Jake Lacy Finally Gets to Play the Asshole

The White Lotus opens in an airport waiting area. Jake Lacy's Shane, capping off a remarkably un-relaxing vacation, sits in his striped polo shirt and shorts, wraparound sunglasses perched atop his head, fingers nervously fiddling in his lap. A nearby couple attempts to make small talk with the closed-off traveler, and he quietly obliges, for a time. Once the conversation veers into emotionally complex territory, he shuts down completely, telling the couple to leave him "the fuck alone" — hedged by the perfectly offensive "no offense." One thing is made abundantly clear within the HBO limited series' first minutes: This is not the Jake "The Nice Guy" Lacy we've met onscreen so many times before. 

Lacy (who is in fact very nice) spends his morning off speaking with me, appearing on Zoom from his hotel room in Portland where he's been shooting the pilot of body-swapping comedy Space. He looks put together and Clark Kent-esque in rounded glasses and a light-wash chambray shirt (which I hope he did not wear outside in the 85-degree heat), a lidless coffee cup jutting in and out of the frame, punctuating each train of thought. Though a rare day off is reason enough to rush through a work obligation, Lacy takes his time with every question (or comment) I direct his way, even apologizing for the length of his responses. "You're probably like, 'Hey man, can we get just a pull quote on that?'" he jokes. 

The interview soon doubles in its planned length, and if my guilt (and lack of air conditioning) hadn't intervened, I probably could've spoken to Lacy for another hour or two. He is, in the most complimentary form of the word, game. Can we talk about sex scenes? Sure, and I'll raise you a timely meditation on the objectification of women while I'm at it. He answers my follow-ups before I've asked them, making him at once the easiest and most difficult person to interview. 

Enlightened showrunner Mike White's new series positions Lacy against type as an entitled newlywed on his honeymoon at the show's titular Hawaiian resort. What begins as vacation at a Waspy wonderland grows progressively darker as Shane becomes obsessed with a mistaken room assignment. He's petulant and unfiltered, an overgrown frat boy with no sense of the world outside of himself. And while Shane can easily be designated a villain (like many white and wealthy members of Lotus's ensemble), Lacy is sympathetic to his character's plight. 

"The way Shane behaves is awful," he tells me, but he understands the thought process behind it. "He and I have the same brain," he says, referring to Shane's misplaced obsession with the resort's Pineapple Suite. "I get caught in that same loop — not about luxury hotel rooms, but about politics or interactions on the bus, whatever it is. So it didn't feel like this big departure to crack the code of this character. I get that feeling. It's just that this guy gets to behave exactly as he wants based on those feelings."

Though Lacy's on a first-name basis with Nicole Kidman, he still doesn't think of himself as famous. I ask if he gets recognized and he tells me it doesn't usually happen at home in Brooklyn. "People are seeing Ewan McGregor on the street," he says of New York. "They don't need to be like, 'Oh man, the guy from that thing just walked by.'" 

But he's not just the guy from that thing, he's the guy from many things: The Office, Obvious Child, Girls, Carol, How to Be Single, Miss Sloane, High Fidelity (the cancelation of which he will be "forever disappointed" by) … 

“I play a lot of guys who are just nice guys. And a lot of the time the wardrobe for that is a little bit like somebody just walked into a Gap and was like, ‘Give me what’s on that mannequin.'”

While Lacy is a single cog in the ensemble apparatus of Lotus (rounded out by an embarrassment of Hollywood riches that includes Connie Britton, Jennifer Coolidge, Steve Zahn, Natasha Rothwell, and Alexandra Daddario, among others), Shane's role in the limited series is integral to the narrative, something of a foil to much of his previous work. 

He used to feel pigeonholed by characters whose main purpose was to serve others (i.e. many a rom-com boyfriend), but he's grown to find a "fulfilling selflessness" in navigating those roles. 

