The actress tells InStyle about joking with Aubrey Plaza, playing an Instagram mom, and cast karaoke nights in Sicily.
We first meet Daphne Sullivan — played by Meghann Fahy — during the shocking opening scene of The White Lotus season 2, when the guest of the high-end Sicilian resort discovers a dead body while taking a dip in the Ionian Sea. Following the same pattern as the show’s debut season, we cut to one week earlier, when Daphne arrives at the luxe White Lotus resort (wearing head-to-toe designer, of course) alongside her super-hot — and super-rich — husband Cameron (Divergent heartthrob Theo James) and another married couple, Ethan and Harper Still (played by Will Sharpe and Aubrey Plaza).
For anyone unfamiliar, Fahy is best known for her role of Sutton Brady in Freeform’s hit series The Bold Type, about Scarlet, a fictional women’s magazine based in New York City. The buoyant and plucky fashion assistant’s happy-go-lucky and bubbly personality is a mirror of Fahy’s own vibrant persona, which instantly comes across during our Zoom interview, which feels more like two friends catching up (no doubt a result of her charisma).
Fahy admits to adding her own traits to all her characters, like the ambitious chef Carley Benson in Hallmark’s Just Add Romance, who’s vying for love (and a trophy in a cooking competition), and Clara Thompson in the Golden Globe-nominated movie Miss Sloane, starring Jessica Chastain. Similarly, Fahy’s magnetism shines through her The White Lotus character, who is the first to fill an awkward silence and always wears a smile no matter what’s happening below her flawlessly manufactured surface. Fahy recalls the show’s creator Mike White describing Daphne as “sunshine.”
“I think that I bring a lot of myself [to my roles],” she tells InStyle. “I definitely did to Sutton and Daphne, because I can't help it, honestly,” she says. “I think the lightness that those two women offer to the people that are around them that they love is really similar.”
When developing the character, it was important for Fahy to perfect the character’s “Zen mommy” aesthetic — a term coined by her and co-star Aubrey Plaza to refer to the annoyingly positive, stay-at-home mom vibe that Daphne gives off. So, she took a hands-on approach all the way to her costuming, which she styled with White and costume designer Alex Bovaird.
“I had a very specific vision for her going into the role,” she says. “You see it on Instagram all the time: these gorgeous women who have four children who are all really well-dressed and they're always wearing these beautiful, flowy, colorful dresses and hats, and you’re like, ‘What is that? I want to dive into that picture!’ I just wanted Daphne’s vibe to be that.”
Daphne comes off at first as materialistic and airheaded, and her husband as ignorant, crass, and offensive (they admit to forgetting if they voted or not) — especially to the holier-than-thou employment lawyer Harper, who thinks that the husband and wife’s exaggerated displays of public affection are a façade. But as audiences see Harper projecting her own insecurities onto the couple, Daphne’s arc unfolds to show that she’s a lot more intuitive than she initially lets on. It’s Daphne’s unexpected depth and astuteness that make her such a dynamic character, who covers up inner turmoil to preserve her sunny disposition.
“I think Daphne is one of the most aware people in the room,” Fahy continues. “She sees and hears everything, and she makes really specific choices about how she wants to engage with people. I think that her ability to do that is probably why she's able to find happiness unconventionally, because she has a relationship with her own sadness, she acknowledges it.”
Albeit plagued with infidelity and manipulative mind games, Daphne and Cameron’s marriage is more than meets the eye. Fahy says White challenged her to question the “rules of a successful relationship.”
“Their [relationship] might be a little less conventional than your average couple, but they truly have happiness and love in their relationship,” she explains. “Their relationship is ruled in one way by these games they play with each other. They both kind of get off on it, and they both know how to push the other person's buttons and when the other person is pushing the button and why. So they're both very much a part of what they're doing to each other.”
The couple’s eroticism is fueled by their face-offs — metaphorically displayed in their tickle-fight foreplay in the first episode. They get pleasure from pissing each other off. It sounds unhealthy, but the two have a mutual, unspoken agreement.
“I think that [Daphne] does have an understanding of who Cameron is,” she adds. “And I think that the thing that makes the relationship so successful is that the thing that comes easily for Daphne to give is the thing that Cameron craves to have in a partner. And I think she enjoys the way that he is. They're really suited to each other because of that. Mike [White] wants people to think about, ‘OK, from the outside, maybe this looks unconventional or toxic — but is it?’”
Fahy attributes her and James’s palpable chemistry to White’s writing and James’s raw talent, as well as their quick friendship that was formed over dinners in Sicily. “We had a couple of dinners when I first got there to just get to know each other as people,” she explains. “Because the writing is so good, but also because Theo is a really good partner, and he's really playful and open. I feel really lucky for that because it's not always the case and it makes things so much more fun.”
The rest of the cast (which includes Jennifer Coolidge, John Gries, Haley Lu Richardson, Adam DiMarco, F. Murray Abraham, and Michael Imperioli) spent the early parts of the shoot on the resort together, where bonding activities included, but were not limited to, lavish Italian dinners, beach trips, and karaoke nights, during which the cast would perform an expansive repertoire of ‘90s and early 2000s hits by icons including Queen and, Fahy’s favorite, Eminem. (Her go-to song choice during cast karaoke sessions was “Stan,” a selection nearly as unexpected as her character.)
The actress adds that her castmate Coolidge is as hilarious and kind as she seems — she even remembered everyone’s birthday on set. “It's been really, really great just as someone who has been a fan of hers for as long as I have been, to see her just doing her thing in a way that people are loving so much. It's really awesome.”
Season 1 — filled with commentary on societal tropes and ironic woke-isms — made a splash with viewers and critics alike. And coming off an Emmy-sweeping awards season, The White Lotus is once again poised to be one of the biggest shows of the year, something that wasn’t lost on Fahy. But having a mostly brand-new cast (save for Coolidge, who reprises her role as Tanya McQuoid and Gries, who plays her now-husband Greg) and a director as protective as White created a freshness on set that took off some of the pressure.
“I think following up a show that was well-received and loved can be a little bit nerve wracking,” Fahy admits. “But Mike [White] does such a great job of creating an environment on set that feels so relaxed and safe. There were so many days where I forgot that I was shooting The White Lotus Season 2. I was able to just be there doing it, which I think is just a testament to the kind of leader that he is.”
Season 2 of the satire is equally as biting as last year’s installment, but the underlying theme moves away from the entitlement of the wealthy and upper class to instead depict a battle of the sexes between the (still very privileged) hotel guests who find themselves caught up in a war of love, lust, gender politics, and murder right in the middle of their five-star Italian digs.
“It has a lot more to do with sex, sexuality, and gender roles,” Fahy says. “And there's still a lot of power dynamics happening, but it doesn't necessarily apply to money and privilege as much as it does in the [first] season. It's a little bit more about the interpersonal relationships.”
The motifs may differ between the seasons, but Fahy promises that the show will still maintain the same flair we’ve come to know and love down to the eerie music and filming style. “I think it’s going to be really cool for people who were fans of the first season,” she says. “Because it definitely still has that White Lotus vibe that you love.”
Dress, Carolina Herrera. Rings, EF Collection + Dana Rebecca. Hair, Cameron Rains – Forward Artists. Makeup, Jen Tioseco – The Wall Group. Styling, Thomas Carter Phillips – The Wall Group. Photographer, Elias Tahan.
For more InStyle news, make sure to sign up for our newsletter!
Read the original article on InStyle.