"It's weirdly satisfying, but disgusting and horrifying," says the actor of that finale climax.
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The White Lotus
Murray Bartlett on 'The White Lotus'
| Credit: Mario Perez/HBO

Warning: This article contains spoilers about Sunday's season finale of The White Lotus.

Well, it seems that congratulations are in order to Murray Bartlett for starring in what can only be described as the number two scene of the year.

Bartlett was electric all season long on The White Lotus for his frenetic portrayal of rapidly unhinged resort manner Armond. And that portrayal came to a tragic — yet perhaps oddly fitting — end on Sunday's season finale when Armond was stabbed to death by his resort guest nemesis Shane (Jake Lacy). And why was Armond stabbed, you may ask? Well, that would be because he broke into Shane's room — the infamous Pineapple Suite!!! — and chose to squat down and defecate into a fully packed suitcase… as one does.

EW spoke to Bartlett about Armond's jaw- (and trouser) dropping act, as well as his untimely demise — one the actor did not even know about until he read the script. So get ready for a big info dump… as it were… on that shocking suitcase scene, as Bartlett also shares his thoughts on the perhaps even more shocking sex scene, Armond serving up one final feast, the character's final thoughts as he sat dying in the bathtub, and if there is a chance we could somehow, some way possibly see the resort manager again in season… well, number 2. (Also make sure to read our finale Q&A with creator Mike White.)

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: When and how did Mike White tell you that Armond was going to be the corpse in the box? Did you know that from the get-go when you signed on?

MURRAY BARTLETT: I didn't, no. I read the first script before I signed on and I'm a huge fan of Mike's work, so it was a done deal for me if they were willing to have me. And I loved the character, and I loved the first script, but I didn't get the rest of the scripts until I was on the way to Hawaii. So yeah, it was a shock to me when Armand died. I didn't expect it.

Really?

Yeah, I mean, there were moments along the way where I thought it was a possibility. But it was definitely shocking in a great way. I feel like it's sort of fitting in some ways. So yeah, I was equally shocked and kind of satisfied.

So how did you find out? Did Mike tell you, or are you just reading a script and then you see what happened?

I just read the script! [Laughs] I mean, it was also, we're in the middle of a pandemic, so we had a conversation for about five minutes in my audition, and then we had another conversation for five minutes, and he was like, "Oh, so you've read all the scripts. Right?" And I was like, "No, I've read the first one." He's like, "Oh, oh, we'll have to get those to you." I was like, "Yeah. Cool. All right." But I mean, it was all good. What a roller coaster ride of a character to play. It's an actor's dream.

The White Lotus
Murray Bartlett on 'The White Lotus.'
| Credit: Mario Perez/HBO

A roller coaster is a good way to describe his final evening. First off, tell me how you wanted to play his last time hosting dinner — the last supper, if you will?

This is what he does really well. He knows that this is his dance. There was a backstory that kind of fell away along the line, but it was something that was really helpful to me, that at some point, Armond revealed that he always wanted to be an actor. And so, he's a performer. That was one of the coolest things that I felt made so much sense for him is that he's in this role because he wants to perform. And that's what he does. He performs in this role, and that when everything has gone to s---, he knows his last dinner, this is where he shines. This is his moment in the spotlight. So he just relishes every second of it. It's like when you're doing a play and it's your last show, you're just on fire, because you know it's the last time. You feel like you're glowing. Plus, he's taken a lot of drugs [laughs], so that also elevates it.

It was so much fun to play that. And the music that's playing in that sequence, they played on set for a lot of this stuff where I'm serving the people. So it was super fun. And when I'm taking people to their tables and greeting people in the restaurant, it was like a dance with the camera as well. Me and the camera were kind of doing this little choreography. So it was very fun and very conducive to a drug-induced sort of euphoria.

The love/hate relationship Armond has with the guests is so fascinating because we saw him at the end of episode 5 reciting The Lotus Eaters poem and talking how disgusting the guests are, but he does seem to relish performing for them.

