Warning: This article contains spoilers from “The White Lotus” Season 2 finale.
Jennifer Coolidge has revealed how her role as the fan-favorite Tanya McQuiod in “The White Lotus” was actually inspired by her own life.
Tanya first appeared in Season 1 of the HBO series and returned in Season 2 married to Greg Hunt (Jon Gries), who she met in the first season. Season 2, which is set in Sicily, ended with the shocking death of the lovable character.
Coolidge, who won an Emmy for her portrayal of the lovably flawed character in Season 1, admitted in a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly that show creator Mike White used her own personality traits to inspire the character on the show.
White, 52, and Coolidge, 61, have been friends since they met on “Gentlemen Broncos” in 2009 — and Coolidge admits he knows her pretty well.
“Mike is sitting there, he’s this brilliant mind, and he’s just observes people. He was observing my naïveté with a lot of my male relationships and saw how I just believed people in a very naive way,” Coolidge explained.
“Sometimes it’s good because, certainly I’m not discriminating of anyone in any way, but I sort of open the door and sometimes my realization of who someone was and what their intentions are are very slow.”
The “American Pie” and “Legally Blonde” actress confessed she thinks that White took real-life situations she had been in where she has with people she “shouldn’t have been in with at all” and combined them to influence Tanya’s storyline.
“I still want to call it naïveté — otherwise I’m just stupid,” Coolidge said with a laugh.
“It’s just people that are putting on a really good show, but they don’t like you, really, deep down,” she added. “You know, I’m not one of these people that’s made millions and millions of dollars in our industry, but whenever I had, whatever little I had, they were there to take it.”
In the Season 2 finale of “White Lotus,” viewers learned that Tanya was being plotted against and taken advantage of for her money, echoing Coolidge’s sentiment.
She continued, “And my obliviousness, my oblivious nature of not seeing the writing on the wall and actually denying any sort of sign that something was amiss, I was denying it. I think that happens to a lot of people, but I definitely think Mike had observed that and made that part of the script.”
But Coolidge believes Tanya’s death makes sense for the character’s life.
“She was very vulnerable for quite a bit of this show. And sometimes it just doesn’t work out well for vulnerable people in a world with some really bad people,” she said. “Even though Tanya was a very flawed person and in many ways, you could say she was not nice and self-centered and all that, but some people are in this lifetime get surrounded by a group of people and it’s very hard sometimes to know who the good guys are and the bad guys are in this world. Poor Tanya, she misjudged.”
Ultimately, Coolidge believed Tanya had to die to fit in to the story White wanted to tell.
“This was an episode about women and all that they have to put up with and all their survival techniques that are revealed in this,” she said. “But everyone’s just trying to survive when all this mean stuff is going on. It’s like how do you handle betrayal? It’s hard to handle betrayal in a normal, well-adjusted way because it’s such a hard thing to process.”
Coolidge also shared that there were a few people who didn’t think Tanya actually died, and she had to break the unsettling news to them.
“They thought it was a dream even though I was in a body bag. They somehow thought it was all in Tanya’s head or whatever. They didn’t get that I was dead dead, forever. Dead in every sense,” she said. “And then I had to watch and listen to their reactions like, ‘Oh, really? Oh, no!’ I was just surprised that they were just finding out this morning that it’s real.”
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