actually. He had a soft spot for her. It was enough to let her go. I really liked that at the end he actually lets her go, because the plan could have been something else — something far, far worse. I think you are supposed to believe that his role, at the right time, is to knock her off. But he doesn’t.
What sort of backstory did you create for Jack? What did you imagine was the “dark hole” he was in before he met Quentin?
I didn’t storyboard a specific thing because I didn’t want to deviate from what Mike hadn’t already written. But I had a few different ideas and different images about what his dark hole could have been. Some of them were really kind of random as well. I had an image of him in a sleeping bag, under a railway station in like a gutter. But I didn’t really cling on to a backstory that I’d made up myself.
What were some of the other ideas you came up with?
One of them was potentially that he was selling himself, selling his body to make some money. You got a little snippet when he gets too drunk, and then gets a little bit lairy on the street, an image of just him constantly getting beaten up or doing the beating up, and just in a place of having nothing really to live for, just kind of covered in blood and booze and vomit. That’s what I mean. They’re kind of like slightly vague images in my mind, but when they’re meshed together, they fulfilled this dark hole idea.
How did Quentin play a part in getting him out of that dark hole? Why does Jack owe him?
I don’t know if I’m allowed to say. There were bits in the scripts that didn’t make the cut. But I think he would have been a tie to someone else that he knew. I think Quentin got a smile for Jack, saw him and maybe thought that he liked the look of him and saw that he would have been in a rough place, knew that he could help him but also benefit from it. It’s clear to me that he’s known him for a little while. It’s not just like someone he’s just met for the sake of this kind of this task of Tanya and then Portia. It’s clear to me that he’s known him for a long time and he cares about him a lot, and he feels indebted to him.
What was it like to field reactions from friends, family and fans about the big sex scene twist?
I’ve been waiting about eight months for people to give me their reactions. I got a lot of exploding head emojis and the kind of hands on face sort of scream emoji. A lot of “what the fuck?”s.
I was with my brother when he watched it, and I videoed his reaction because he obviously had no idea what was going to happen. Some people had kind of twigged, but he hadn’t twigged. I sent it to Mike because he’d asked for it. My brother was just like, “Oh, God, what is happening?” It was weird enough for him watching me have my top off in the Haley scenes and other scenes, but then suddenly you get the scene with Tom. For a family member, I can’t imagine what that was like.
I’m glad you mentioned the scenes with Haley Lu Richardson. What was it like filming your intimate scenes on set?
We had a really good intimacy coordinator, Miriam Lucia, as well as David Thackeray. My first scene was with Haley in episode four where he dances in his underwear, and that was all handled very, very well. I remember the scene we shot afterwards when I’m lying on the bed, and I’ve got my butt out, someone accidentally came into the room before they’d locked it off, and the first AD was like, “Hey, get out. This guy’s naked.” They were protecting me and my bare buttocks. I didn’t really care, but they were very good about making sure we were comfortable, and we just had a ton of laughs. So, those things were pretty easy.
You two and Adam DiMarco are some of the actors in the cast who are earlier on in your careers, what was it like being on set with such respected actors?
It was amazing. I was told by a few members of my family like, “I want to see if you can get in a scene with [F. ] Murray [Abraham] and Michael [Imperioli].” There was a moment where I kind of lean over the banister, where, Albie’s asking Portia if she wants to join him on the beds, and she says no, and then his dad and granddad come back and embarrass him further. I waved at them to try and get myself interacting with the two of them. It didn’t make the cut, but I could say that it happened. But yeah, it was incredible working with them, and I learned so much. I stayed up one night when we were filming in this hotel that we were living in, in the main hotel. I stayed up till like 5, 6 a.m. until they wrapped, just watching the monitors and watching Murray and Michael do their thing, and then watching Meghann and Theo [James], and Will [Sharpe] and Aubrey [Plaza], do one of their dinner scenes. It was a really special and kind of incomparable experience. It was a really, really important experience for me, and I’m sure for Adam and Haley.
What were your favorite theories about who died and how they died?
I saw a lot. One of them was that Albie kills Lucia, and I thought, “Whoa, that is wild, but I like it. It’s bold.” I saw so many about Ethan kills Cameron. I think I saw one that Daphne kills Cameron, and I thought, had that been the case, that would have been quite a little dropper. But I didn’t see loads about it being Tanya. I think people just really, really didn’t want that to happen. So maybe they were deliberately not manifesting it, or they just didn’t see it coming. I’m sure everyone’s very, very upset.
People definitely weren’t expecting Tanya to die. I saw that theory about Daphne killing Cameron, and I wouldn’t have been too upset about that.
I love Theo, but yeah, Cameron kind of did suck. He was a bit of a dick.
What do you think Mike White has in store for season three?
Fuck, I have no idea. I wonder if he’s going to do it in a city. I wondered if, him being him, and wanting to kind of switch it up and do the unexpected, I wonder if he would maybe go to Scotland and do it in a sort of castle, or in Wales with a bunch of sheep. I don’t know. But I think, in terms of any characters coming back, that’s a question for Mike. I have no clue who he would see coming back.
Would you want Jack to come back for a special appearance?
I’m already planning on finding out where they’re filming it, and then I’m just gonna go. I’m just gonna say, “Oh, by the way, I’m here. I’d love to come to set and say, ‘Hey.’ And then hopefully, maybe he’ll just throw me in the back of a shot.
What comes next for Jack?
I think it’s going to be really, really crap for him. I really do feel for him. I think Quentin being gone, he’s going to be very lost, and he’s going to be very hurt, very upset, and he’s probably going to be very angry. Maybe he’d like to go and hunt down Greg or something. I don’t really know. But I think in the immediate future, post-Quentin death, he could go back into that deep hole.
Did anyone funny land in your DMs to talk about Jack or reach out about the show?
A few people. I’m not going to say who, because they probably don’t want their DMs to be out there, but yeah, some people that I’m actually fans of as well, so that was kind of cool. With one of them, I’ve arranged to go for a pint, because we both live in London, and he said, “I need to pick your brain about this show.” And I said, “Well, I need to pick your brain about your show.”
Any fun behind-the-scenes stories from the set that you wanted to share?
There were lots. There was one I was thinking about the other day. Actually, it wasn’t that funny, to be honest. It was kind of gross. But I just remember how much beer I had to drink the day where he gets drunk, before getting into the hotel and spewing lots of detail or info [to Portia]. It was all non-alcoholic, obviously, but I’d had like 40 beers or something because I was downing it at the beginning of the middle scene. There was a scene before that I was drinking bottles of Budweiser. I got about 10 of them, and then it was like downing a full beer in the next scene. By the time we finished that scene, I went upstairs, and I just got so much of it out. It was really gross, but I genuinely was about to explode. It was like my stomach started to really hurt, but I wasn’t upset about it or anything. It was really cool. It was really fun. It was all for the craft.
Interview edited for clarity.
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