Yeah, I think that's the interesting thing about all of these characters and the show is that it's double-edged. He loves this existence and his role, because it is his chance to be a performer. He's very good at it. He loves running a tight ship. He loves being in charge, being in control of all this stuff. But at the same time, some of these people are just horrible.

There's also this interesting split between his public and his sort of inner persona. I think it's kind of fascinating, that sort of dance. And I think we all experience that. I was living in New York for many years. I love New York. And then there were times when I hated it, because it was hot, or it was expensive, or it was dirty, or whatever. And then other times, it just looks kind of magical. So I think he's definitely living that out.

Why did he go to the Pineapple Suite? What was he planning to do when he walked in there? Was there any sort of specific plan he had in mind before seeing the suitcase?

There was some sort of context before, that was referred to in previous things, where Armond fell off of his sobriety five years previously, and I think he did something similar. It was like a nightmare. And so, whether it was this act or something equally as shocking and intense, I think he knows he's going to do something. I don't even know that any of it is conscious at that point. He's very high, and he's basically sort of let go into his spiral. So I don't know.

I think it is an intention that he goes there to do that. I'm not sure whether he truly believes that he's going to fully follow through with it, but I think he's that kind of disgusted with that guy and with this whole situation. And he's ready to follow through.

The White Lotus
Murray Bartlett, Alexandra Daddario, and Jake Lacy on 'The White Lotus.'
| Credit: Mario Perez/HBO

Now, I spoke to Mike last week and he told me when you all were filming that defecation scene he told you not to worry about that wide shot from the side where we see you squatting over the suitcase because it would not actually be used, and then he got a little worried last week because he didn't know if you had actually seen it yet and realized it was in there. Had you seen it and, if so, what was your reaction?

[Laughs] Yeah, I saw him not so long ago, and he had the same look of worry on his face when we talked about it. I was shocked! I did not expect it to be that explicit, because it wasn't written that way. And then we shot all this coverage with closeups and cutting from this to that. So my initial response when I watched it was horror [laughs], and a moment afterwards I was like, "Well, of course, it has to be that." It's so brilliant because it's so unexpected and so shocking in a way that it should be in that scene. It's weirdly satisfying, but disgusting and horrifying.

It's such a Mike White moment. Not a s---ing in a suitcase moment, although that's debatable, but that moment of like, you don't know what to feel. It's incredibly uncomfortable, and he will take it to that place, that is really confronting. And I just love that about him. And I love that about that moment. I think it really drives the point home in a way that adding into like different shots wouldn't do it. You can't escape it. You're locked in a two-shot, and you can't pretend it's not happening. It's very clearly happening.

And it was very clearly happening to you. So what was it like filming that day? What were you like before you went to the set that day knowing that was coming up? And then what was it like actually going through with it?

Well, actually, something happened to the schedule, and that day was brought forward. So we didn't think we were shooting that day. And we were in makeup and getting ready, and then suddenly we're into that stuff. So maybe that's the best way to do it. [Laughs] I didn't have any time to really worry about it. I mean, I'd obviously thought about it before, but we were just kind of thrown into it.

By that stage, it was so much fun making this show, and we all felt so lucky every day, because we were shooting the show in Hawaii with this amazing group of people, with awesome scripts, in the middle of a pandemic. So it was kind of dreamy. And Mike sets this tone of fun and play on set. We were well into shooting by then, so I felt really comfortable and totally trusted Mike, and everyone was super respectful. However, I'm s---ting in a suitcase. [Laughs] So it's just going to be weird. You just can't get away from it. But it was the best sort of setup that it could have been in terms of being respectful and as closed a set as it could be and all that kind of stuff. But it as just weird. I never would have expected that I would be doing that, but I think it really works in the story.

What do you think Armond is thinking in those last few seconds after being stabbed when he falls in the tub and we see him kind of laugh for a quick second as he stares straight up?

