The White Lotus: 12 Facts About The HBO Hit To Take On Your Next Vacation

Since its release in 2021, HBO's TV series "The White Lotus" has been the talk of the town. The show chronicles the lives, loves, trials, and tribulations of the guests and workers at the titular resort, which has a number of locations: The first season takes place on the stunning beaches of Hawaii and the second in the idyllic Sicilian countryside.

The show has seen its fair share of critical acclaim. "The White Lotus" is currently certified fresh on Rotten Tomatoes and it has also earned plenty of awards attention, including the Emmy Award for outstanding limited or anthology series. The hit show has scooped 10 Emmys at the time of this writing, and will no doubt be challenging for more honors in the near future.

But the good stuff doesn't just take place on screen. The cast and crew of "The White Lotus" are nearly as unique as its characters, making for some truly wild behind the scenes stories. Here are some fun facts about "The White Lotus" that might surprise you. Spoilers ahead.

Aubrey Plaza played some hilarious pranks on her castmates

In Season 2 of "The White Lotus," "Parks and Recreation" star Aubrey Plaza plays Harper Spiller, a lawyer who visits the White Lotus in Sicily with her husband, his buddy, and his buddy's wife. After arriving at the resort, tensions start to arise as Harper comes to realize that she dislikes her husband's friends. Throughout the season, Harper remains something of an outcast, with her judgmental tendencies ruffling more than a few feathers. But what fans may not know is that Plaza hilariously ruffled some feathers off-screen, too.

Plaza pulled some pretty extravagant pranks — which she referred to as a "Charlie Kaufman experiment" during an interview with GQ — on her castmates. At one point, she collected all the diffusers scattered around the hotel and arranged them into a creepy pattern in co-star Adam DiMarco's dressing room. "I was definitely questioning my reality for a while there," DiMarco told GQ. "I didn't know who to trust. It was like 'Murder on the Orient Express.' Everyone was the murderer." Plaza went as far as messing up her own dressing room to deflect blame, convincing the other actors that she had nothing to do with it. That's some serious Harper behavior.

Whales were sometimes a distraction for actors during Season 1

The setting of "The White Lotus" Season 1 is utterly breathtaking. Shot on location at the Four Seasons Resort in Maui at Wailea, episodes feature pristine blue water, fluffy white beaches, and picturesque palm trees. But, while it was undeniably beautiful, the location could actually get pretty distracting at times. Natasha Rothwell, who plays Belinda in the show, told The Hollywood Reporter that some of Maui's features sometimes made it difficult to concentrate when the cameras were rolling.

The actor recounted a scene on a boat that she featured in alongside Murray Bartlett, who plays hotel manager Armand, and Jennifer Coolidge, who plays a woman named Tanya. During the scene in question, Tanya scatters her mother's ashes off the deck. This is obviously an emotional scene, but Rothwell was almost taken out of it by the fascinating sea life. She recalled being "interrupted by whales," explaining: "I'm trying to be in the scene, but there's a whale breaching. And it was just magical, it was unreal." Luckily, they finally ended up getting the take, and the scene is almost as marvelous as a whale sighting.

Creator Mike White isn't too fond of shooting sex scenes

"The White Lotus" can get pretty risqué at times. After all, the show features honeymooning couples and extra-marital affairs aplenty. It might come as a surprise, then, that the show's writer and creator, Mike White, isn't the biggest fan of shooting these moments. In an interview with NPR, White admitted that he finds shooting the steamy scenes a daunting task. "As a director, I'm very timid about asking people to undress and get into sexual situations," he said, adding, "it's not my wheelhouse."

According to White, there were several instances of him regretting the whole endeavor. He continued: "There were definitely times on this shoot that I was like, what have I got myself into? My threshold for awkwardness is very low." Luckily for him, the show's actors "are much more confident and uninhibited than I am," he revealed. "That was new terrain for me. It just felt like it was important because it really is baked into the narrative." All we can say is that we're thankful that White stepped out of his comfort zone, because he's right — the show just wouldn't be the same without all the sexual tension.

