Fred Hechinger Talks 'White Lotus' Finale and Turning 21 on Set of the HBO Series (Exclusive)
By Stacy Lambe
After making a name for himself with roles in The Woman in the Window and Netflix’s Fear Street trilogy, Fred Hechinger got to shine as part of The White Lotus’ star-studded, ensemble cast. In season 1 of the HBO series, which came to a deadly close on Sunday night, the 21-year-old actor played Quinn Mossbacher, the electronics-obsessed son of Nicole (Connie Britton) and Mark (Steve Zahn) and younger brother of Olivia (Sydney Sweeney), who were all guests at an exclusive Hawaiian resort where the lives of guests and employees overlapped and clashed in unexpected ways.
“It was really a dream come true,” Hechinger tells ET about joining The White Lotus, which was filmed on location in Maui during the pandemic, before revealing that he had never been to Hawaii prior to filming.
And when it comes to playing Quinn, he says that the character, like the many other guests at the resort, “is a work in progress, trying to figure out who he is. And he’s also seeing what kind of person he is in relation to his changing wants.”
Over the course of six episodes, audiences watched as Quinn, initially consumed with his phone and video games, struggles to connect with anyone, especially his dad. He eventually has an awakening when those items are washed away by the tide when he ends up sleeping on the beach one night. After that, he discovers a group of Hawaiian rowers and starts training for a Molokai.
By the finale, an energized Quinn proclaims he’s not returning home much to the chagrin of his parents and delight of his sister. And in the final moments of season 1, he refuses to get on the plane with his family and joins his new teammates on the open waters.
Hechinger says that his character was someone who was trapped by the walls that he had put up to protect him from his loneliness. “But then a really amazing thing happens, which is something outside of himself surprises him and opens him up to a new way to approach life,” he explains.
Now engaged with the conversations going on around him, especially that of his family, who are constantly discussing ideas of wealth, privilege and access, he’s suddenly aware of their “constant discourse that in a way feels like a dead end,” Hechinger says. “It’s just like talking about talking, not actually discovering new things or other ways people think.”
Whereas the rowers have invited Quinn into their world, where there is this “sense of community and camaraderie and kind of easygoing feeling,” the actor says, adding that his character likes the physicality involved and having to prove oneself.
And when it comes to those final moments in the airport terminal, where Quinn is holding back and stalling while the rest of his family gets on the plane, Hechinger just says that his character was overcome with a feeling that he needed to stay. “Sometimes you’re just pulled towards something,” he says, adding that it was almost an unconscious decision for Quinn. “It was just like, ‘You have to go.’”
Several months later, Hechinger says of the whole experience, “I kind of still can’t believe what happened.”
Adding to his wonderful opportunity of getting to work with someone like series creator Mike White was the fact that he got to spend so much time with his co-stars, especially Zahn, whom he would have dinner and watch movies with most nights. “Steve showed me movies that have become my absolute favorites since,” Hechinger recalls, listing off war films like Full Metal Jacket, The Deer Hunter and The Last Detail.
His favorite memory, however, was turning 21 on set and having his first legal drink with his onscreen dad. After the two finished filming an early morning scene in the plunge pool, the two started celebrating his birthday and were “drunk by 11:30 a.m. at an empty Four Seasons.”
“And I was like, ‘I did that,’” Hechinger says, noting that “it was a really kind of bizarre, but truly perfect way to spend the birthday.”
With The White Lotus behind him, Hechinger’s next big project is the limited Hulu series Pam & Tommy, which recounts the events surrounding the release of Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee’s unauthorized sex tape. In the limited series starring Lily James and Sebastian Stan as the couple, Hechinger plays 25-year-old internet pornographer Seth Warshavsky, who ended up with a copy of their tape and debuted it online.
When describing Seth, the actor says he’s “a guy who is very successful but one that a lot of people do not like.” He adds that “I’m sort of this specific part of this larger thing.”
And while he couldn’t say too much about the series itself, he recalls what it was like seeing his co-stars in costume the very first time. “I walked into the room, my first time filming with them, and you’re not seeing Lily, you’re not seeing Sebastian. It’s this wonderfully trippy experience where you’re just there with these other people,” he says. “And after I wrapped with them, I was in the parking lot on my way to go back home and Lily was walking out of the makeup trailer and I was like, ‘Hey, it’s nice to meet you.’”