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Sex. Celebrity. Politics. With Teeth

Jennifer Coolidge Says Her ‘White Lotus’ Character, Tanya, Was Partly Based on Her

“Actually I think Mike [White] combined multiple situations where I was with people I shouldn’t have been in with at all," she told Entertainment Weekly.

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Image for article titled Jennifer Coolidge Says Her ‘White Lotus’ Character, Tanya, Was Partly Based on Her
Photo: Getty: Amy Sussman / Warner Media

Warning: Spoilers for the season finale of The White Lotus (Episode 7, “Arrivederci”) are below.

Hailey Lu Richardson recently said that she could never quite figure out when Jennifer Coolidge, her White Lotus co-star, was acting, and when she wasn’t. “There are things that I still don’t know, such as what she does on purpose and what is just her that she can’t help,” Richardson told The Hollywood Reporter about the American Pie actor. Turns out, she was onto something: Coolidge told Entertainment Weekly that much of her character Tanya is based on her own personality and chance encounters, all thanks to the keen observations of The White Lotus director. “Mike White knows me pretty well,” Coolidge said. “We’ve been friends for a very, very long time.”

The second season of the scam-filled and sex-crazed HBO Max comedy-drama ended with a bit of a…thud, with fans reluctantly bidding adieu to one of the series’ favorite characters, Tanya Mcquoid-Hunt. Prior to her rather “derpy” demise, Tanya is caught in the eye of a murderous storm after discovering the gay men she’s been rubbing elbows with in Sicily were hired by her husband, Greg, to kill her. Tanya cracks the code just in time and almost avenges herself in a shootout scene so ludicrous it becomes instantaneously meme-able, killing all of the men who are about to kill her on a yacht. But in pure Tanya fashion, she’s as pathetic as she is heroic, flubbing her own escape, and drowning to death instead.

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However ludicrous and ~European~ the whole scheme seems, apparently, White took inspiration from Coolidge’s own life for Tanya’s two-season arc (with some exaggerations, of course). Coolidge said that since their days working on Gentlemen Broncos in 2009, White “was observing my naiveté with a lot of my male relationships and saw how I just believed people in a very naïve way.” She claims that it wasn’t all bad, though: “Sometimes it’s good because, certainly I’m not discriminating of anyone in any way, but I sort of open the door and sometimes my realization of who someone was and what their intentions are are very slow.”

This, of course, has been Tanya’s charm the whole time: From the first season of The White Lotus to the very last minutes of its second, the bubble-headed heiress was gullible in a way you couldn’t quite help but cock your head and smile softly at. And the cloth from which White cut Tanya appears to be both vast and rich: “I did end up in a situation where—actually I think Mike combined multiple situations where I was with people I shouldn’t have been in with at all, and just my—I still want to call it naiveté, otherwise I’m just stupid,” Coolidge said.

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She continued: “And my obliviousness, my oblivious nature of not seeing the writing on the wall and actually denying any sort of sign that something was amiss, I was denying it,” she continued. “I think that happens to a lot of people, but I definitely think Mike had observed that and made that part of the script.”

While I’m secretly hoping that Tanya will pull a Titanic-style survival and comes back for the show’s third season, I’m glad that her final moments were as “Tanya” as ever: floating in the ocean, blissfully unaware of anything.