The White Lotus was a reunion for Connie Britton and creator Mike White, who wrote the 2017 feature Beatriz at Dinner, starring Britton alongside Salma Hayek. As the wealthy Nicole Mossbacher in Lotus, Britton says she had the opportunity to play a character with real nuance who reflects our reality back to us as viewers — and the role has earned her a fifth Emmy nomination (she garnered nods for American Horror Story, Nashville and Friday Night Lights). Britton spoke with THR about the process of approaching this character and crafting her arc with White and what it was like working during the height of COVID on such a singular project.
Did you think of the show as an Emmy-caliber project when you signed on?
It [was] really just about the opportunity to play [an] amazing character and to do something that feels like it will get into the zeitgeist in a way that is compelling and smart and insightful. I always give Mike all credit for the show — but I think part of the great thing that he did was bring people together and empower them to bring his vision to life. It feels like a shared victory.
Did you meet your fellow castmembers for the first time on set?
I had worked with Mike before, so that was reason number one, two and three why I did the show because I just admire him so much. I think I had met Jennifer [Coolidge] a few times — it’s so funny, now I can’t even imagine not knowing Jennifer. But yeah, we really all met there. And don’t forget, this was during the height of COVID, so we hadn’t been around anybody. This suddenly became our family. And we were all working toward one intention. There was something about doing this in that particular time and place that made it feel like nothing else I’ve ever done before. Part of what I love about what I do is that I get to collaborate and bond with incredible casts and crews. And that’s definitely my favorite part of my job.
What was your impression of your character when you first read the script?
I had a lot of conversations with Mike about this because women can be written as very reactive. In my initial reading of the script, I was concerned that she was sort of reacting to everybody else in her family having their own journey. We really focused in on making sure that Nicole was having her own journey. It was interesting that I was like, “OK, we don’t want to have her be too reactive. We want to make sure she really has her thing,” but at the same time, that actually is what happens with women I know. We do end up feeling like we’re just told we need to react to everybody else, and care about what’s important to everybody else, and our needs are subjugated in a way. It was interesting to take that effect and incorporate it into the character, who on paper seems like she has it all together. But she’s actually also trying to find her sense of self and dealing with this blind denial that she has of her own sense of entitlement and privilege. It was fun to take what he had written and really play around with that to go deeper and give it even more nuance.
Interview edited for length and clarity.
This story first appeared in an August stand-alone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.