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On today's episode of BuzzFeed Daily, we broke down the top pop culture headlines AND discussed Jennifer Coolidge and why she deserves more roles like Tanya in The White Lotus. You can listen below or scroll down to read more about the interview!
So let's dive right into it! Recently we talked to E. Alex Jung about the weird allure of Jennifer Coolidge. Here's some of what we learned:
BuzzFeed Daily: [Jennifer Coolidge] has a standout performance — possibly of her career. What is this character and why are people reacting to it the way they are?
HBO / Via giphy.com
E. Alex Jung: I mean, she is what I love about the show, right? She plays Tonya, this incredibly wealthy woman who has gone to Hawaii to scatter her mother's ashes, with whom she has clearly had a very complicated relationship. And she's, you know, middle-aged, lonely, wants a man, wants love, wants comfort in whatever form she can get it, whether it's in these kind of transactional relationships which she ends up having with this woman named Belinda, who runs the kind of massage therapy holistic center on the at the resort. And she's played by Natasha Rothwell, who's wonderful and amazing. And so it's a really complicated role, because she gets to have all of these meltdowns that are that teeter on the line between comedy and tragedy, in this really heart-wrenching way, I think. But also, it's so funny to watch, like there's a scene in which she has this total meltdown with this guy, and then the guy is just like, well, "I still want to fuck you." And she says the word "okay" in such a specific way that it's just — it's so funny and it's so like quintessentially something only she can do. Like the way in which she says a word just feels so full of this kind of emotional background and history that you're just like, Oh, I understand this person in some way. And it's so uniquely her that nobody else could do that.
BuzzFeed Daily: You spoke directly with Jennifer Coolidge about the show, and she told you that director Mike White had to actually fight to get her in it. So what's with that resistance?
HBO / Via giphy.com
EAJ: Well, it was complicated. So he had originally written a show called Saint Patsy where she was going to be the lead and she was going to play this under-appreciated, middle-aged actress, who was getting a lifetime achievement award in Sri Lanka and was going to be flown out there. But she starts to think that it's actually a plot by her ex-boyfriend to kill her. So he had this whole show that he had written and he says it's literally the best thing he has ever written before. And he said that HBO passed — all of these networks passed. And the suggestion is he felt that network executives felt that Jennifer Coolidge could not carry a show like this. And during COVID quarantine, they were like, "Can you make a quarantine friendly show that we can shoot?" And so he wrote — he's a really fast writer, according to him — The White Lotus. And one of his prerequisites was that Jennifer Coolidge would be one of the main roles in this. And I think that it's still a kind of give and take thing with Hollywood. And you can see that even in this role, which is probably the biggest and most complex role she has ever gotten in her career, she's astounding in it. She can do this really weird, dramatic character that is still funny and still really lively in all of these ways. But it gets to show her range in a way that I thought was really, really lovely. And I think that that was because they were friends and he sort of understood what she could do in a way that the industry hasn't before.
BuzzFeed Daily: This also isn't the first critically lauded project she's actually been a part of. She was in all of those mid-2000s Christopher Guest mockumentaries like A Mighty Wind and Best in Show, notably starring alongside people like Catherine O'Hara and Eugene Levy. But she didn't get quite as much credit for those projects. So why do you think that is?
HBO / Via giphy.com
EAJ: I think it's because if you play a blonde airhead, there's this idea that it doesn't require as much skill maybe, or that it's not hard to pull off. But she is magnificent in Best in Show, and she doesn't quite get the credit for it.