Aside from basic greetings, my rudimentary Italian doesn’t get me very far. Fortunately, Tabasco is accompanied by her translator, Chiara Nanni, who, despite the language barrier, makes our conversation flow smoothly. I start the interview by asking about Tabasco’s first impression of Lucia, to which she quickly replies, “Do you mind if I start in Italian?” Things move quickly from there as we discuss Lucia’s possible backstory, character arc, and, of course, bold “look at me” style. “My first impression [of Lucia] was incredibly positive. But I was curious to see how elements of her personality would come out,” explains Tabasco. Before auditioning, she didn’t realize that Lucia was a sex worker, but being on set with the series’ writer and director, Mike White, allowed them to further develop the richness of her character and critically establish that Lucia doesn’t have sex. chased. operate from a position of desperation, but rather with a sense of self-reliance. This, Tabasco acknowledges, is an important distinction: Lucia does not represent all sex workers or their experiences. Her story is about a woman in a very special time and place.
From that perspective, it’s important for audiences to see Lucia’s high energy and exuberance deliberately reflected in bold costumes, which come in nearly every color of the rainbow. While Tabasco is quick to pinpoint Lucia’s little red dress in the premiere as the best visual representation of the character, the sequined lilac minidress and celestial motif is also special and seems important to Lucia’s growth. “I’ve never interpreted a character like Lucia where her body is such a focal point,” she says. “She’s so free, and that’s a big part of her story.”
This sense of autonomy and self-expression was the basis not only of the costume design, but also of Tabasco’s acting choices. The White Lotus is, surprisingly, one of Tabasco’s first forays into the world of comedy. (In Italy, Tabasco is known for her roles in police and medical dramas.) Still, she claims to have improvised just one line: Let’s fun. “Given my dubious English, I say ‘let’s fun’ when I’m sitting at the table with the two boys. At the time I thought it was grammatically correct, but when I saw Mike laughing, I thought, ‘Why are you laughing?’” she recalls, fooling herself. After filming that scene, “let’s have fun” became a phrase often used by the cast and crew.