Even though she has consistently played a fan-favorite on-screen for more than two decades with her many supporting character performances in films like American Pie, Best In Show, Legally Blonde, A Cinderella Story and more, longtime actress Jennifer Coolidge is just now starting to land the leading roles that allow her to fully showcase her memorable comedic timing and abilities that she has had all along.
Following her Emmy-winning performance as the zany and wildly wealthy heiress Tanya McQuoid in season one of the critically-acclaimed limited series The White Lotus, Coolidge, 61, is one of very few original cast members asked to reprise their roles in season two, premiering this Sunday on HBO and HBO Max, alongside a fresh batch of exciting, new characters and storylines.
At the end of season one, we last saw Coolidge’s Tanya seeking closure over her mother’s death and in the process, finding a love interest in Greg (played by the great Jon Gries), a fellow guest of The White Lotus resort in its Hawaiian setting.
As I sat down with Coolidge, I first asked her how the initial conversation came about with The White Lotus creator/writer/director Mike White to have her return for more delicious storytelling in season two.
Coolidge reveals, “Mike just said ‘You know Jennifer, I want to go on with the story with Tanya.’ He goes, ‘I just want you to know, you’re over the grief of your mother. You have sort of made progress and moved on from that, and I’d like to take the next step of the relationship with Greg and see where that goes in the story.’ I was like ‘Okay.’ He goes, ‘We’re going to shoot in Sicily.’ I was thrilled getting to tell the story over there.”
Nestled within the Mediterranean Sea, the Italian region of Sicily is a picture-perfect backdrop for this second season at a new The White Lotus resort location. However, Coolidge carefully teases that viewers will soon find Tanya’s on-screen romance with now husband Greg is not exactly paradise.
Coolidge says of Tanya at the start of season two, “I’ve shown up [in Sicily]. I have my assistant (played brilliantly by Haley Lu Richardson) with me to help me out and Greg hasn’t been very nice about that. He’s complaining about that and he’s giving me a hard time. He’s very reeled in and very sort of aloof with me. This romantic thing that we’ve had going for a few months just isn’t happening and it’s very punishing. He’s very punishing with his indifference and I’m stuck on this trip with someone who is quite cold. There’s nothing worse than being stuck.”
In reality, Coolidge could not be any less stuck lately, with Hollywood finally knocking on her door with major roles, something she has been working towards over these nearly 30 years of her acting career, which began with a small part on a Seinfeld episode way back in 1993. Today, Coolidge is definitely getting the last laugh, especially after her Supporting Actress win at the 74th Primetime Emmy Awards just last month.
Coolidge made a favorable impression on the Emmys audience and viewers alike when she accepted her award and was rather aggressively played off the stage to an instrumental version of the song “Hit The Road Jack” without getting to finish her speech. Knowing she did not get to say everything she had hoped to say on her special night, I asked Coolidge if there was anyone she would like to thank now that she did not get the chance to while on-stage.
“Yes, many people,” continues Coolidge. “It would be about an hour and a half. I’m glad you said that. You know who didn’t get – of course, you say everybody and who’s the last person I would thank? Mike White! He would be the final. If you end the whole monologue, you would end it with Mike White. I hope I get that chance sometime to just talk about Mike White – just about he sort of changed my life in an instant.”
When further discussing “Hit The Road Jack” playing her off the Emmys stage, but not until she decided to dance along to the song as the audience cheered her on, Coolidge jokes of not getting to finish her acceptance speech, “I’m going to get revenge. I’m going to have my Carrie moment!”
Now with an Emmy in-hand and seven new episodes ahead to continue Tanya’s story on The White Lotus, it is clear that Coolidge and her Hollywood superstar status are not going anywhere. As we concluded our conversation, Coolidge gave one final hint at what The White Lotus fans can expect when they tune in to this highly-anticipated second season.
She says, “Mike [White] told me that this next [season] would be quite an adventure. He said ‘It’s going to be quite a roller coaster ride and hang on.’ I have to say, Mike White does not disappoint. It is the ride of a lifetime and I got to play this incredible part and play this very complicated, tortured person but there is something cool where you do see Tanya’s sort of evolution. You see her as best as someone like that could be, who’s so limited in so many ways. A small thing is a big deal for someone who is that self-obsessed and damaged – and sometimes, that little thing is a huge victory.”