Murray Bartlett: ‘Filming The White Lotus in lockdown felt like a TV summer camp’
The Australian actor on creating his character Armond, the magic of Tales of the City and that meme-inspiring suitcase scene
the waiter, went viral after a director criticised his apartment during a Zoom audition…That blew up while we shooting and we all watched it [laughs]. It’s great that Lukas had the last laugh. He’s an awesome guy.You and he had one particularly, ahem, exuberant sex scene together.
What was it like filming that?There’s always an awkwardness to those scenes, especially if your face is in someone’s butt in front of 60 strangers, but by that stage we were well into the shoot and having so much fun. Lukas and I came up with that ourselves, not only to reflect the dynamic between our characters but also to be suitably shocking for the guy who walks in on us. When we told Mike what we’d come up with, he was like, “Oh my God, can we do that?”, with a shit-eating grin on his face.
Bartlett with Jolene Purdy in The White Lotus.Photograph: HBO/FoxtelHow did you pull offthatsuitcase scene?I wouldn’t want to give away the mystery of such a magical TV moment [laughs]. What I can tell you is that it wasn’t me. I mean, it’s my pretty impressive thigh control helping me squat over the suitcase, but the rest happened in post-production. We filmed it in several different ways and the final version didn’t look quite how I’d imagined. I was a little horrified when I first saw it. Watching yourself explicitly taking a shit on TV is fairly confrontational. But I soon got over it, because it’s such an epic moment. Mike’s not afraid to go to those places. There’s not much difference between what Armond’s doing in that scene and the way certain other characters treat people like shit. It’s kind of brilliant in that way. headtopics.com
Did you enjoy all the memes that did the rounds?Those memes where the suitcase represented people’s 2021 plans and I was Covid, crapping on them, were very funny. A lot of people dressed up asWhite Lotuscharacters for Halloween, too. One guy here in Cape Cod [where Bartlett lives] dressed as the Pineapple Suite. He had a pineapple lampshade on his head, pineapple curtains hanging from his shoulders and a suitcase strapped to his front. He’d unzip it and there was a big shit in there. So creative [laughs].
When gay dramaLookingwas cancelled after two seasons, fans campaigned for it to continue. That must have been a huge compliment?We all believed in that show so much, so it was very gratifying that people wanted more. Many of the positive responses also came from places in the world where people can’t live freely as queer people. It helped them feel less alone. It’s great to feel your work has a purpose. We would’ve been happy to do
Lookingfor years. I have the “Dom’s Chicken” neon sign [his character’s street-food stall] in my backyard and those guys are still my best friends.Bartlett in Looking with Jonathan Groff, left, and Frankie J Alvarez.Photograph: Melissa Moseley/HBOIt got called “the gay
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