The White Lotus inspires a high level of detective behavior, thanks to its carefully coded tapestry of clues leading to the solving of a murder mystery at the end of each season. (Half the fun of being a fan of the HBO Max series is the complex theorizing happening on social media). As season two barreled toward its dramatic conclusion, that investigative behavior spilled over behind the scenes, with eagle-eyed fans spotting musician Este Haim along with Kesha in candid cast photos from the set. The question was, why were they there?
It turns out that the eldest Haim sister had parlayed an invite from her best friend, The White Lotus executive producer Dave Bernad to visit the show’s Italian set into a dream job as the series’ impromptu music consultant. What was meant to be a week-long distraction for Haim—who was recovering from a devastating breakup at the time and brought her friend Kesha along for support—turned into a month of creative collaboration, bonding, and yes, partying with the close-knit cast. Here, the singer-songwriter discusses the life-changing experience and her hopes for season 3.
Let’s start at the beginning. How did you end up in Taormina?
[Dave Bernad] called me one day while I was really having a rough time. He was listening to me kind of lament about being in LA and how everything around me reminded me of my ex-boyfriend. He was like, ‘Well, we need to get you out of there then. Why don't you come to Italy for a week? You'll be able to clear your head, and it'll be good for you.’ At that point I was like, ‘Okay. Twist my arm. Of course, I would love to come to Italy and spend some time with my best friend.’
And you invited Kesha as well?
Kesha and I have been very, very close friends since 2004, but because both of our careers have done what they've done, we don't get to spend as much time together as we used to. So I called her like, ‘Why don't we just do this? It'll be so fun.’
I understand that you two got into your own sort of Tanya McQuid-esque troubles on a day trip to Isola Bella.
Everyone was talking about filming there, so I went to explore and then almost got my car towed. That was an interesting endeavor. I was with Kesha at the time. It was so embarrassing. I got so scared. I was like, "I'm not leaving the resort ever again," so I stayed in Taormina for the remainder of my tenure on White Lotus.
You developed a close relationship with Beatrice Grannò and ultimately ended up coaching her for her performances throughout the production. What was that process like?
One of the first people that I met when I got on set was Beatrice. [She] and I were talking about music, and this was her first time singing and playing piano at the same time on camera. She was nervous, like anyone would be. My role within Haim has always been that I'm the biggest cheerleader. Whenever we're nervous about something, I'm the first to be like, ‘We’ve just got to attack it.’ So I was like, ‘Well, why don't we just go to the piano?’ This was day one. This was like, I didn't have a job.
How did it become an actual job?
I was sitting with Bea, going back and forth on the piano and singing to each other. I think Dave saw this happening and saw Bea light up a bit when I was with her. He said, "It would be really cool if you could do this every day. Is that something that you would be interested in?” There were a bunch of other songs that Mia and I worked on for the show that didn't make it into those seven episodes, but that was how it happened. Dave just saw how open and free Bea was when she had someone to bounce a performance off of. I was coaching her and Giuseppe in their performance, helping with arrangements and giving them the confidence and tips and tricks to give the best performances they possibly could.
It must have helped that Beatrice already had a musical background.
Yeah, Bea is a songwriter as well. She writes really beautiful songs in Italian. And I think a misconception about her performance is that she played those songs in a studio beforehand and was singing to playback, but quite the opposite. There was no studio magic. That was her real voice, and she was doing it live in front of pretty much a bunch of strangers, and also a bunch of men. I think having another woman on set pumping her up helped. It felt really good to see her flourish.
It seems like you became sort of a director of fun during production, hosting karaoke nights. The internet went nuts for videos of you and the cast singing together.
At the beginning of this journey for me, I was just a friend of a friend who happened to be on set, so I wasn't necessarily thinking, is this the most professional thing for me to be throwing parties? But it was a nice way to blow off steam after a day of working. We’d go to that bar in the hotel, and I would plug in my computer and DJ to the wee hours of the night. There was a screen and a projector, and we would karaoke. Then there were nights where we'd just sit around the piano and drink and sing songs. We were all staying in the hotel that we were making the show in, so everyone got really, really close. It was hard not to fall in love with everyone, because we were having such a good time and everyone got along so well.
Have you kept in touch with the cast?
Oh, yeah. Me and Meghann are super close. Me and Bea are still super close. Adam DiMarco, also. Me and Rocco [Federico Ferrante], we still keep in touch. Jennifer Coolidge I saw the other night. Being around Sabrina is, to me, being in a warm bath reading W Magazine. She's the human embodiment of that feeling. Full disclosure, I feel like every time I've talked about this with people or I talk about people in the industry about it, I can't help but feel like I'm Tom Cruise jumping on the couch on the Oprah show [laughing].
How did you feel about the ending?
I knew what happened in the end, but I saw the finale when everyone else saw the finale. I was like, "Maybe Mike White at the last second changed the ending." I thought maybe that shot of Tanya in the water with her eyes closed, I was like, "Maybe at the last second she's going to open her eyes." I was with everyone, where no one wanted Tanya to die. I want a Tanya origin story movie or TV show. I want to know what happened before she got to the White Lotus.