I think in that moment, there's like a sense of release of like, "Oh, f---. Thank God this is over." It's like, he doesn't have to deal with that s--- anymore. I don't think he's thinking that when he's getting stabbed. Obviously, it's shock and pain and like, I don't want to die. But I think that there is some sort of release in that last moment, out of this insane situation that he's in, and this kind of insane sort of facade that he's tried to keep up for so long. So yeah, I love that moment, because it's tragic, but it's also kind of his way out.

What was your relationship like with Jake Lacy, who played Shane? The scenes with you guys are so disturbingly funny with the game of cat-and-mouse between you two.

Jake's awesome. It was a really tight schedule. We didn't have rehearsal outside coming into the scenes. And Jake and I are sort similar in that we prepare really well, possibly even over-prepare a little maybe, to come to set, which is great. Those were some of the things I was most excited about because the conflict is so brilliantly written into those scenes. There's just no way either of these characters are going to let the other one win. So it's just this great tension to play. And we started up, and we're just like both at a 10, on our first rehearsal. And it was like, oh my God, awesome.

I felt like we met each other at such a great place. And it just was so exciting then to play because we were both ready to go when we came to set. So he was just an awesome actor to bounce off, and I felt like we came prepared in a way that we were really well-matched to each other's energy or something. We just also had so much fun. It was interesting, because I had never met or worked with Jake before. And after that first scene, I felt like we were really bonded. It was like we sparred together in some kind of fencing match or something. It was really cool.

The White Lotus
Murray Bartlett and Lukas Gage on 'The White Lotus.'
| Credit: Mario Perez/HBO

I also asked Mike about that big crazy scene between Armond and Dillon in your office at the end of episode 4 and he said you and Lukas Gage essentially came up with that act that Belinda and Shane walk in on. What can you tell me about filming that scene?

We talked very early on with Mike. It was one of the first conversations I had with him, where he was just making sure that we knew that we would never do anything that made us uncomfortable. And he just wanted to make sure that we felt okay about anything that we decided to do and was completely open to whatever our suggestions were or what we felt comfortable with or not. So we kind of played with ideas, and then Lucas and I sort of talked about what we thought would be the most effective option in that moment in terms of the dynamic of the characters and the shock value that you kind of want for those people walking in, the sort of caught-in-the-act thing.

It was very collaborative, and I feel like the fact that we were willing to do that was probably helpful to Mike, because I'm not sure that he would've asked us to do it. [Laughs] But it seemed really unexpected and kind of perfect for that moment. It was kind of shocking and unexpected, but it also does play into the dynamic of those characters. So definitely a collaborative kind of thing.

Sum up the experience of playing this character, because I have to imagine it was an absolute blast.

There were moments of terror in the very beginning. You always have those moments in the beginning where you're like, "Oh, my God, what are we doing?" And then it was just an absolute blast. I can't express how fun it was. That's a testament to Mike and the way he works. He creates this incredible feeling of play and creativity and freedom on set, that you can try stuff out. It was a very unique experience to play a character like this that completely lets loose. You get to really dive into his inner world in a way that becomes his outer world. So it was incredibly satisfying and challenging. Because, as an actor, you're trying to pull out elements or aspects of yourself that are that character. And I realized there's bits of Armond that live in me. It was just a completely joyful experience.

I wish we'd be seeing you in season 2, but unless you have a twin somewhere, or there are some flashbacks or something, it's going to be tough.

Well, it's Mike White. Who knows? Could be an evil twin, a ghost. I mean, it's really all on the table, isn't it?

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The White Lotus
The White Lotus (TV series)

This HBO comedy revolves around a bunch of rich white tourists arriving at a luxurious Hawaiian resort for the trip of a lifetime. Over the course of a week, they manage to antagonize various hotel workers, rip band-aids off their personal wounds, and spend a lot of time thinking about sex and death. 

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