Jennifer Coolidge on Her ‘Juicy Role’ in ‘White Lotus’ and Being the ‘Original MILF’

·3-min read

“It feels very good to be the original MILF,” Jennifer Coolidge told Variety at the premiere of HBO’s “The White Lotus.” “I know there’s other people that are supposed to be MILFs, but I hope I’m the first choice.”

On the red carpet at the Bel-Air Bay Club in Pacific Palisades, Coolidge opened up about her iconic role as Stifler’s mom in “American Pie” and taking on a more challenging role in “The White Lotus,” premiering on July 11. Created, written and directed by Mike White, the limited series follows a group of guests at a luxurious Hawaiian resort as their paths intertwine and something sinister slowly brews beneath the hotel’s idyllic setting.

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White specifically wanted Coolidge for the role of grieving hotel guest Tanya McQuoid, who carries her mother’s ashes around the resort, to showcase another side of the “Legally Blonde” actor’s talent.

“It was a lot of hard emotion, a lot of hard stuff to go through,” said Coolidge, whose own mother died due to pancreatic cancer. “Mike gave me real things to play on … I don’t get those parts. If you look at my resume, I play a lot of silly people, not complicated people, and this is a really juicy role.”

The series tackles themes relating to family, race, sex and death, but White said the true inspiration behind “The White Lotus” was money.

“I wanted to do something about how money infects all of our relationships,” White said. “I thought that would be a fun theme to explore in the setting of people on a vacation together.”

While “The White Lotus” centers around privileged hotel guests and their distressed staff counterparts, White doesn’t necessarily lay out who the heroes and villains of the story are.

“Mike is open to his characters in the way that you want people to be open to other people. He lets them be surprising and sees their failures without trying to sugarcoat them, and he lets you be aware of their hopes and aspirations,” said Fred Hechinger, who plays technology addict turned nature enthusiast Quinn Mossbacher. “The absurdity and joy and misery of humanity … Mike just sees it.”

In the spirit of the show, whose slogan reads “Paradise is no vacation,” White and the cast shared their most traumatic stories while traveling.

“I was in Hungary with my family when I was younger, and I didn’t want to go on this tour, so I acted like I had a stomach ache,” White said. “A doctor came to the room and said, ‘Oh he has appendicitis, he won’t be able to get on the plane,’ and I was like, ‘I’m faking it! I’m faking it!'”

Connie Britton said her personal vacation nightmare happened while scuba diving in Fiji.

“It was so beautiful, and then I was like 25 or 30 feet down and suddenly was convinced that my equipment was failing and I was taking in water. So I just took it out of my mouth,” she said. “Thankfully, I had a really good instructor, but it was so terrifying.”

Jon Gries‘ most scarring travel story happened after he and 15 friends went to a famous restaurant in England.

“We went to Trafalgar Square, and all of us at the exact same got hit with the same thing that happens in [‘Bridesmaids’] where they get the runs,” the “Napoleon Dynamite” actor said. “We all looked at each other at the same time like, ‘Oh my God.'”

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