"[It's] a great way to break the cycle of self-obsession that this business lends to," he says of finding his place in someone else's story. He follows this sentiment with a spot-on impression of an egotistical actor — a pared down pastiche of his White Lotus character: "This story's about me. I'm about me. You're about me. Where's my fucking chair??

No matter the size or heft of a role, Lacy adds to his characters' humanity — sometimes by micromanaging their wardrobe. "I play a lot of guys who are just nice guys. And a lot of the time the wardrobe for that is a little bit like somebody just walked into a Gap and was like, 'Give me what's on that mannequin,'" he says. "And so I push against that a little bit to be like, 'Let's do this look but with everything fitting really well,' or, 'Let's do it with some big fit. Let's make it really relaxed.'"

When it came to Shane, Lacy advocated for one of his character's rare polo-free looks: a garish blue intarsia knit sweater displaying a sailing scene paired with white skinny jeans and loafers. 

"We tried that on and I was like, 'We got to do this. We've got to use this look somewhere. It's so egregious,'" he says with a faraway laugh. "'This is just fantastic.'" 

I tell him it's great that he's able to collaborate so closely with the costume team and he says he hopes they feel the same. "They might be like, 'fucking jagoff came in and wouldn't stop talking about what clothes we need to find. Great, thanks for the help, Jake,'" he jokes drily.

It's a fruitful time for Lacy's career, but it comes after a year-long drought that coincided with the pandemic. 

Though I expect him to extol the extra time he was afforded with his wife, Lauren Deleo, and children during this period, he surprises me by confiding that it was a struggle to be without work. "I'm not a frontline worker; I'm a well-paid 35-year-old white male — I am not in the boat of people with problems," but still, "it was stressful to not have a paycheck for a year," he says with a quiet sincerity, worry overtaking his face for a moment before he then lists and praises his subsequent fortunes. 

As said "well-paid 35-year-old white male," Lotus's skewering of the ultra-privileged and often oblivious resort guests led to "uncomfortable" reflection for Lacy. 

"The most uncomfortable part of this whole thing isn't, like, we've pulled back the curtain and everything is revealed," he explains. "It's that I identify with a multitude of characters and their points of view, and agree with each of them. Within me is someone being like, 'I like going to nice places like Hawaii,' and also, 'There was a terrible past of colonialism and capitalism that we pretend is statehood.' They're undeniable."

It's this careful yet seemingly unscripted diplomacy that makes Lacy the kind of guy you just want to hug — onscreen and off (though it would take a lot for me to willingly hug Shane). He is transparent without falling down the slippery slope of white male honesty (any woman who's had to stomach a drunken defense of Louis C.K. knows what I mean). Though Lacy, as the subject of a Vulture ranking of his "nicest nice guy" roles, may not love the attribution, "nice" is always a welcome quality in my book. 

Below, Lacy describes the outfit he can't wait to buy, opens up about his "officious" first kiss, and airs his controversial opinion of cream cheese. 

Who is your celebrity crush?

Marion Cotillard.

Have you met her?

No. And that's the thing, it's like the implication of a celebrity crush ultimately is either that you're projecting into who you assume they are, or you just think they're hot. And most of my crushes end up coming from having met people. That it's either heightened, that I go, "Oh, I sort of think that person's cute," and I meet them and be like, "Be still, my heart." Or I think someone's attractive and meet them and go, "Oh" … And so the crush ends right there. So, I don't know, Marion Cotillard is just someone [with whom I'm] just purely enamored from a distance. 

What is the last thing you do before you fall asleep?

That Headspace app has nighttime music or nighttime meditations that knock me out. So, it's that, or try to go through like … sounds so cheesy, but a gratitude list. I slip real easily into "I need this thing my way. Why am I not getting dot dot dot …?" And the antidote seems to be, "Why don't you take a look at the incredible things in your life and just shut the fuck up for a minute?" And that helps me end the day in a place that I'd like to end it.

Who is your favorite villain?

