Emmys-smasher The White Lotus returns with a “decidedly sexier” second season, set in Sicily

The most awarded series at this year’s Emmys, The White Lotus is back with a sizzling new season coming to Showmax weekly on Mondays, express from the States.

With an (almost) all-new cast, Season 2 trades Hawaii for Sicily, where a different group of ultra-wealthy vacationers will spend a week at a different – but just as exclusive – White Lotus resort.

Season 1 of the acclaimed HBO wealth satire took home 10 of its 20 Emmy nominations, including Outstanding Limited or Anthology Series, Directing and Writing, as well as Supporting Actress for Jennifer Coolidge, and Supporting Actor for Murray Bartlett, both of whom also won at the Critics Choice Awards.

The White Lotus was originally intended as a limited series – until HBO ordered a second season before the first had even finished airing. That means it’ll be competing in the drama category if and – we’re betting – when it makes its mark at next year’s Emmys.

This seems likely, since Season 2 is getting even better reviews, with a 91% critics’ rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The Daily Beast says, “The White Lotus Season 2 is better than the first” – high praise since they call the first “the best TV show of last year.” Independent (UK) raves, “There is nothing more enjoyable to watch on television right now than The White Lotus.” In their five star review, Times (UK) says it’s “a whodunnit like no other.” And Daily Telegraph (UK) calls it, “brilliantly bawdy fun – brimming with zinging dialogue, physical humour and sharply drawn critiques of the super-wealthy.”

More than just the location and cast has changed this season. “Season 2 is decidedly sexier than Season 1,” says Teen Choice nominee Meghann Fahy (Sutton in The Bold Type), who USA Today is hailing as the breakout star this year. “The environment lends itself to that romantic summer vibe.”

Series creator, writer and director Mike White agrees. “Sicily is the perfect place for romance and sexual politics. It was such a beautiful location and it just sold this kind of old world European summer vacation… Last season really got into privilege. This season, it’s more of a kind of bedroom farce – with teeth.”

Just before writing Season 2, Mike went to Sweden with his dad. “As soon as my dad starts talking about sex, I’m 14 again. ‘Oh my god’,” he laughs. “But here’s my dad: he’s an upstanding, great guy, but he can never escape his animal self. We will be humiliated throughout life because of this part of ourselves that exists. What do we do with desire? What is a ‘good man’? What is sexual selection? It’s been changing throughout my lifetime.”

“In Season 2,” Mike says, “I thought it would be interesting to have three generations of men travelling together and have the older men [played by Oscar winner F. Murray Abraham from Mythic Quest, Amadeus, and The Grand Budapest Hotel, and Emmy winner Michael Imperioli from The Sopranos] grappling with the reality that their sex drives have essentially ruined their legacies and families, while the grandson character, Albie Di Grasso [Adam DiMarco from The Magicians] is more, ‘I’m sorry, I actually don’t have a sex drive.’”

The only returning characters this season are Teen Choice nominee Jon Gries (Napoleon Dynamite, Get Shorty) as Greg, and – raise your glasses, please – Jennifer Coolidge, who reprises her “career-best” role as Tanya.

This time round, Jennifer says, “It’s about how awkward we all are, and how sexual tension prevents us from knowing each other and being able to accept each other.” If that sounds serious, brace yourself for Tanya being even more cringingly, achingly, hilariously Tanya than last season. “The great thing about Season 2 is: Tanya really gets to come out of her shell,” Jennifer teases.

Mike explains that Jennifer was part of the reason he wrote the show in the first place. “People really responded to her performance and I said, ‘If we go to Italy, I have to bring Jennifer.’ I could totally see her in an Italian opera; there’s that tragic aspect to Tanya that felt rich to mine again.”

“Mostly I wanted to see her on that Vespa,” Mike laughs. “I wanted her in a mod ‘60s dress, scarf on her head, sunglasses — the ultimate gay-icon. And actually, all of this came straight from Jennifer. I asked her, ‘If we go to Italy, what do you want to do?’ and she’s like, ‘I just want to be on one of those Vespas while hot Italian guys in shark-skin suits light my cigarette.’ Okay, oh my god, we have to do that.”

The performances of Abraham and Imperioli have also already drawn critical acclaim, along with those of Peabody Award winner Aubrey Plaza (Parks and Recreation) as Harper Spiller, and Italian actresses Simona Tabasco and Beatrice Grannò, who, USA Today says, “are magnetic, as they work (and con) their way through the luxury hotel.”

The ensemble cast also includes People’s Choice winner Theo James (Divergent), BAFTA winner Tom Hollander (The Night Manager), and BAFTA nominee Will Sharpe (Landscapers, Giri/Haji).

Of course, somebody needs to wrangle all these privileged monsters, and this season that falls to the likes of multi-award-winning Italian actress Sabrina Impacciatore as the harried hotel manager, and Haley Lu Richardson (Five Feet Apart) as Tanya’s personal assistant, Portia.

As with Season 1, there’ll be loads of characters you’ll love to hate. But, as Jennifer puts it, “Mike can write characters that don’t have a lot of redeeming qualities, and he gives them a break.”

Wrangling multiple storylines, ever-shifting character sympathies, acerbic social critique and deliciously wicked comedy is a lot of plates for one man to spin, but the three Season 1 Emmys with Mike’s name on them are testament to his dexterity.

“To me,” Sabrina says in her gorgeous Italian accent (fully 20% of the show is in Italian), “Mike, he’s a maestro. He can make you laugh and cry about life in the same time.”

“As long as Mike White can cut to the core of today’s culture of wealth and excess, viewers will want to book into The White Lotus again and again,” says Empire Magazine, adding that, “Season 2 prods and provokes as mischievously and movingly as the first time.”

Watch the trailer: https://youtu.be/Baflc_0XVfY

Watch The White Lotus on Showmax: https://www.showmax.com/eng/tvseries/u2h3ff0r-the-white-lotus

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