‘White Lotus’ Star Beatrice Grannò on Mia’s Motivations and How ‘Embarrassment Helped the Energy’ of Sex Scene With Valentina

SPOILER ALERT: This interview contains spoilers up through Episode 6 of “The White Lotus,” airing Sundays on HBO and streaming on HBO Max.

One of the greatest joys of Season 2 of “The White Lotus” is watching Mia (Beatrice Grannò) and Lucia (Simona Tabasco) parade around the hotel, stirring chaos among its guests “Suite Life of Zack and Cody” style.

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Mia and Lucia slither their way into the Sicilian resort with a distinct mission: to make money off of the tourists. But since ingraining themselves in the hotel and its inhabitants, they’re pulled in different directions, as Lucia shifts her interest from Dom (Michael Imperioli) to his naïve son Albie (Adam DiMarco), and Mia becomes infatuated with the idea of performing in the hotel’s piano bar. It’s an opportunity she creates for herself after accidentally drugging the current piano player Giuseppe (Federico Scribani), sending him to the hospital, and then charming hotel manager Valentina (Sabrina Impacciatore) into granting her the gig… for now.

Despite saying Mia will “do anything in her power” to get what she wants, Grannò insists her character is “very sweet.” Yet, the Roman actor also teases that Mia’s entanglements might get her in trouble come Sunday’s finale. Will Giuseppe return? (“She is a bit scared for him to come back and replace her.”) Will Valentina get clingy? (“Maybe Valentina will expect Mia to be her girlfriend now.”) Will Mia and Lucia’s friendship fall apart? (“You’ll see in the next episode — I’m not going to spoil anything!”)

In a sitdown with Variety ahead of the Season 2 finale, Grannò discussed Mia’s motivations, shooting her song performances live and how a mutual sense of “embarrassment” helped her and Impacciatore film their first-ever sex scene.

When Mia learns from Lucia that she can use sex to get what she wants, it’s like the floodgates open in her mind. But while Lucia might have a bigger plan in mind with Albie, Mia seems a bit more impulsive and reckless in her decision-making.

Mia is very impulsive and a bit clumsy. When she wants to get something, she’ll do anything in her power to get it without thinking of the consequences. She doesn’t care about all the chaos she’s creating. When it comes to Valentina, it’s not all about, “OK I’m gonna have sex with you so I’m given the job.” It’s more like, “I want to give you a gift. I want to help you understand what it means to feel loved.” Mike White really wanted Mia not to be as sexy in that sense, but more like a friend. He didn’t want Mia to seduce her; he wanted to give it a more equal relationship. What I love about Mia is that she’s very sweet and she uses her sweetness to charm people.

What was your reaction when you first learned that Mia was going to sleep with Valentina?

It was crazy! I don’t think people expected it because at the beginning, there’s so much conflict between them, and Valentina is very rigid. But I was excited — it was my first time ever doing a scene like that, but I wasn’t worried about it. It’s also very interesting to explore female pleasure in a way that isn’t sexualized all the time. It’s very beautiful. For Valentina, it’s a way of freeing herself. I like that Mia makes it easy for her. She says, “I like women too, sometimes. It’s OK, it’s not a big deal.” There’s no judgment.

What was shooting that scene like for you?

The environment was really safe. Having an intimacy coordinator there was very helpful because it’s a difficult thing to do. We rehearsed it before, and I talked with Sabrina and we found a way to do it and feel comfortable. If I have to be completely honest, we both felt a bit embarrassed, but that embarrassment helped the energy of the scene. Because I have to be the one in control, it wasn’t easy to play that. I kind of went the opposite direction — instead of playing the sexy girl who uses her body to get what she wants, I wanted to go to a much deeper level. Like, “It’s your birthday, you should be out having fun. This is what you deserve, and I’m here and I think you’re beautiful. Why don’t we go for it?” I think Mia likes Valentina a little bit. It’s equal in a way. It was very sweet. Valentina needed to be embraced by somebody. It’s not about having sex, it’s about being embraced for who she is.

Now that Mia has slept with Valentina, what type of potential danger does that put her in? Should we be worried about Mia leading into the finale?

Well, after they had sex, you would think that maybe Valentina will expect Mia to be her girlfriend now. Maybe Mia feels like she has a responsibility. But Mia is also centered on what she wants, and she never regrets what she does.

What could Giuseppe’s return mean for Mia?

