After debuting with a shocking season 1, “The White Lotus” returned with another “volcanic” instalment as the HBO series moved from Hawaii to Sicily to follow an all-new group of guests staying at the luxury hotel. With season 2 of creator Mike White’s Emmy-winning social satire about to come to a close, actor Will Sharpe is looking back on Ethan’s journey over the past six episodes as he teases an exciting conclusion for his character.
“I can’t go into too much detail, obviously. But I was particularly excited with how Ethan’s story changes and sort of travels because he is so withheld for the majority of the series,” Sharpe tells ET, explaining that his character’s “very restrained and everything is internalized. And often, he reacts to decisions that others have made.”
Not only that, but he adds that “it was the final episode that made me excited to play Ethan. And that sort of helped me understand the whole arc for him.”
While he can’t spoil what’s to come in the highly anticipated finale, Sharpe does dish on Ethan’s troubled marriage with Harper (Aubrey Plaza) and his toxic friendship with Cameron (Theo James) as the four friends, including Cameron’s wife Daphne (Meghann Fahy), find themselves on an increasingly unexpected vacation in the Mediterranean.
The moment Ethan arrives, “he hasn’t really thought that much about how it’s gonna go,” Sharpe says of accepting an invite from a friend. “We always talked about Cameron and Ethan as like, you know, not soulmates. They just knew each other in college and stayed in touch.”
Though, it’s not long before the two men start posturing in front of each other. Despite both being successful, professional married adult men, “it feels like they’re regressing to something, which sounds like how they were in college,” Sharpe says, referring to the scene when Cameron says to Ethan, “I want to be inside you.”
That scene, Sharpe says, is a “fairly important” one in understanding the dynamic between them. “Cameron loves to sort of play the alpha male and Ethan, I feel like, is somebody who’s always wanted to sort of earn status when he deserves it,” he explains.
Whereas things with Harper were a little more clear from the beginning. “He and Harper are not in a brilliant place when we meet them. They tell themselves that they’re good, they love each other, they’re honest with each other,” Sharpe says. “But the first time we see them, they’re bickering and it feels like pretty much straight away something is amiss.”
And as season 2 unfolds, things between the two just get worse as they grow more suspicious of each other. First Harper thinks Ethan has cheated on her with a local prostitute after finding an open condom wrapper in their room and then later, by the end of episode six, Ethan suspects that something has happened between Harper and Cameron.
“He seems more and more frightened that might be the case,” Sharpe says, explaining that Ethan is less jealous and more angry. “Not only at Cameron and Harper, but also, I think, at himself. He’s sort of starting to realize that he should have done things differently and he’s asking himself, ‘How have we got here? How have I let it get to this point?’”
“He’s also frightened of what this means,” Sharpe continues. “I think through the series, there’s a degree of fear on Ethan’s part and on Harper’s part. It’s kind of like, ‘What does this say about us?’”
As for why Cameron really invited Ethan on the trip isn’t totally clear. Harper suspects Cameron wants her husband to invest money with his company, while Cameron has spent the entire trip making passes at Harper, who also happens to be a lawyer that specializes in wrongful termination suits – something Cameron’s company is also dealing with.
“Every suspicion is justified,” Sharpe says of some of the theories out there. “I think that’s part of the game that Mike’s playing. He wants you to be guessing and so, every theory is valid until proven otherwise.”
One thing is for sure, Ethan and Cameron will come to blows as teased in the preview for the season 2 finale. And this is when we’ll see Ethan reach his breaking point. While the actor won’t get specific about the details of what makes him snap, until now “he’s held a lot in,” Sharpe says, teasing that “there are more intense scenes” to come.
“In the beginning, he just sort of tolerated being talked down to or being slightly humiliated here and there. But increasingly, he’s holding more and more anxiety, jealousy, fear, anger – all of those things. He’s trying to contain them because he’s trying to keep the peace and he wants to be a good person,” the actor continues.
“There’s this unhappy little hurricane developing,” Sharpe says, adding, “And, you know, talking with Mike through the series about how restrained Ethan was written, it felt like at some point he was bound to snap.”
“The White Lotus” airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on HBO and HBO Max.
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