Cameron's cheek kisses were improvised

Season 2 of "The White Lotus" is filled to the brim with actions that may or may not have secret meanings. One of the most fascinating examples of this is Cameron (Theo James) kissing his former roommate Ethan (Will Sharpe) on the cheek. The cheek kissing adds some depth to Cameron and Ethan's relationship — which is extra fun to note, given the fact that the first one was actually improvised. In an interview with Variety, Sharpe revealed that the cheek kisses weren't planned, recalling "those party scenes were actually very loosely scripted." He added: "It was really improvisatory and they would cut it in the edit and use the most helpful bits."

There has been a lot of speculation about why Cameron kisses his friend so often. On Reddit, some people are convinced that they're more than just friends, which might explain why Ethan and his wife Harper don't have sex. But Sharpe has a different interpretation of the action. "I think it's [Cameron's] way of being playful and sexually voracious and showing who's boss in this weird way," he said. Sharpe sees the cheek kissing as something of a "micro powerplay."

Jennifer Coolidge almost passed on her part

A fan favorite character, Jennifer Coolidge's Tanya is an alcoholic who is grieving the recent death of her mother. The actor's performance in "The White Lotus" was so well received that it earned her her first-ever Emmy Award in 2022. She's well-known for the role now, but what some people may not know is that Coolidge's iconic performance as Tanya almost didn't happen. In an interview with The Guardian, the actor revealed that she was reluctant to take on the part, explaining that the pandemic really took a toll on her. She recalled that she was "reading tragic news stories on a daily basis" and "wasn't thinking about work" at all.

Things changed, however, when creator Mike White called her up and said he'd written a role for her. Coolidge was surprised when White said: "We're doing it now. You need to get on a plane to Hawaii." Filming something seemed "impossible" to her at the time, as she had been "gorging and self-destructing at home for months, eating pizza all day." Despite her reservations about the project, she was eventually convinced to sign up, and she ended up becoming one of the show's standouts. How close was she to turning it down? "I can't tell you how close I came to ruining this whole thing for myself," she said.

Steve Zahn's character had prosthetic genitals in Season 1

In Season 1 of "The White Lotus," Steve Zahn's character — neurotic dad Mark Mossbacher — has a full-frontal nude scene. Fearing that he has testicular cancer, he shows his wife, Nicole (Connie Britton), his symptoms. To create these symptoms, Zahn actually wore a prosthetic penis. In an interview with GQ, the actor revealed that he felt like the scene was "crazy" when reading the script. He double-checked with White, asking, "You don't want full frontal, right?" White replied: "No, no, we're going to use a prosthetic."

Zahn got to approve the prosthetic himself, he added. The actor admitted that this wasn't the first time he had gotten nude on television. "I did another show for HBO called 'Treme,'" he recalled, adding: "The first thing you see of me in the entire four years we did was my ass." He may have had some experience coming in, but his nude scene in "The White Lotus" was on another level. "It's so abrupt," he told the men's mag. "The way he did it was just great. It's like, 'Bam!' First episode. So HBO, isn't it?"

Theo James also wears a prosthetic in Season 2

Season 2 of "The White Lotus" is filled with wild, shocking moments, but among the scenes that caught the attention of fans the most is the one in which Cameron gets nude. After the episode aired, viewers quickly took to Twitter to discuss whether or not that was Theo James' real penis. "Theo James that HAD to have been a prosthetic right," wrote one Twitter user.

Fans finally got their answer when James broke his silence on the scene, revealing that, like Steve Zahn in Season 1, he was given a prosthetic penis for the shot. On "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon," James said he was shocked when he saw how large the prosthetic was — he specifically told the make-up team that he wanted it to be an average size so it wouldn't distract from what was happening in the scene. "The thing is ginormous," James told Fallon. "Me and the director Mike White are sitting there going, 'Is that average, is it?' We're, like, calling our respective partners, going, 'I'm so sorry.'"

Portia's outfits were inspired by Los Angeles fashion

One of the most-discussed things about "The White Lotus" Season 2 are the colorful, idiosyncratic outfits worn by Gen-Z assistant Portia (Haley Lu Richardson). Many fans have critiqued the outfits, with one Twitter user likening them to that of "a polly pocket doll who lost half her luggage." Another user noted that the ensembles "always look like a toddler got dressed and demanded to wear very random and specific things together."

Alex Bovaird, who has served as the costume designer for both seasons of "The White Lotus," revealed that there is a reason Portia dresses the way she does. In an interview with People, she explained that she wanted the character to look like she hangs out in Los Angeles' Highland Park. She took inspiration from Instagram as well as "coffee shops and other hangouts" in that neighborhood. "There's nothing like actually going to the places my characters would actually exist in and soaking up the fashion," she noted.

