Simona Tabasco and Beatrice Grannò on Playing The White Lotus’s Fieriest Duo

The breakout stars of the show’s second season talk sexual politics, off-screen friendship, and improvising that threesome with Michael Imperioli.

the actresses Beatrice Granno and Simona Tabasco in a screengrab from The White Lotus season2
Photograph by Fabio Lovino/HBO

The first season of the hit HBO Max series The White Lotus captivated audiences with its commentary on white privilege at a Hawaiian resort. When creator Mike White set out to write the follow-up, he resolved to examine sex and toxic masculinity. Set in another fictional White Lotus property in Sicily, the second season deftly mingles the hotel’s wealthy American clientele with the Italian locals for maximum comedic impact—with a side of cultural critique, of course.

Nowhere is this dynamic honed to a finer point than in the storyline that surrounds the characters Mia and Lucia, played, respectively, by the actresses Beatrice Grannò and Simona Tabasco. The pair first show up at the hotel because Lucia has been employed as a sex worker by problematic dad Dominic Di Grasso (played by Michael Imperioli), but they end up cultivating more relationships than they’d originally expected—revealing a series of raw truths along the way.

Grannò and Tabasco couldn’t be further from their characters—except for the fact that they are real-life friends. The two Italians, both of whom live and work between Rome and Naples, attended theater school together and worked on the same Italian television show before reuniting for The White Lotus. On the heels of the season’s fourth episode, we caught up with Grannò and Tabasco to discuss their creative process, how off-screen dynamics affect character development, and what it was like to improvise a threesome with Imperioli.

The White Lotus airs Sunday nights on HBO Max. Read our weekly recaps here.

How did The White Lotus come into your life?

Beatrice Grannò: I knew about the first season, but it wasn’t really famous in Italy; only people from the industry knew it. I got the e-mail about a self tape, so I spent an entire day preparing. When Mike White arrived in Rome, we did a first audition, and I was done in 10 minutes. When I left I felt, Oh, maybe that didn’t go well...I felt I could have done it better. But then a couple of days after, my agent called me and said, I’m not supposed to tell you this, but Mike White really likes you and Simona. And I said, “What?! Simona? No, this can’t be true! I did her self tape with her!” Then I found out I’d gotten the role from Simona—she FaceTimed me and we were crying. I have a video of us on that call, but it’s unusable. You can’t really see, and it’s so frantic. I was too excited.

Simona Tabasco: (Speaking through a translator) We were both incredibly filled with emotions by the news. From that point on, our friendship blossomed on set. We worked well together before, but on this project especially. I also think that Mike didn’t know that we were friends when we did our auditions, but maybe he saw a spark or felt some connection between us that we then brought to set.

Simona Tabasco as Lucia and Beatrice Grannò as Mia in The White Lotus.

Photograph by Fabio Lovino/HBO

What’s the biggest difference between working with a friend on a project and working with new people?

Beatrice: I remember one of the first nights in Taormina, we were both really excited. We couldn’t sleep. So I went to Simona’s room and we started to rehearse scenes. And then we got crazy. We started playing, like, I’m Mia, you’re Lucia! Let’s pretend we’re amazed by everything in this hotel! So when we started filming, we already had that confidence to work together.

Simona: The work was a little easier, given the fact that there was already a relationship between us. We didn’t have to build that on set to serve the story, so we had more time and space to build the characters.

Beatrice: There’s something about knowing each other already that makes it easier to really have fun. Simona, do you remember when we were filming that scene that Mike cut because it was absolutely crazy? The scene in the shop where we are arguing over a dress, remember? Sometimes we just go crazy and add things because we’re having fun.

Improvisation was a huge part of this season’s White Lotus. I’ve heard that, especially in the scenes that you shot with Michael Imperioli, there was a ton of improvising going on. What was that process like?

Simona: A very important element [in acting] is the space and the liberty that the director gives you. White Lotus is Mike White’s baby, literally. But when you receive that go-ahead from the director to handle the characters and understand the story behind them—you’re free to interpret them and explore them and find the right key to them—it’s the best of situations. As far as Michael goes, he’s a great human being. He’s very welcoming, which makes him a great actor and artist. The scene we shot in episode two in the tub was particularly fun—we were improvising a lot. I heard that he was kind of preoccupied because his real-life wife was in the room above us while we were filming. We interpreted that as preoccupation from his character, but it was probably half and half.

