Simona Tabasco Brings the Heat to The White Lotus


Aside from the standard salutations, my rudimentary Italian doesn’t get me very far. Fortunately, Tabasco is accompanied by her translator, Chiara Nanni, who helps our conversation flow despite the language barrier. I begin the interview by asking about Tabasco’s initial impression of Lucia, to which she quickly responds, “Do you mind if I start in Italian?” It’s rapid-fire from there as we discuss Lucia’s potential backstory, character arc, and, of course, bold “look at me” style. “My first impression [of Lucia] was an incredibly positive one. But I was curious about how elements of her personality would shine through,” Tabasco explains. Prior to auditioning, she did not realize that Lucia was a sex worker, but when on set with the series’ writer and director, Mike White, they were able to further develop the richness of her character and critically determine that Lucia did not pursue sex work from a position of desperation, but rather with a sense of self-empowerment. This, Tabasco acknowledges, is an important distinction: Lucia does not serve as a representative of all sex workers or their experiences. Her story is about one woman in a very particular time and place.

From that perspective, it is important for audiences to see that Lucia’s high energy and ebullience are intentionally reflected in bold costumes, which appear in almost every color of the rainbow. Though Tabasco is quick to denote Lucia’s little red dress in the premiere as the best visual representation of the character, the sequined lilac minidress with the heavenly motif is also special and appears significant to Lucia’s growth. “I’ve never interpreted a character like Lucia, where her body is such a focal point,” she says. “She is so free, and that’s a big part of her story.”

This sense of autonomy and self-expression informed not only the costume design but also Tabasco’s acting choices. The White Lotus is, surprisingly, one of Tabasco’s first forays into the world of comedy. (In Italy, Tabasco is known for her roles in police and medical dramas.) Still, she claims to have only improvised one line: Let’s fun. “Given my dubious English, I say ‘let’s fun’ when at the table with the two guys. At the moment, I thought it was grammatically correct, but then I saw Mike was laughing, and I was like, ‘Why are you laughing?’” she recalls, poking fun at herself. After filming that scene, “let’s fun” became a phrase often used among the cast and crew. 

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