Meghann Fahy originally auditioned for Alexandra Daddario's role

Meghann Fahy, who plays Cameron's wife Daphne in Season 2 of "The White Lotus," has risen to fan-favorite status since making her debut on the show. There's a Reddit thread dedicated to singing her praises, with one commenter writing: "I am convinced Daphne is the most intelligent and ruthless one in the group." Plenty of other Redditors have shared their love for Fahy's performance, with one calling the actor "basically perfect" for the part.

What some fans might not know is that Fahy was gunning for the role of Rachel in Season 1 of "The White Lotus" (as reported by Women's Wear Daily ), which ultimately went to Alexandra Daddario. She was no doubt disappointed about not getting the role, but Fahy admitted that it was probably the right choice. "The thing that [creator Mike White] does so well is that he always casts the perfect person," she said. "And you watch the show and you're like, 'I can't imagine that being anyone else.' I feel that way about the first season. I feel that way about the second season. He just has a knack for knowing exactly who the person is."

Mark Mossbacher's story may have been inspired by Mike White's life

In Season 1 of "The White Lotus," Mark discovers that his late father was gay. This is an interesting narrative arc for Mark, but more than that, it actually bears similarities to creator Mike White's own life. His dad, Mel White, used to be an evangelical pastor who ghost-wrote for figures such as religious broadcaster Pat Robertson, American Baptist pastor Jerry Falwell, and evangelist Billy Graham. Due to his association with right-wing politics, it may have come as a surprise to some when Mel came out as gay in 1993. After coming out, he became an LGBTQ+ activist and wrote a book called "Stranger at the Gate: To Be Gay and Christian in America."

Mike White is clearly close with his father. After winning the Emmy award for outstanding directing for a limited series for "The White Lotus," he gave a shout out his parents. "I want to thank my parents," he said on stage. "I love my parents. My mom let me be the weird kid I wanted to be." He began to choke up as he revealed that his dad was "struggling right now," which made scooping the Emmy all the more special. "Thank you so much for letting me honor him tonight," he told the audience.

The Season 1 cast got along really well

Given the fact that it came out in 2021, it's no surprise that Season 1 of "The White Lotus" was shot under the restrictive umbrella of COVID-19. And while that likely came with a lot of frustrating red tape, it also had its benefits, as Alexandra Daddario explained to Forbes. "It was amazing to get to do what I love to do with such incredible people, and I think the focus on health and the world around us made us appreciate what we were doing so much more," she said.

Daddario (an industry vet who broke through playing teenager Laurie Lewis on the soap opera "All My Children") noted that they were forced to lean on each other when times got tough during the shoot. "There was gratitude and also the pain of being quarantined from family and friends, so we all supported each other and helped each other while also feeling immense joy and gratitude." Appreciation for her castmates wasn't the only thing that Daddario developed during the pandemic. She revealed that, after wearing mostly sweats and pajamas for the first year or so of the pandemic, getting to dress up to the nines again was a real treat. She said: "I have a newfound appreciation for style and getting dressed up."

Season 3 may take place in Asia

When it comes to "The White Lotus," part of the fun is that each season takes place in a new location. Rumor has it that Season 3, which has already been ordered by HBO, will take place somewhere in Asia. Prior to new episodes getting the greenlight, Mike White said (via Holr) that he thinks it would "be fun to maybe go to a whole different continent," adding: "You know, we did Europe, and maybe Asia, something crazy like that, that would be fun." White isn't the only one who thinks that setting a season in Asia would be a blast. Costume designer Alex Bovaird told People that she'd love to design outfits for a resort "somewhere in Japan."

There's no concrete info on "The White Lotus" Season 3 just yet, but there's reason to believe that Connie Britton may be reprising her role. "[Mike White] wanted me to be in the second season, and there was an idea that I loved for the character," the actor, who played Nicole in Season 1, told Deadline. "Our intention is to do it in the third season. A piece of casting didn't work in the second season and we're hoping to [do] that in the third season. I would love to see a spinoff on every character in that show." If "The White Lotus" keeps on pulling in the viewers and earning rave reviews, there's no telling how many spinoffs we might end up with.