On season 2 of the HBO series, Tanya's new friends have some secrets of their own.
[Warning: Spoilers for The White Lotus season 2, episode 5, "That's Amore," written and directed by Mike White.]
After first introducing Quentin (Tom Hollander), a wealthy gay, English expat traveling with a gaggle of friends, including his strikingly handsome "naughty nephew" (Leo Woodall), in the previous episode of The White Lotus season 2, things took an unexpected turn in episode five. And it's clear that Quentin, Jack and the rest of their group are not exactly who they purport to be, as they continue to swoon over Tanya (Jennifer Coolidge) and her assistant Portia (Haley Lu Richardson).
After Greg (Jon Gries) left Tanya at the Sicilian resort, she becomes inconsolable. That is, until she bumps into a group of men who take a quick liking to her and invite her to join them on a mini excursion to another part of the Mediterranean island. And it's not long before Quentin focuses all his attention on Tanya, offering her a sympathetic ear.
"Tanya's attraction to Quentin is freedom from the situation that she's in and a great release from the world she inhabits. Her unhappy marriage is a bit of a prison for her. So, Quentin seems to be love, fun and freedom," Hollander tells ET. And when it comes to Quentin's interest in Tanya, "he sees a beautiful, slightly vulnerable broken woman who is a fun distraction for him. She's entertainment for him."
While the two bond, Portia and Leo waste no time jumping into bed together. "She is really very sort of oppressed by this woman that she's working for and is being demanded to stay in her room and she's just really not having a good time and was trapped," Woodall says of Portia, who finds an opportunity to have an adventure with her newfound friend.
The actor adds that when it comes to Leo, "he's all about fun and just wanting to live life to the fullest. Also, being the youngest person in his group and the one straight one, there's a natural kind of pull to hang out with Portia."
Not long after hanging out at the White Lotus, the group all heads to Palermo, where they're planning to spend a few nights at Quentin's lavish-yet-declining palazzo. There, the group splits into two as the gays take Tanya to see a performance of Madama Butterfly, where she believes she's sitting next to the Queen of Sicily. Elsewhere, Jack takes Portia out for dinner before the two dash without paying.
"That was amazing, that sequence," Hollander says of the opera scene, which sees both Quentin and Tanya overcome with emotion as they watch the performance. "Jennifer has the most astonishing gift for her emotions. Her emotions are just underneath the surface and she has access to them."
The actor then reveals that they filmed in front of an entire production. "These brilliant singers were doing it repeatedly for hours," he recalls. "We were listening to the real thing and it was moving."
But when it specifically comes to Tanya and Quentin, Hollander says "that's the moment where their friendship is at its peak. And there was a real connection between them. The tragic story of Madame Butterfly is moving both of them." For the actor, it was an opportunity to show that Quentin "can empathize with other people's pain [and that] he's not just a spoiled rich, shallow, cruel man," he continues. "There was nuance in all of that."
Despite the seemingly fun evening Tanya and Portia both had with their respective hosts, the episode then ends in shocking fashion with the former awoken in the middle of the night and stumbling upon Jack and Quentin having sex. Unbeknownst to them, a wide-eyed Tanya watches for a moment before walking away.
"One of the amazing things about season 2 is that it seems to retain some of the tropes of season 1 without repeating season 1, which is a testament to Mike's amazing gifts. And this is one of those moments," Hollander says of the final scene, explaining that "it's the curtain being pulled back on people's secret lives."
"And as an actor, you go, 'Oh brilliant. We can be playing two different things at the same time," he continues, revealing that "whenever Leo and I talk to each other about anything prior to that moment, we have a little secret. And there's nothing more fun than playing a secret on camera."
As for Woodall, "I couldn't believe it," he says of learning that he there was going to be a sex scene between his and Hollander's characters. As of his interview with ET, "I haven't told a single soul. So, to see the look on their face 'cause it's such a shock anyway in the story."
When it comes to filming the scene, Woodall says that "at the beginning, when it was kind of scary, Tom really looked out for me. So, I felt very comfortable with him." Hollander then adds that "it was a great day; we had a lot of fun."
But as for where things end up… Are these two grifters? Is this all an act to seduce and use Tanya for her money? What this revelation means for the future remains to be seen. But Woodall teases that what's going on with Quentin and Jack "will get uncovered more in the last two episodes," he says. "But, for sure, the aim of the end of the episode is for you to walk away going, 'What's going on here and who are these people and why are they doing that?'"
The White Lotus season 2 airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on HBO and HBO Max.