Simona Tabasco as Lucia and Michael Imperioli as Dominic Di Grasso.

Photograph by Fabio Lovino/HBO

What makes for a good improv scene?

Beatrice: The first rule to a good improv is what I’ve learned at school: to always say yes. Now, if Simona tells me, Come on, let’s have a drink, I eventually have to go and have a drink. I can’t say no—then it doesn’t work. While filming our scene in the pool, we were all quite nervous. It was week one of filming, and we were kind of still feeling awkward. We didn’t really want to take our clothes off straight away, but Simona jumped in the pool fully dressed! She dragged me in, fully dressed, and then Michael, who got in the pool with a shirt on. But it worked, because we then all took our clothes off. It was kind of messy, but we kept the game up. In improv, you’re always playing.

Beatrice Grannò as Mia in The White Lotus.

Photograph by Fabio Lovino/HBO

In episode four, which just aired this past Sunday, Lucia sleeps with Dominic’s son, Albie, played by Adam DiMarco, and Mia ends up having sex with the piano player at the hotel bar. At this point in the season, you both have basically hooked up with most of the men in the cast. Who was your favorite scene partner out of all of the guys?

Simona: I found a connection with every character that I interacted with on set, which was awesome. But given the fact that we had so much time together to serve the story, it was probably Adam, since Lucia and Albie develop this relationship that will be shown more in upcoming episodes. There was a connection between us, but also a purpose to the story between the two characters, which allowed us to also create that.

Adam DiMarco as Albie Di Grasso with Simona Tabasco as Lucia in The White Lotus.

Photograph by Fabio Lovino/HBO

Beatrice: I didn’t really interact a lot with [my romantic scene partners]—at least, not in the same way that Simona did. But I had the chance to work mainly with Giuseppe, played by Federico Scribani, the pianist. He’s incredible, and such a great comedian—and he’d never done anything in comedy before this role! He’s the complete opposite of his character. I actually saw him a week ago, because we were doing a screening of the first episode in Italy. We saw it together.

Season two largely centers toxic masculinity. Were there any aspects of how men operate in society that you wanted to bring to light through your own performances, perhaps based on real-life encounters you’ve had with men?

Beatrice: There was something about my character being very open to everyone—always smiling and dreaming and telling everybody about her dreams—and how that is perceived by men. She’s often misunderstood, because they always think she’s trying to flirt because she’s that available to talk. Her being open with her emotions [and her disposition] means that she’s easy, that these men could just have sex with her. You see it when Mia gets compliments about her music talent, and she says “Thank you so much!” And then the response she gets is always, “Let’s have a drink,” or “Maybe we should get a room.” Sometimes in my life—I’m not saying that happens to me every day, but especially when I was younger and in high school, I used to be very open. Some men [misconstrued] that as being easy.

It’s this funny paradox, because as women, we’re conditioned to be polite, sweet, and friendly—and then, all of a sudden, that means that you’re a tease or a flirt.

Beatrice: Men tend to think, She’s definitely hitting on me, if a woman is just being nice. But it was interesting how Mike turned that into a comedy for my character. Somehow, he saw there was something about me there. So he used it.

Simona: The main aspect I love about Lucia as a character is that yes, she’s an innocent young woman with a plan, but she’s also very aware of the sea that she’s swimming in; she knows what’s going on, and she acts accordingly. A difference between me and Lucia is the fact that I’m usually very direct. I might take a little time to think about what I want to say, but eventually I’ll be very in your face about it—which is opposite to Lucia, who appears as if she’s a little bit more in the clouds, unaware, a little naive. Which is what, in the end, serves her purpose and gets her what she wants.

Photograph by Fabio Lovino/HBO

How did you both first get into acting?

Beatrice: I was always fascinated by the performance world. I used to dance and sing—I’m still a musician and, actually, acting is the thing that arrived last. But I had so many stories to tell. I wanted to communicate a lot, and that’s why I decided I wanted to become an actress.

Simona: I never thought, as a young person, to be an actress. There was no one in my family who came from that world. What I liked was fashion. But when I was 16, I was on vacation with my parents where the Giffoni Film Festival took place. There were three girls who were doing a short film and they asked if I wanted to participate, so I did. And then the world opened. Now I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

Could we see a fashion line in your future?

Simona: Yes, for sure. I want to be Rihanna! I want to have a fashion show.

Beatrice: I’ll buy everything. I’ll be your sponsor, Simona!