Beatrice Grannò on winning The White Lotus and working with Este Haim
“She thinks she’s Lady Gaga,” says Beatrice Grannò, who plays scrappy lounge singer Mia on season two of The White Lotus, of her character’s evolution. But during a conversation with Grannò, which took place the week of the show's latest finale, the actress could better be likened to the fourth Haim sister.
If you’ve been paying attention to social media in the days since the dramatic finale, amid all the Jennifer Coolidge memes were behind the scenes pics in which Este Haim was snapped on the Sicilian set of the HBO show which promptly set the internet ablaze. Haim was a musical consultant on the show and mentored the Italian actress for her lounge singing scenes. “She was the best!” Grannò says. “We became friends. Thank god she was there!”
For Grannò, who studied theater in London and has been acting in film and TV steadily since 2014 (you may have caught her in the Italian Netflix series Zero), The White Lotus was her big break—and a daunting task. “Aubrey Plaza was there, [F.] Murray Abraham, Michael Imperioli, all these people, and I felt like I had none of their talent!”
But it didn’t take long for Grannò to be in her element on the Sicilian set, reuniting with bestie Simona Tabasco, who played Mia’s partner-in-literal-crime Lucia, getting to show off her musical chops and, of course, making friends with Haim.
In an interview with AP, Grannò spoke about breaking into the American market, Mia’s sexual fluidity and why Mia and Lucia were the heart of The White Lotus season two.
Read more: The White Lotus season 2 trailer brims with love, murder and a whole lot of hedonism
What was your reaction when you got the news that you’d be starring in The White Lotus season two?
I just couldn’t believe it. I was so excited because I was such a great fan of the first seasonI did a self-tape a year ago precisely, and in January, Mike White went to Rome and wanted to see some of the actresses [in person]. I did an [in-person] audition and two days later—it was midnight in Rome and I was watching a famous Italian music festival called Sanremo—my agent called me and told me that me and Simona] both got the parts. We were really happy, we FaceTimed [each other]. I was running around the house, and we were screaming!
What was it like getting to work with Simona again?
It was amazing. We actually met 10 years ago when we auditioned for the same drama school [in Italy]. I didn’t get in, so I moved to London to attend drama school there. When I got back to Rome, we met again because we did an Italian show together called DOC, and that’s when we did the self-tape audition together [for The White Lotus].It was great to work with her because Mia and Lucia were supposed to be close friends, but Mike White had no idea that we knew each other from before. It was easier for us to do those scenes because we’re so close. Our friendship grew stronger because we were both sharing this amazing experience.
Was there pressure considering how big of a success the first season was and being one of the few Italian actors cast alongside many well-known English-speaking actors?
Yes, of course. I knew that the project was incredible, so I was worried I was not going to be able to live up to that. But at the same time, I’ve trained in [in acting] in London and when I started to act, [it was] in English, so for me it was like going back to school in a way of exploring that way of working in another language. Even though my character is Italian, I was asking myself, how did I get here? But I knew [that] Mike White was looking for an Italian girl who could play piano and sing, so I knew I could bring that. My character’s energy is very close to what I can bring on film, so I was excited to go for it. It was my first time doing comedy on film, but in England I have a theater company where we do comedy, so I could use that.
How did you prepare for the musical side of Mia?
All the songs Mike White wanted were kind of jazz standards and I was supposed to be a lounge singer so I prepared myself with a jazz sound and a very jazzy voice. But when I got on set he said, “She’s not that sophisticated. She’s more of a pop singer because she has to be different from Giuseppe, she has to be noticed.” I worked with Este and she said I should really belt it because that’s my voice. I was worried because all the songs were played live, so I’m thinking, how can I sing [well] live and play perfectly? I was practicing so much in my room because I brought my keyboard with me, so I was always playing. It was Mia playing at The White Lotus, but it was also me playing on a HBO series, so it’s kind of like the two personalities mixed.
We saw photos from behind the scenes come out on social media after the finale and people were like, “what’s Este Haim doing there?” So what was she doing there?
She was the best! She was working [on The White Lotus] but at the same time she was working on soundtracks for films because she’s doing that too now.; she’s doing so many things! When we were almost done with the songs she left so I was really sad. She managed to break me—in a good way! She was organizing karaoke nights at the hotel; she was playing [piano], she was singing. It was beautiful to see such an amazing musician being so open with everyone.
There’s a very interesting dynamic that occurred between Mia and Valentina, played by Sabrina Impacciatore. How did you approach Mia’s sexual fluidity?
I was so excited when I learned that [Sabrina] was going to be on the show and that I would get to work with her. In Italy she’s very famous for comedy.She really put herself into the character. It was nice for me to be part of that process in her character [development] because in the beginning she’s kind of blocked, and I think Mia is blocked, too. Together they meet at a point where Mia realizes her own freedom with her body and confidence and that moment is when she meets Valentina and they start this game. Mia gives Valentina her energy to kind of let herself go. It was very exciting to me to play that because we don’t always talk about female pleasure on television.
Pretty much all of the characters on the show are got what they deserved, for better or worse. What do you think about where Mia and Lucia ended up?
Lucia and Mia, they’re the real winners of the show, even if it’s not really a competition. They fought for themselves, they were never victims or felt sorry about what they were doing and in the end they got what they wanted. That happened because they had each other. “The best things in life are free” [a reference to the song that plays over the final scene of Mia and Lucia walking through Sicily]: It’s their friendship. Love is free.
We have to talk about the fashion, and Mia and Lucia are at the pinnacle of that. What were some of your favorite looks from the season?
My favorite look was the white dress I wear in episode six when Mia is seducing Valentina. It’s a sort of Marilyn Monroe vibe when she’s singing happy birthday to her, and I felt really confident in that. The fashion [evolution] of Mia is really interesting because she started off really blocked and plain and there’s a moment in episode four when she seduces Giuseppe when she’s wearing that [frilly] skirt and red beaded T-shirt which is funny to me because she doesn’t really know who she is in that moment. She’s messy, and slowly she turns into this very elegant and cool singer at the end. She believes that she’s Lady Gaga or something; she’s a star now.
Now that you’ve broken into the American market, what are some of your dream projects?
What I really dream [about] is [being on] another international show, but being able to act in English because that will open new [doors]. In terms of story, The White Lotus was a big step, but I acted in Italian, my character was Italian, so it wasn’t too different from what I’ve done before in terms of acting. I’d be interested to be part of other music projects and work with some American musicians. The style I’m looking for is folk music and in Italy it’s not that common. Americans eat folk for breakfast.
Well you’ve already got the connection with Este, so watch this space!