Vigo the Carpathian from Ghostbusters II. He's designed to be the worst person. He says, "Death is but a doorway, time is but a window, I'll be back." He's amazing. Plus I love those movies.

What was the first album you ever owned?

I bought Radiohead's OK Computer and TLC's CrazySexyCool at Coconuts on the same day. I was in sixth grade and I thought, surely these albums will be a wide enough range that I can start to experience music … and [I] loved them both, in equal measure.

Do you still listen to those?

I won't put on TLC, but if a track from that album comes on, I know every word. I remember in sixth grade being like, "I don't know what sex is, but I think it sounds like this." I was like, "This is a horny album, this is a very sexual album." And OK Computer, I think I knew that it was great, knew I liked it, knew I didn't understand it at all, knew that I was coming up short appreciating it. It wasn't another five years until I was like, "Oh, this is some of what that genius is, that's happening here."

If you were required to spend $1,000 today, what would you buy and why?

Clothes [laughs resignedly]. Clothes … 

Where would you go shopping?

There's a French footwear company called Paraboot that makes these chunky loafers that I really like and then these hiking boots, maybe I could get a pair of those. It wouldn't quite be enough, but I really want to get a black corduroy soft shoulder suit. Or I'd donate it to a charity! I'd give it all to the kids … 

If you ran for office, what would your slogan be?

I don't know what the actual sellable one would be. It would just be like, "Jake Lacy: Get money out of politics." I'd be running on a money out of politics platform — and would certainly lose. Money, out of politics does not beat actual money in politics, which is the problem. But that would be my platform.

Name one place you've never been, but have always wanted to go.

Japan.

What's the most uncomfortable outfit you've ever worn?

I went to prom a couple of times, brag. One time [I] wore something similar to Saturday Night Fever. It just was a way too big collar, outside the lapel, unbuttoned. This is Central Vermont, so the person who rented me the suit, it was at least a size too big with no alterations.

Just the way at 16, you'd kind of put together a look or something with no money or understanding of it and be like, "Do I look like John Travolta?" And you look like Grimace. Like, "Is this right?" I just saw a picture of it and I was like, "Oh God, I hope this is the only picture anyone has of this." And now here we are talking about it in public. So, there we go.

Describe your first kiss.

I think I was in elementary school and sort of just felt like, let's get this over with, let's get the stress out of the way — so obviously very romantic. And then I think probably afterwards I had a feeling of like, well, what do I owe this person? Are we now getting married? Very officious. Just checking a box to be like, Now that's done. Moving forward with my life. Don't have to be emotionally present to it.

Who is your favorite Chris: Pine, Pratt, Evans or Hemsworth?

Pine. Pine all day.

What's your favorite project of his?

Hell or High Water. That's my favorite movie that year. He and Ben Foster are incredible. To you, to anyone who reads this, go watch that movie. It's so great, it's awesome. Can't recommend it enough.

When was the last time you cried?

I watched Hook the other day, and man I'm emotional talking about it now. It made me so sad that Robin Williams is not here anymore. And it made me so sad to think how much he gave all of us, and the place he must have been when he ended his own life. And what that is like, like the amount of pain that you have to be in for that to happen. Most of that movie was me just wiping tears. That's the last time I cried. I'm 35 — he was like the guy for my age, as a kid.

What is your favorite bagel?

Everything toasted, I'm all in.

Toppings?

I hate cream cheese, so not cream cheese. I'll eat a dry toasted everything bagel. I want the bagel to be the star of the show. I don't need it to be the platform to put other stuff on. I'll just get a dry toasted everything bagel — with a cup of coffee, to wash it down. There's no way that doesn't just stick in your gullet.

There's a reason cream cheese is so popular, because it's probably the perfect fit, I just don't care for it.

Photographs by Braylen Dion. Polaroid Photos by Jake Lacy. Special thanks to Polaroid. Booking by Isabel Jones. Production by Kelly Chiello, assisted by Erin Glover.

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