When he was away, she worked her way to get his job. So, of course, she is a bit scared for him to come back and replace her. But she knows she’s so much better than Giuseppe. You’ll have to wait and see what happens.

When Mia gets the Viagra to give to Giuseppe in Episode 4, but accidentally gives him molly, why didn’t she just Google what the correct pill looks like? She seems to not even care.

She’s so clumsy! She should breathe a little and take her time, but she’s in a rush. She just wants to get it done.

Mia and Lucia start out spending most of their time together, but as they become more involved with the people in the hotel, they spend more and more time apart. Could this cause a breaking point in their relationship?

I could tell there was a moment when Mia was left alone by Lucia. I remember we were shooting a scene where I sat at the piano about to sing, and Lucia goes off to get the money from Cameron. Mike wanted us to look at each other like, “OK, you’re doing that, I’m doing this.” Simona was so on top of her game, and I remember me — Beatrice — thinking, “Why did she go away? She saw me at the piano and she didn’t even say hi!” I remember feeling that. At the beginning we are together all the time, but at one point she has a change. You’ll see in the next episode — I’m not going to spoil anything!

What is Mia’s ultimate goal? It seems funny that she asks for help from the guy whose job she seemingly wants.

Her dream for now is to be able to play music and get paid for it. I’m not sure if she knows what she’s doing, to be honest. She’s very chaotic. The reason Mia and Lucia are there in the story is to break the equilibrium of the space. We have this beautiful hotel with rich people and a pianist, and we get there and want to change everything. We are young — we’re just going with the flow. Mike wanted to have two characters who were the sort of devils of the story, who mix everything up and maybe even fix problems. Mia helps Valentina come out of her shell. The reason Harper [Aubrey Plaza] and Ethan [Will Sharpe] must reevaluate their marriage is because their relationship is put at risk thanks to Lucia. Sometimes when a couple is missing that attraction, they need to face a danger to understand how important it is. To fix something, you have to break and rebuild it. There’s also a spiritual energy running through this season, starting from the tarot card lady, the atmospheres, the sea moving — there’s a magic energy in this place, a sort of curse. It’s there to make everybody see what they’re doing wrong, and Mia and Lucia are helping.

There’s also a focus on religious imagery. Mia’s character refuses to look up at the mural on the ceiling in the church while having sex with Giuseppe, and there’s another scene where Lucia and Mia talk about how they’ll be “punished.” 

I don’t know if it’s the same in America or other places, but in Italy, church and religion are a big part of our culture. Even if you’re not religious, you still feel it. There’s a sense of guilt — what is the right thing to do? If you are bad, you’ll be punished. If you are good, you’ll be rewarded. It’s a culture thing. It’s very clever of Mike putting in this side of the story. It’s also a very female thing, I think. Women have a sense of perfection and guilt, especially when it comes to sex. In Italy, it’s much more present. I live in Rome, and religion gave us such beautiful architecture and churches. But religion is also very invasive — it’s everywhere!

Your rendition of “That’s Amore” soundtracks an pivotal montage at the end of Episode 5, which leads into the shocking revelation that Quentin (Tom Hollander) and Jack (Leo Woodall) might not be who they say they are. Did you always know your song would play such a big role in the episode — and that it wouldn’t be cut?

When I read the script, I could tell that the story was told through the song, and I was very excited about that. But the songs changed a lot during the process. “That’s Amore” was always there, and it’s fun that on top of everything that’s happening, I’m singing “That’s Amore.” We filmed the whole thing playing and singing live. I used an in-ear because the camera was muted. But I didn’t know how they were going to use it — whether it would be on top of other scenes, or if they would use the whole performance. Mike’s music choices were very connected to the scenes, and it was amazing to be able to do that.

What was it like auditioning for “The White Lotus”? When it was announced that the series was coming to Sicily, did you feel a huge sense of competition among Italian actors?

When we all got self-tapes, everybody was talking about it. Especially the female actors, because those roles are the big Italian characters. When I first read the profile of Mia, I felt something. Mike was looking for a younger, innocent look, and he wanted her to be able to play piano and sing. As soon as I read that, I thought, “That is so lucky.” Because I can do those things, and my energy can be quite innocent, and I can bring that. When I got the self-tape, I messaged my agent and said, “I’m going to do everything in my power, because this is my casting.” Sometimes I audition for characters that feel far away from me, and I try my best. But this time, it was very close to what I can bring artistically. To be honest, for the first time I didn’t feel anxious.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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